My sister Libba and her husband Simon and her son Jason make the best smoked fish in America — mostly salmon but also trout and tuna. If you’ve ordered smoked salmon at a fancy restaurant or bought it at a gourmet food shop in a major city, chances are you’ve eaten it, not always under their company’s name, Samaki, because they supply it to a lot of companies that re-brand it under their own names.

That’s my nephew Jason in the picture taped inside the window above, back in his childhood days in Africa — the guy whose wedding I just attended in Maine.  That’s his dad Simon below.


They started out smoking fish in Kenya, where Simon and Jason were born — samaki is the Swahili word for fish — supplying it to game lodges and safari camps, but political instability there caused them to move to the U. S. in 1983, where the business has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, though they remain a relatively small, artisanal producer, shipping about 300,000 pounds of fish a year.


The fresh salmon is soaked in brine and a little brown sugar, then rolled into the brick-oven smoking room:


Smoke from burning sawdust of various aromatic woods is fed into the smoking room from this stove:


Then the fish is sliced and shrink-wrapped and sent on its way:


Samaki doesn’t do a lot of online selling to individuals — their volume business has gotten too big to concentrate on smaller orders — but they will, at this link:

Samaki, Inc.

. . . where you can see a short documentary on their business done for the New York Magazine web site, featuring Jason, the now newly married man.