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Seaweed Salad with watermelon radishes and garlic scapes, grilled mackerel

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For some reason I had been thinking about seaweed a bit of late. I have absolutely no idea why to be honest. I haven’t eaten any in ages, however one day sitting at work I decided I wanted to make a nice tasty and fast seaweed salad.

And that really got me thinking about flavors with seaweed. I have had some really awesome seaweed dishes at some great local Japanese restaurants, but I couldn’t remember for the life of me what also went in the salad. Which, leads me on to my next point. To me, seaweed doesn’t have a ton of flavor. It tastes of the sea, and I love that, but it is far more a textural thing than a taste – in my books anyhow. So, the really memorable flavors in a seaweed salad have to come from elsewhere.

Which got me thinking further (yes, this was a day where I thought a lot more about food than my work.. opps) about some classic flavors, and how I could tart around with them a bit. Take a daikon radish for example. A classic Japanese flavor. Raw daikon is used a lot in salads, so I thought I would play with this a bit. At the local market there were these absolutely incredible watermelon radishes. Just look at the color of those bad boys! Talk about amazing. I just knew that I had to use them in this salad. What is great is that they give a nice sharp bite as well – both in texture and flavor.

Next up was garlic. We all love it, but again I didn’t want to just pile in a few cloves and call it done. Hunting around I found some garlic scapes, which give a great mild garlic flavor when cooked just slightly. What is more, they look awesome too (we eat first with eyes, so I hear), bright green, as fresh as the morning dew.

And a herb.. hmmm… SHISO!! That will be perfect. A very clean crisp flavor, that is also bright and full of life.

By now I was getting pretty excited. I had a couple of different seaweed varieties (I wanted more, but the Asian market I visited decided it would be best to stock 20 different brands of the same seaweed variety, instead of different species.. class), some great other ingredients – so all I needed now was a dressing.

A while back now (blimey, years actually) I mixed up a dressing of seasoned rice wine vinegar, chopped shallot and grated ginger. I was awesome. Being honest, I completely OD’d on it back then – I put it on bloody everything. Still, I hadn’t made it in ages and I reckoned it would work out pretty perfect for this light, crisp salad. Turns out, I was (for once) right.

And of course, I couldn’t forget the fish. You know me – there is seafood in it somewhere. The Asian market where I picked up the seaweed had some great looking mackerel (Saba), that was as cheap as chips. Two mackerel, enough for 4 people came to just under 10 bucks. That really isn’t bad for fresh fish.

Mackerel can be a little bit of an acquired taste. Some say it is fishy. Bollocks to that I say. You get decent fresh mackerel, and it honestly tastes like the sea – very fresh indeed. What is more, these little buggers are stocked full of great fish oils, so they are dead healthy for you as well. To top it off – cooking them is a breeze. Just wop the fillets under the broiler for a few minutes, after tossing them in some sesame oil. Skin side to the heat, you get an amazing crispy skin, and soft flesh. I do recommend however breaking out the tweezers or pliers, and pulling out the bones before you cook them. They have quite a few bones, and it is always far nicer to eat when you aren’t picking bones off your tongue. More on the best way to do that in a future post.

Serve all this with a little pickled ginger and some sushi rice, and you are set for a really fast, really tasty, bloody healthy dinner.

Oh – and when looking for the seaweed.. try to find a selection that gives you a variety of colors, sizes and textures. You can also buy packets of a variety of seaweeds, that work out perfectly for a salad like this. I couldn’t find any though. Bastards.

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Seaweed Salad with watermelon radishes and garlic scapes, grilled mackerel

(serves 2)

1 large mackerel, filleted

1 watermelon radish

1 small handful of garlic scapes

1 shallot, peeled and diced

thumb sized piece of ginger, grated

3 shiso leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade) (if you cannot find shiso, use a mix of basil and mint)

seasoned rice wine vinegar

two of three different varieties of dried or fresh seaweed – preferably smaller species, not the wide sheets

sesame oil

Rehydrate the seaweed according to package directions. If it requires heating (doubtful), then allow the seaweed the cool right down before putting the salad together.

In a small bowl, mix together the diced shallot and grated ginger. Cover this completely with the vinegar. Let this sit for 5 minutes for the flavor to get to know each other.. swap phone numbers and so forth.

Trim up the garlic scapes if required. Using a Japanese slicer or mandoline, slice the radish acrossways into super thin slices. Cover with a damp paper towel, to stop them from drying out.

Toss the mackerel fillets in a little sesame oil. Season generously with salt. Mackerel is a fish the benefits greatly from good seasoning. Preheat your oven broiler to medium/high.

Get a wok hot over a high heat. And a splash of sesame oil. Toss in the garlic scapes, and fry for a few minutes, until they have got a little color to them, and are a little softer to bite.

Pop the mackerel under the broiler, skin side to the heat. Cook the fillets for about 5 minutes – or until the skin is nicely colored and the flesh is cooked all the way through.

