“Take a photo of this salmon,” my mom said. She ran into the freezer in the garage and came back with a frozen whole fish. It was gorgeous. It weighed 7 1/2 pounds (3.5 kg). Weeks earlier, Fedex came to the door and delivered a box of seven whole salmon.
My brother Dan had caught them on a fishing trip in Alaska. I’d seen a Facebook photo of Dan holding one of the salmon and wondered what he was going to do with it. I never thought he’d catch seven total. Bo Gia told me that Dan also caught a 160-pound halibut. Glad he didn’t send that to my mom because it must have been the size of a bathtub. After Dan read this post, he emailed a location shot of himself holding onto his haul. He sent some of these to my mom…
Mom is a precise cook who is never far from a kitchen scale. She reported that all the fish totaled 51 pounds. They’d been gutted so they must originally weighed a lot more. What were her intentions with all that salmon?
Defrosting one (about 30-inches long in the photo below) in the fridge took about 3 days and my mom, who just turned 80, had to shimmy the fish into her side-by-side fridge. Bo Gia didn’t want to chance it by defrosting at room temperature. Once defrosted, my mom hacked at the fish with a cleaver, regular chef’s knife, and a pair of scissors.
Salmon is versatile, she told me, you can do so many things with it. She rattled off a bunch of Viet recipe ideas and got me thinking about assembling this list of your consideration. Here are a few ideas from my mom and me, on this site as well as in my cookbooks.
Salmon Cakes with Garlic and Dill – This is a fabulous way to make a convenience food at home. In fact, my mom intends to use a lot of the salmon for cha ca because once cooked, they can be frozen and quickly thawed. My family snacks on salmon cakes as a nosh with pickles.
It’s also great in noodle soup, fried rice and even banh mi. If you have The Banh Mi Handbook, I came up with a great and easy rendition of Viet-style salmon cakes with herbs; the photo on the book’s back cover is of banh mi made with salmon cakes.
Salmon Tofu Cakes – Leftover cooked salmon get mixed with tofu and panfried into these cakes. I guess you could extra fish if you happen to have 50 pounds of salmon in the house. They’re like crab cakes and nice with a side salad.
Crisp Lemongrass Salmon – My mom’s recipe from 2009 on VWK. It’s fantastic. The other night, she made a gigantic fillet about the size of the Asian Dumplings cookbook – and we wrapped it up in lettuce with herbs from my Dad’s garden and ate it with nuoc cham.
Stovetop Salmon Teriyaki – This Japanese cooking method renders salmon into rich deliciousness. It's old school cooking and incredibly smart. As a main course, I’d serve the teriyaki salmon with homemade pickled ginger and lots of rice.
Salmon, Tomato and Dill Noodle Soup – This is called bun rieu ca in Vietnamese. We ate this for lunch this past weekend. If you have Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, make a big pot of the canh rieu ca soup on page 65. Add a little fermented shrimp sauce (mam tom/mam ruoc) for extra umami oomph.
Toss in the fish head too, my dad suggests for people who like to nibble and gnaw on fish cartilage. Then serve the soup in a tureen with bun round rice noodles, ribbons of Romaine lettuce and lots of chopped herbs. Let people make their own bowls.
Mom also simmered some of the salmon steaks with galangal and caramel sauce (page 109 of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen). That kind of ca kho is homey, humble and delicious Vietnamese cooking. There's a divine steamed salmon with garlic and ginger recipe on page 125 too.
My mom is 80 years old and using up seven salmon seems like a fun challenge. But she’s also a woman with two, maybe three, freezers in her home. Most of us do not have that kind of situation to deal with but we do buy and eat a lot of salmon.
What are your favorite ways to eat salmon?
P.S. Thanks to everyone who turned out for the events in Los Angeles. It was standing room only at the Grand Central Market in downtown. A recap posted on Facebook: