September 1, 2007
Steamed Salmon Cantonese Style
Varietal: Pinot Gris
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entrée
This recipe is a customer favorite at Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant and Satay Bar, a perennially popular fixture across the street from Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. Owners Rick and Ann Yoder started the place just down the street in 1989; since then it has served authentic dishes from all over Asia—China, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. When salmon is steamed with fresh ginger, fish sauce, and premium rice wine, it takes on a creamy texture that cannot be duplicated with any other cooking method. As a final step, hot, garlic-infused oil is poured over the salmon to flavor the fish and sear in the juices (see Cook’s Hint, below). Pair the steamed salmon with a crisp white wine, such as Pinot Gris. Light straw in color (sometimes with a hint of a copper hue), Pinot Gris is full of apple, pear, and citrus fruits, often with a whiff of honeysuckle and vanilla. Its lively, mouth-coating texture cuts through the oily texture of the salmon and complements its spicy topping.
3 cups water
Two 4-ounce salmon fillets, pin bones removed, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1/2-inch length fresh ginger, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or mirin (see Cook’s Hint, below)
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 clove garlic
2 green onions, root and top 2 inches removed, remaining portion very thinly sliced (julienned)
2 sprigs cilantro, for garnish
1. Prepare a steamer basket or, to steam in a wok, cross two chopsticks in an X, then cut a groove in the lower chopstick so that the top one fits snugly. Set the chopsticks in the wok and add water to 1 inch below the level of the chopsticks. Place the lid on the wok and turn heat to high.
2. Place the salmon, skin side down, on a glass pie plate or rimmed glass plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the wok. Cover with ginger slices. Pour the rice wine and fish sauce over the fish.
3. When the water is boiling, remove the lid from the wok and position the plate containing the salmon and seasonings on top of the chopsticks. Replace the lid and cook 7 to 8 minutes, or until the salmon just turns opaque and begins to flake.
4. Two to three minutes before the salmon is done steaming, heat the peanut oil in a small skillet over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the garlic and cook until browned. Discard the garlic, but do not turn off the heat until you use the oil; it must be very hot to sear the fish properly.
5. When the salmon is cooked, transfer it to a warm plate. Place the green onion strips on top of the fish and immediately pour hot oil over the fish and onions. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve immediately.
Cook’s Hint: The technique of using hot, seasoned oil over steamed or baked fish is known as flavor smoothing and helps force the flavors of the seasoning into the fish. You can vary the flavor of the seasoned oil by substituting minced garlic, chopped fresh basil leaves, or chopped cilantro. Mirin is a staple in the Japanese kitchen, a sweet, low-alcohol, golden wine made from glutinous rice. It is available in Japanese markets and the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Recipe courtesy of Rick and Ann Yoder, as printed in the Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook, Gift Edition (Ten Speed Press, 2005)