For years, we’ve been told not to eat fish during months which do not contain the letter ‘R’ in their name. There are several logical reasons for this embargo. Firstly, these months are the hottest and wettest of the year. Seafood left un-refrigerated in the heat of the summer or the humidity of the monsoon is unlikely to remain fresh for very long. The monsoon is also a dangerous time to fish. Trawlers should not be going out to fish in deep waters at all; deep-sea fishing at this time of year endangers the lives of fishermen. But the most significant reason for not touching fish in these months is that this is the fish-breeding season. If we start killing them, we inadvertently deplete significant numbers of fish.
However, this does not mean that seafood lovers have to be deprived during these months. Most shellfish, freshwater fish from rivers, lakes and ponds, and those from estuaries, or fish that approach the shore, do not come under fire. Neither does imported fish, which is mostly farmed. I have, over the last few years, noticed Norwegian salmon on restaurant and hotel menus. SKR Foods, a major importer in Mumbai, has been supplying to me and many retail food stores for quite a few years. They stock filets, smoked salmon, now also sashimi cuts and, best of all, are ready to home deliver. They are reasonably priced, the fish comes well frozen, and their stock is always fresh because of the high demand. I ordered some last weekend and per person, it worked out to be the same price as large pomfret filets from my local market.
On the health front, oily fish such as salmon is a nutritional gold mine that’s rich in vitamins, amino acids and omega 3 oils, which have been found to reduce the risk of blood clotting and possible inflammation in conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein, low in fat and has the lowest methyl mercury contamination levels of all fish.
In addition to all this, salmon is very tasty. It comes from both the Pacific and the Atlantic. What we find in India is mainly farmed Norwegian, not the superior, wild Scottish, Alaskan or Tasmanian salmon. Most salmon you eat anywhere in the world today is farmed. Only a very small percentage is still caught wild. But even the Norwegian variety is quite a treat. Salmon can also be smoked, hot and cold—hot smoked salmon from Scotland or Tasmania is a great delicacy. Keta caviar are the large, orange salmon eggs or caviar, which I personally prefer to sturgeon.
I love fresh filets, and they need very little done to them. Keep the skin on. Crispy salmon skin is delicious. Salmon has a rich, slightly oily, light pink/orange/red coloured texture and takes only a few minutes to cook.
My Japanese-style Salmon
4 thick slices of salmon, each weighing about 200g to 225g (they should be cut from a large filet—don’t buy individual pieces, the whole filet is much tastier)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tbsp Japanese furikake seasoning, made with sesame, sugar, salt, dried seaweed and usually used for rice (optional) *
1 tbsp sesame or olive oil
Defrost the fish and place it on clean towels to absorb any moisture. Sprinkle the filets with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and place all filets skin side down in the frying pan. Keep the heat high until the skin is quite crisp (about a minute or two). Lower the flame and cover with a tight lid. Cook the fish for no longer than two to three minutes.
Remove the lid and drizzle the soya sauce so it sizzles. Remove the fish on a platter or individual plates and sprinkle the furikake. Serve as is, or with wasabi** mash (mashed potatoes made with butter and cream into which you whisk a heaped teaspoon of prepared wasabi paste).
* This is available in supermarkets in Singapore and most Japanese stores anywhere in the world.
** Wasabi is Japanese mustard, or horseradish. It is pale green and comes in paste or powdered form.
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