To make the salad. Mix the seaweed with the radishes and garlic scapes. Add the shiso leaves, and gently toss.

Spoon this out onto plates, and pour over a little of the dressing – making sure you give a decent helping of the ginger and shallot.

Serve the mackerel on the side, with a little pickled ginger and sushi rice.

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21 Responses to “Seaweed Salad with watermelon radishes and garlic scapes, grilled mackerel”

  1. dp says:

    What a beautiful salad! I love the color of those radishes. But I’m really eyeing the mackerel. I love it grilled or broiled. And I don’t think it tastes fishy at all, but then again, I grew up on fish sauce and fermented shrimp paste :-)

  2. Kaykat says:

    Watermelon radishes? And you found them at a local market? Where??? This sounds delicious!

  3. matt wright says:

    DP – I don’t think it tastes fishy either.. but the amount of emails I get from people saying “how do stop fish tasting fishy” would mean we might be in the minority :D

    Kaykat – They can be found at farmers markets. I found these at my local PCC store – a co-op organic grocery store, here in Seattle. The pictures of these really didn’t do them justice – they are just incredible to look at.

  4. Haley says:

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me, haleyglasco@gmail.com, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details. (Click on my name in the message header link to visit our blog. :)

  5. Madeline says:

    Wow, your photos are stunning! Those colors are absolutely amazing. Nice work.

  6. Y says:

    What a beautiful looking dish. Love seaweed, adore mackerel.

  7. Matthew says:

    Mackerel is my favorite fish. A couple of good things to know about it are: (a) The Marine Stewardship Council is in the process of certifying the Norwegian mackerel fishery as sustainable, and (b) most of the mackerel we see here in Seattle is frozen, so you can buy it frozen and have it on hand when you need it. It’s also low in mercury. In short, there’s no reason not to eat it all the time. I buy the fillets and the whole fish frozen at Uwajimaya, and they’re fantastic. And yeah, about $6/pound.

  8. Tartelette says:

    This is not right: I am here and the food is there and there is this screen in between…Gorgeous and super creative! Love the whole composition, very inviting!

  9. cindy says:

    i have been eying this blog for some time now. i really think the photography and writing is great. through your blog i have nearly convinced my fiance that fish is not the enemy–just un-fresh fish. he has even agreed to try some soon…this is coming from a guy that has maintained the motto, “if it comes from the sea, it doesn’t go in me.” lame, i know.

  10. Shannon says:

    OMG. This is food porn at it’s best. I am in love with you.

  11. matt wright says:

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments!

    Tartelette: Feel free to post me your amazing food, and I will happily eat it.. Opps, I mean photograph it! God knows why you say this though, your photos are better than mine.

    Cindy – everything somewhat started life in the sea :D If you ask Darwin anyhow.

    Shannon – Thanks! Don’t you just love the term “food porn” – I am glad you think my stuff is worthy of the title :D

  12. Wow – I’ve never had watermelon radishes!!! Such vibrant color.

  13. Nate says:

    I think you did a wonderful job, thinking about and putting together all the pieces. We just discovered watermelon radishes a few months back – they are so tasty! Try them roasted.

    We haven’t had saba shioyaki in a very long time. I love that deep, rich flavor and the oily flesh. So yummy.

  14. Wow, those watermelon radishes are so beautiful.

  15. Anticiplate says:

    Where did you find WATERMELON radishes?!

  16. Shari says:

    I love the color of this salad! I’ve never tried seaweed in a salad, but I’ll have to now! BTW, I’ve given you an award. Check it out here!
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  17. Too bad you don’t live down by us, you would love the array of seaweed found at our local Japanese markets. I could see you just go crazy.
    Speaking of crazy, this dish is crazy , in a delicious sense. The colors, flavors and depth of the seaweed salad with the fresh fish is amazing. This dish is definitely an ode to the beautiful sea!

  18. Brittany says:

    A feast for the eyes! BEAUTIFUL! ..as always : )

  19. Ali S says:

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment on my Dinner Tonight post. I don’t know why people have struggled liking lamb either — those burgers were so good! I even grew up on a beef farm and have a penchant towards beef. All your posts make me think I’ll need to try out some seafood recipes, soon, too.
    Thanks again for stopping by!

  20. I love everything about this meal: the colours, the flavours, the combinations, and the beautiful way everything gets plated and comes together. Just lovely. I adore grilled mackerel and yours just came out perfectly!

  21. Zach says:

    I think when people complain about the fishiness of fish, they’re often really complaining about the intense smell. Broiling mackerel is totally delicious, but can really stink up a place. The best way to cut down on the smell is to use the shimofuri technique — just put the fillets in a colander flesh side up, and slowly pour boiling water over them until the outside of the flesh turns white. Really helps with the fishy smell, doesn’t affect the taste at all.