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In The Family
How Do You Make Lox?

The smoked fish you’ve been calling lox is actually something else entirely.

Making lox is easy, right? You cure a side of salmon in salt, then smoke it, then slice and eat it. Except cured-and-smoked salmon isn’t actually lox. It’s nova. Real-deal lox is never smoked, and in Jewish appetizing shops, where the American iteration of the food began, lox refers specifically to the fatty belly cuts of the salmon and a lot of salt. I mean a lot—lox is far saltier than nova, almost to the point of being too strong to eat.

This kind of lox is meant for draping over cream cheese for sure—the mild dairy undercuts the saltiness. And because of its high fat content, it practically melts in your mouth. To be frank, genuine lox is an acquired taste, which is why most lox on the market is actually user-friendly nova. If you can find it at an appetizing shop or deli near you, stick around—it’s a sign that the folks there probably know what they’re doing.

Also read: Gravlax at the Source

Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.