Thai Salmon Curry with Vegetables (and a few fish tips)
One of the barriers to eating the recommended two to three servings of fish a week is that many folks don’t know how to buy it or what to do once it’s home. It can seem easier to opt for a tried and true chicken breast than explore the unchartered waters of the fish case. So, before I launch into today’s recipe for Thai Salmon Curry, I thought I’d pass on a few pointers.
Buying Fresh Fish
When I buy fish, it’s typically at a neighborhood shop where I trust what they stock. Even still, I always consider what looks best in the case that’s within budget. I often shift gears when I’m at the market. For example, if the tuna I had planned to buy doesn’t look up to snuff, I’ll find another fish that suits by needs. Here are a few more helpful tips:
- Get the scoop. Talk to your fishmonger about what’s on offer. Find out if anything was locally caught, what fish came in that day, and what they recommend.
- Have a good look. Fresh fish should sort of glisten, be moist and taut. If it looks dull, dried out, or mushy, find another option.
- Give it a sniff. Your fishmonger will (hopefully) allow you to take a whiff of a fish from the case. It shouldn’t be stinky, but have a clean smell that reminds you of the sea.
- Keep it cold. Get your fish into the fridge as quickly as you can. If it’s a warm day, ask your retailer for a bag of ice to keep things cold during transportation.
- Cook it soon. Ideally, cook fish the day you buy it. The fresher the better.
Frozen Fish Tips
While nothing beats good quality fresh fish, frozen is a terrific, convenient, and often more economical option. Here’s what you should know:
- Inspect it. Give frozen fish a pass if you see excessive ice crystals or freezer burn.
- Defrost it right. The best way to thaw fish is gently, in the refrigerator, which can take several hours or overnight, depending on the thickness of the fish. If you don’t have the time for a slow thaw, immerse the frozen fish, still in it’s plastic, in a bowl of cold water.
Speaking of frozen fish, it’s a good way to go for a dish like this Thai Salmon Curry. You cook the fish right in the broth, which results in a very tender piece of salmon that gets infused with the flavors of coconut milk and curry. It’s an immensely nourishing meal, full of those healthy Omega-3 fats, vitamin D (which many of us don’t get enough of), and loads of other nutrients.
This is the sort of supper that will make you look like a real pro in the kitchen, yet nobody needs to know how easy it is to prepare. The combination of red curry paste and coconut milk is a magical one. The salmon gently cooks in the sauce, resulting in supremely tender fish that is as pretty to look at as it is tasty to eat.
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 pound fresh salmon fillets
- One 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 1 large sweet potato (8 ounces), scrubbed and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- Large handful baby spinach
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- In a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and saute until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes.
- While the onions cook, pull any tiny bones from the salmon (tweezers can be useful for this). Cut into four equal pieces. Set aside.
- When the onions are tender, add the coconut milk, water, curry paste, brown sugar, and fish sauce, and stir until the ingredients are blended and the sauce is smooth. Add the sweet potato, stir, and turn the heat to high. When the liquid boils, drop the heat until it simmers, put on the lid, and cook the sweet potato until it is just tender, about 8 minutes.
- Nestle the 4 salmon pieces, skin side up, down into sauce surrounded by the sweet potato. Return the lid to the pot and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Use a spatula to gently turn the salmon over. Add the zucchini to the pot, doing your best to nestle it into the sauce. Return the lid and simmer until the salmon is done (it will be opaque in color and easily pull apart, about 3 minutes more (the time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish and it will continue to cook a bit even once it’s off the heat). Scatter the spinach over the curry and cover again with the lid. The spinach will wilt quickly.
- Serve in shallow bowls over brown rice.
I developed this recipe in collaboration with the National Fisheries Institute, which compensated me for my work.