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.
Seaweed Salad with watermelon radishes and garlic scapes, grilled mackerel
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
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.