Stop Being Scared Of Lox—Here’s What You Need To Know

nova scotia salmon also called nova lox
Everything You Need To Know About LoxTetra Images - Getty Images

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We love lox on a bagel with a schmear of cream cheese—but what exactly is lox? And why do people call it that?

To educate us, we went to none other than Russ & Daughters, the famous New York institution that sells all things appetizing (both in taste and in the Jewish food tradition). "Used as a noun, 'appetizing' is most easily understood as 'the foods one eats with bagels,'" said Aliza Gans, communications and social media manager at Russ & Daughters. "Its primary components are a variety of smoked and cured salmon, homemade salads, and cream cheeses."

Here's everything you need to know about lox.

What Is Lox?

The word lox comes from the Yiddish term lax and the Proto-Germanic term lakhs, both of which refer to salmon. Lox is thinly-sliced salmon that's cured with salt. But how did this delicacy come to be?

"Fish smokehouses hadn’t been developed for the masses, so fresh salmon was caught in the Pacific, and as a means of preservation, the sides of fish were salt-packed for their journey to NYC by train," said Gans. "The lox was thinly sliced for that luscious texture, and to make the saltiness palatable."

Lox is typically made with the belly of salmon, which is fattier than other parts of the fish. "What Russ & Daughters purveyed in 1914 was very close to what we sell today as belly lox," said Gans. "We think bagels with lox was invented because belly lox needed bread and dairy to cut it."

Oh, and did we mention, you can make lox at home?

What Does Lox Taste Like?

Since it's cured in salt, lox will, of course, taste a little salty. This is why it's taste so good on a bagel with cream cheese, onions, and capers.

nova scotia salmon also called nova lox
Tetra Images - Getty Images

Are Smoked Salmon And Lox The Same Thing?

Lox, smoked salmon, and gravlax all look the same, but are they?

"People will come in and ask for lox, and it sometimes requires a little back and forth to find out what they’re actually looking for," said Gans. Russ & Daughters carries about 11 different kinds of salmon.

Smoked salmon is cured and then smoked. So smoked salmon is lox, but not all lox is smoked salmon. "The lox of today includes smoked salmon, but originally referred to salt-cured salmon," said Gans.

And what about gravlax? "Gravlax is an age-old Scandinavian specialty of cured salmon," she added. So gravlax is a type of lox, but cured in a special way, including salt, sugar, and dill. Russ & Daughters makes its own special version of gravlax, which is lightly smoked with citrus-dill coating.

Where To Buy Lox

Lox (or smoked salmon) can be purchased at many grocery stores or appetizing stores, bagel shops, and delis such as Russ & Daughters, Ess-a-Bagel, Zabar's, and Zucker's Bagels and Smoked Fish.

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