Salmon Teriyaki

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Internet, do you have any idea how easy it is to make salmon teriyaki at home? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s incredibly easy. Like, laughingly easy. And the best part? It tastes better than that sugary, syrupy rendition so many restaurants serve.

The secret to achieving the perfect glaze here is reducing the sauce appropriately. Reduce it too much and you’ll scorch the fish. Reduce it too little and you’ll end up with a watery sauce. You have been warned.

Salmon teriyaki

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 6-ounce skin-on, boneless salmon fillets
salt

1. Combine sake, mirin, and soy sauce bowl. Set teriyaki sauce aside.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and season salmon lightly with salt.

3. Working in batches and adding more oil if needed, cook salmon skin side down until skin is brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until other side is just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Pour off excess fat in pan. Bring teriyaki sauce to a boil in pan over medium heat. Cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes.

5. Add salmon, skin side up, and cook, spooning sauce over, until sauce is syrupy and salmon is just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

6. Transfer to a plate and serve with rice or salad.

Fried Smelt with Garlic Chips

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Why don’t Americans eat smelt more often? I have a theory: for starters, it’s called smelt. Not the prettiest word, amirite? Secondly, smelt slightly resemble anchovies and there’s that whole anchovies-on-pizza revulsion thing from our collective Saturday morning TMNT cartoon childhoods. But let’s be real: smelt is delicious. And if it were called, I dunno, Maritime butterfish or Japanese elvenfish, they’d fly off the shelves.

This is my favorite way to enjoy smelt: dusted with flour, fried to a crisp, and covered in heaps of garlic. A perfect finger food. These are addictive. You have been warned.

Fried smelt with garlic chips

Ingredients:

2 or 3 large garlic cloves
3/4 pound smelt, cleaned
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons umeboshi (pickled ume plums), pitted and minced to a paste
2 cups flour
salt
vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Thinly slice the garlic cloves. In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 inch of oil. On low heat, fry the garlic slices until lightly golden, about 7-9 minutes. With a fine mesh sieve, transfer the garlic to a plate. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, sugar, and umeboshi. Add the smelt and leave to marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.

3. In the same saucepan as the garlic oil, add enough oil to reach 2 inches and heat to medium-high. Remove the smelt from the marinade, dredge in flour, and add to the saucepan. Deep fry until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, drain smelt on a paper-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.

4. Garnish the smelt with the garlic chips and serve warm.

Halibut with Wood Ear Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots

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Gimme all the wood ear mushrooms. Dried or fresh, in soups or stir-fries, their crunchy-yet-slippery mouthfeel adds texture to any dish. In this entree, juicy, flaky halibut pairs perfectly with wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a savory sauce redolent with garlic, ginger, and green onions.

Halibut with wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots

Ingredients:

1/3 cup fish stock or chicken stock
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown bean sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce (tobanjan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds halibut or sea bass steaks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup fresh wood ear mushrooms, cut into thin strips
4 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
6 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Prepare the seasonings: stir the fish stock, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown bean sauce, sugar, and chili bean sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the fish and let stand for 10 minutes.
3. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and slide the fish into the wok and pan-fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Once the skin is firm, carefully transfer the fish to a plate.

4. Return the wok to high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the bamboo shoots, mushrooms, green onions, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the seasonings and bring to a boil.

5. Return the fish to the wok and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the seasonings are simmering, cover the wok, and simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Turn the fish once during cooking. Remove the fish from the wok and place on a platter.

6. Stir the dissolved cornstarch into the sauce and cook, stirring 30 seconds to 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.

Salmon Fish Curry

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The story of migration is often told through food. Growing up, my mom made perfect potato tahdig atop Iranian-style spaghetti, a testament to Italian-American-Iranian fusion. We found that Thanksgiving turkey went perfectly with baghali polo, an aromatic basmati rice and fava bean pilaf.

As I learn to cook Sri Lankan food, I’m discovering a similar story. For example, my Sri Lankan cookbooks instruct me to make red fish curry with tuna, but Nishan tells me his mom always used salmon when he was growing up in Canada. After all, salmon is ubiquitous in the great white north. And as it turns out, this curry tastes better with salmon than it does with tuna. Or maybe we’re biased. Maybe it’s nostalgia.

I serve this healthy, easy curry with homemade lemon pickle and Iranian-style rice and tahdig, adding yet another layer to our collective story of migration.

Salmon red fish curry with sauted leeks

Ingredients:

2 pounds wild salmon fillet, scaled and deboned
1 tablespoon tamarind, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water and solids discarded
2 tablespoons roasted curry powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2-inch piece ginger, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 green chiles (such as Serrano), halved lengthwise
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

1. Cut salmon into 1-inch pieces and marinate in a mixture of the tamarind, curry powder, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, and paprika for 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute onions, ginger, garlic, green chiles, and curry leaves until onions are softened.

3. Add salmon to saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes until salmon is cooked.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

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“Mariam, when are you making linguine with white clam sauce again?” – My sister, every month since forever, basically.

Growing up, this was one one of my sister’s favorite dishes that I’d cook, but let’s be honest. It’s one of my favorites too. What’s better than pasta? Pasta enveloped in a garlicy seafood sauce. Sure, the dish has 1990s vibes, but good taste is timeless. This dish is easy and it’s a crowd pleaser. The next time my sister asks, I’m making a huge pot of this — for us both.

Linguine with white clam sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup bottled clam juice
1 pound linguine
3 pounds small clams, scrubbed well
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine and clam juice and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

2. Cook pasta in another large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

3. While pasta is cooking, stir clams into sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until clams open wide, 4 to 6 minutes. (Discard any clams that have not opened after 5 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

4. Add pasta to clams along with parsley and salt to taste, then toss with sauce until combined well.