The key to this salmon dish is a well-balanced green curry sauce, with lemongrass and lime delivering floral and citrus notes.
At their western Massachusetts restaurant, Coco & The Cellar Bar, chefs Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor serve dishes that reflect their personal histories with food.
For Abkin, that history is shaped by the hunger she experienced as an orphan in South Korea and, following that, the food traditions she then absorbed from her adoptive parents. Taylor, who grew up in the restaurant industry, has learned the value of cooking in a way that preserves both the bold, balanced flavors that define their food and the simplicity of process.
Flavor balance is one of the principal concepts the fuels their approach to food preparation. As they write in their cookbook, Curry & Kimchi, “We look at the interaction between six components — salt, spice, fat, acid, sweet, and umami — and try to find balance among them. It is easy for most people to identify when a bite is too salty or too acidic; too spicy or cloyingly sweet. When these aspects of flavor are working together, however, most people don’t notice the balance — they just recognize it as delicious.”
One fundamental ingredient of a balanced dish? A well-crafted sauce “that embraces and supports the main ingredients in a dish.” For Abkin and Taylor, “the foundation that is laid by a well-balanced sauce is so important that we have organized the recipes in this book around the sauces.”
One of their foundational sauces is Green Thai Curry, which serves as the bedrock of flavor in their Salmon and Green Thai Curry Rice Bowl. Vibrant chive oil provides the finishing touch.
Green Thai Curry
Many green Thai curries are dominated by chile and fish flavors. We set out to make this one stand apart by emphasizing the perfumed notes of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and replacing the fish stock with coconut water so that the more floral and citrusy notes could shine through. Kaffir lime leaves are hard to find but well worth the search.
Yield: 4½ cups
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil or coconut oil
- ½ white onion, diced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 1 large stalk lemongrass, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped (or zest of 1 lime)
- ½ cup chopped palm sugar
- 2 tablespoons green Thai curry paste
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 1 cup coconut water, without pulp
- 3 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- When oil is shimmering, add onion, carrot, and salt.
- Cook vegetables until well caramelized, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add another teaspoon or two of oil. Add garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.
- Cook mixture until fragrant and starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add palm sugar and green Thai curry paste.
- Cook mixture until sugar is bubbling and starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add lime juice, fish sauce, coconut water, and coconut milk.
- Lower the heat and bring curry just to a simmer (do not allow the curry to boil or it will break). Simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then strain out the solids.
The curry will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Salmon and Green Thai Curry Rice Bowl
Around our house, a bowl of fresh rice, curry, and salmon is considered comfort food. It’s a unique combination that we have for lunch or dinner, and the leftovers are one of our favorite breakfasts, too.
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 6-ounce skinned salmon fillets
- 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
- 4 cups cooked jasmine rice
- 4 cups Green Thai Curry
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves or Italian basil
- Chive Oil (recipe follows)
- Season salmon fillets with salt.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add oil.
- Add the salmon fillets, gently and skin side up, when oil is shimmering. Cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the fillets with a fish spatula, and continue cooking until fish feels firm to the touch, about 3 minutes longer. Remove pan from heat.
- Divide rice, Green Thai Curry, cooked salmon fillets, and basil leaves among four bowls.
- Finish with Chive Oil.
This is the most vivid oil we use on a daily basis. It has a grassy herbal flavor and a beautiful bright green color.
Yield: ¾ cup
- ¾ cup (1 ounce) chopped chives
- 1 cup neutral cooking oil
- Pinch of salt
- Combine chives, oil, and salt in a blender.
- Blend on high until puréed. Refrigerate overnight, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer.
The oil will keep for 3 days.