Friday, April 16, 2021

Challenge Accepted

Before the Easter long weekend, the team at Qwehli has generously sent me a few of their products for me to try and see what I could do with them. One of which was their Atlantic Salmon which was farmed in the North Sea in Denmark, and delivered to me as the frozen whole fillet with the skin on. I took it on as a challenge to see how many dishes I could create with this 2kg piece, and as it turned out, quite a lot actually.

Salmon was such a versatile ingredient with its rich flavor and fatty texture, and this being sashimi-grade means I got more options on how to prepare them. I first decided to make a couple cold appetizers. Salmon Ceviche is one obvious choice, using the cooking technique common in South American cuisine of curing the fish with sharp citrus juice. This time I went one step further of actually serving the dish with mandarin orange wedges and crumbled burrata cheese, more like a salad. The orange actually added to the sweetness and the soft cheese always worked well with acidity (think the classic burrata-tomato combo) and I like the touch of creamy texture. 

From South America I moved to the Pacific Islands for more inspirations. Salmon Poke is the typical Hawaiian dish, often marinated in sweet soy sauce and served raw with pickled vegetables and rice – like a chirashi. But I decided to leave rice out of the equation, but instead, serve with dashi jelly underneath in a glass bowl. So not so much of a one-bowl meal but more like a cold appetizer.

Next I turned a piece into smoked salmon. Unlike those Scottish smoked salmon one would see in high-end grocery shop (which required a elaborate and long cold-smoking process), I did what I would call “warm smoking” using applewood chips and a stove-top smoker. I first cured the piece with equal portion of salt and sugar rubbed on all sides for 48 hours – the process, similar to what one would prepare a gravlax, took out the moisture from the fish, firm up the texture and intensify the flavor. The marinate was then rinsed off and the fish dried with paper towel. 

Meanwhile, I made my smoke pouch by putting applewood chips in a aluminum foil wrapper with holes poked on top. I also added a tablespoon of sugar in to enhance the smoke flavor. The smoke pouch was placed at the bottom of my smoker pot and I started with medium heat with the lid covered until the smoke began to come out. Once I feel the smoke has filled the pot, I opened the lid and place the whole piece of salmon in the center and quickly closed the lid so the smoke is trapped. I left the heat on for 2 more minutes and shut it off, and basically let the salmon cooked in warm smoke for the next 15 minutes. And the result? You got these firm yet juicy salmon flakes full of smoky flavor with a hint of sweetness, which you could eat on its own without the need of extra seasoning, or use them as components for other dishes such as pasta or salad. 

I then tried something more adventurous using a marinate more typically used in Cantonese Roast Pork (aka Char Siu) and see how it would fare in seafood. I mixed red fermented tofu (nam yu) and Chinese rose liqueur and used it as a wet rub. After marinating overnight, I then grilled the whole piece of fish on a stove-top net and served whole, along with pineapple salsa and grilled brussels sprouts as a main course dish. While it’s nothing like a classic char siu, I do like the exotic flavor and the salsa, made with the seasonal Taiwanese pineapples, gave the dish a touch of sweetness. 

So if there’s ever a Iron Chef-style contest with salmon being the theme, these would be my entry.

Note: The ingredient used in this post was sponsored by Qwehli. You could shop for their products online at (if you are residing in Hong Kong)

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