One of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is with a coconut curry sauce. Thai food, especially curries, is one of those cuisines that seems to polarize people. You either adore it or think it’s absolutely inedible. I consider myself a member of the former category. I love Thai food. It tends to feature some of my favorite ingredients–coconut, basil, peppers, ginger, chilis–all in the recipe I followed tonight.
Like a lot of dishes I’ve discussed here, coconut curry requires a lot of experimentation. I believe that in cooking, there are no “right” amounts of anything, but rather that some combinations work better than others and a lot of a dish’s success depends upon personal preference. Some people, for example, might prefer dishes on the sweeter side and would want to go heavier on the brown sugar. Others might like things on the tangy side and want more lemongrass and lime. Or if you’re like me and adore coconut above almost all other foods, you might want extra coconut milk and opt for a soupier, broth-like consistency as a result.
The following recipe is based on my own experiences of what seems to work. Since I don’t measure ingredients, I’m noting on what ingredients I find it important to go “heavier” or “lighter.” A lot of recipes will tell you to skip all that and use a “red curry paste”: don’t. Make your own. It gives you control over the flavors to make them fit your preferences, and plus it’s fresher, more authentic. Since this dish has a lot of ingredients, I recommend mixing the spices with the soy sauce and lime juice in a bowl before adding them to the coconut milk, just to make sure the flavors mix evenly.
Regarding the vegetable accompaniment: I vary it a lot, depending on what I have on hand and what sounds appetizing. I always at least use red bell pepper, but I often don’t bother with the snow peas. The bamboo shoots were an idea I tried for the first time tonight, as I had extra and knew they are a common feature of Thai dishes.
Here it is:
- Salmon filet, skin on (if you like crispy skin make sure to heat the salmon skin-down on high heat in the oil for a little bit before you cook the peppers and garlic, remove it, then return it to the pan once you’ve heated the sauce to a light boil, turn down the heat to medium, and cover–otherwise the sauce quickly will become too thick)
- Red bell pepper
- Soy sauce (heavy if low sodium; medium if regular)
- Lime juice (light-medium)
- Lemongrass, paste or threads (medium-heavy)
- Brown sugar (heavy)
- Chili powder (heavy)
- Coriander (very light; very strong spice!)
- Cinnamon (light)
- Ginger (heavy)
- Coconut milk (I use reduced fat just to avoid a calorie bomb, but the full-fat version will have more flavor)
- Bamboo shoots (totally optional)
- Snow peas (also optional; make sure to add them at the last minute because they cook quickly)
- Fresh basil, as garnish
- Coconut chips, as garnish (not optional, in my opinion; the more coconut, the better!)
- White rice, as side (it really helps soak up the sauce, especially if you opt for a broth-like consistency like I do)