When it comes to savouring raw fish, I’m sure you’ve heard the warnings that not every catch can be eaten as sashimi unless they’re labelled “sushi-grade”, or you’ll risk parasitic infections.
To achieve this grading, the fish has to be caught fresh, bled, gutted upon capture, and immediately frozen in ice. This kills any harmful parasites, making them supposedly safer for raw consumption.
However, it’s important to note that such labels are unregulated, and these claims are only as trustworthy as the seller.
Being in the seafood supply industry since 2019, Nicholas is no stranger to these processes. He’s provided fresh and frozen seafood to hotels, hospitals, convention centres, schools, and restaurants in major cities of Malaysia such as KL, Selangor, Melaka, Johor, Penang, and more.
Thus, it came as no surprise that his co-founded side hustle, Salmon Dee Kap, faced no issues in attaining premium quality sashimi to deliver Thai marinated salmon to customers in Klang Valley.
Starting with resurfaced memories
Salmon Dee Kap was founded by siblings, Sonia and Nicholas, along with their respective significant others, Kingster and Sasithorn.
Nicholas’ wife, Sasithorn, is from the northeastern part of Thailand. Over her four years residing in Malaysia, she found it difficult to source Thai-marinated salmon sashimi made locally.
The memory of this dish resurfaced when Nicholas brought home some sashimi one night.
Sasithorn decided to marinate the salmon with her homemade somtam sauce, which is like a Thai papaya salad.
The burst of flavours from the marinated salmon opened up a new experience of enjoying sashimi to the rest of the family, on top of just eating it with the conventional soy sauce and wasabi dip.
Through this incident, both couples realised that Thai-marinated salmon was a dish worth sharing with more Malaysians, and launched Salmon Dee Kap in June 2022.
Six months of recipe tweaking
Salmon Dee Kap offers three flavours of marinated salmon sashimi: Salmon Dong, Salmon Tam, and Salmon Yum, all priced at RM56 per jar containing 150g of marinated salmon.
“All of Salmon Dee Kap’s recipes were curated by [Sasithorn],” the team told Vulcan Post. “Being a true Thai, she always had the passion for making good food for people around her, and finds joy and fulfilment in seeing her loved ones enjoy her food.”
Leveraging Nicholas’ background, the costly time it would usually take to source suppliers was instead channeled into R&D for the marinades’ recipes.
In an interview with Vulcan Post, Salmon Dee Kap’s team shared that their recipes have been tweaked and improved over 23 times, over a course of six months.
They’ve gone through multiple tasting sessions with the team’s friends and families before they were confident that they were good enough to be launched to market.
Most of the team had full-time jobs at the time, and their weekends were dedicated to perfecting the recipes.
Today, Sasithorn and Kingster manage Salmon Dee Kap full time, while Sonia and Nicholas man the business alongside their full-time jobs and other business.
Keeping things fresh
Salmon Dee Kap’s team shared that plenty of food safety considerations go into the process of prepping, packaging, and delivering the marinated sashimi.
Temperatures are maintained between 2-5°C from the moment the fishes are caught, to the point where they are prepared for consumption within three to five days.
“The salmon should also be kept in its original state for as long as possible until it is ready to be served to prevent a bacterial infection,” they explained.
“With the advantage of Nicholas being in the industry, we do not need to keep stocks and we are able to easily access supply only when an order has been made.”
For deliveries, the sashimi is packaged in insulated bags with ice packs to maintain an ideal temperature. The business only engages with delivery partners that can ensure a four-hour, or less, fulfilment time.
As the freshness of sashimi, especially marinated ones, can still degrade when it reaches customers, Salmon Dee Kap encourages consuming the product within two days of receiving it. The products should also be refrigerated at all times until the point of consumption.
“Salmon Dong is marinated beforehand, while Salmon Tam, and Salmon Yum are delivered to customers with the sauce separately packaged. Customers need to pour the sauce on the salmon and marinate them for 20 minutes before consumption,” the team detailed.
This is because the Tam and Yum flavours contain lime in the sauce, which is acidic. If the salmon is left marinated for too long, the proteins might push out moisture, which will cause a change in the salmon’s texture.
Capturing a market segment for themselves
As of now, Salmon Dee Kap’s team believe that their offering is still rare in the market, in terms of businesses creating and selling marinated sashimi.
“The ones that we’ve seen in the market only carry mostly Korean Soy Marinated Sashimi, which is similar to our Salmon Dong,” they said. “However, we have not yet seen anyone else offering a unique Thai-style flavoured sashimi such as our Salmon Tam and Salmon Yum.”
Their claim appears to hold water. The only other seafood sashimi business we were able to find that claims to be a Thai Seafood Delivery only has a Korean marinated salmon offering, amidst other flavours for various seafood.
Based on Salmon Dee Kap’s current capacity, the team produces about 150 jars of 150g marinated salmon sashimi in a day.
The Salmon Dee Kap team shared that mass production is not in their plans at the moment, unless they are able to scale their manpower. This is because they place emphasis the seafood’s freshness, quality, and safety.
Still three months into the business, they reported that Salmon Dee Kap’s sales have been encouraging so far, and are already seeing many returning customers.
“Looking at our current growth, we believe that we will be able to sell at least 900 jars monthly within the next three months,” they projected.
In the near future, Salmon Dee Kap will be adding more variety of marinated seafood sashimi to its menu, such as crabs, scallops, cockles (siham), and more.
The team is already in the process of R&D for their new products which include Marinated Prawn Sashimi, which will be rolled out in the next three months.