A twist on the classic raw fish salad recipe adds Japanese flavours, and packs in nutrients. By Sylvia Tan
Japanese raw fish salad. Photo: Nivash Joyvin
I served this raw fish salad many times during the New Year just past and each time it was a hit, with many friends requesting the recipe.
Then I thought, why serve it only during the festive season?
It is a salad that can, and should, be eaten all year round!
It is, after all, just fish, albeit raw, sitting on a bed of greens, topped with nori (seaweed) and roasted sesame seeds, all lightly drizzled with an enticing wasabi dressing.
It has many advantages over the traditional yu sheng salad. The vegetables are not shredded, making it convenient to serve on any day.
The fish is of sashimi quality – so you do not have to worry about contamination of the fish, the cause of previous food scares associated with the traditional salad.
And, best of all, the dressing is not overly sweet.
I have always found the sweet plum dressing of the traditional salad overpowering. It is not helped by the sweet pickles that usually accompany the dish, nor the wish for sweetness loudly recited as part of the litany of well wishes voiced during the tossing of the salad.
In this Japanese-inspired version, there is more fish in the dish, there is seaweed and, yes, there is the all-important kick of wasabi in the dressing. This is a straightforward mixture of peanut and sesame oil, seasoned with soya sauce and lemon, lifted by mirin, a sweet rice wine favoured by the Japanese in their recipes for its subtle sweetness.
Of course, you could add more or less vegetables according to your whim but, if health is on your agenda, do include lots of juicy greens, crisp cucumbers and pretty pink baby radishes.
I also like to add whatever baby sprouts I can find, though they are not included in the recipe.
For those who do not know, these are living vegetables, sold in their own planting container, which you harvest only upon serving, preserving their nutrients to the maximum. If you are using sprouts, scatter these on top of the fish slices.
It is important to buy your fish from the sashimi counter at supermarkets because the fish is chosen and stored properly for eating raw.
I would also buy the fish on the day that I want to serve the dish, for optimum freshness. (Also read: How to Choose Fresh Fish Like a Pro)
While I used salmon for this recipe, I have tried using hamachi (yellowtail). Choose the fish you prefer.
I used baby spinach and rocket leaves or arugula for my bed of greens but you could opt instead for lettuces.
I am also increasingly using Japanese cucumbers for salads these days for they are crunchier than the other kinds of cucumber, which have larger and softer cores.
Aside from their sweet colour, the baby radishes nestled among the greens also deliver a subtle bite to the dish.
Do not forget the finishing touches: shredded nori seaweed and roasted sesame seeds, both available in packets at Japanese shops. They add nuttiness and a shot of sweet saltiness to the final dish.
•Sylvia Tan is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her previous Eat To Live recipes can be found in two cookbooks, Eat To Live and Taste.
JAPANESE YU SHENG SALAD
• 1 punnet baby spinach leaves, about 100g
• 1 punnet rocket leaves, about 100g
• 100g or more sashimi-grade salmon (or hamachi), sliced thinly
• 2 Japanese cucumbers, sliced
• 6 pink baby radishes, sliced thinly
• 1 handful or more roasted black nori strips (available in packets at supermarkets)
• A scattering of roasted sesame seeds
• ½ cup peanut oil
• 1 tsp roasted sesame oil
• Juice from half a lemon
• 1 tsp wasabi paste, either made with the powder or squeezed from a tube
• 1 Tbs light soya sauce to taste
• 2 Tbs mirin to taste (Japanese sweet rice wine, available from Japanese supermarkets)
• Pepper and salt to taste
• Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together, whisking till it emulsifies. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
• Wash and dry salad leaves, and place on a large plate.
• Top with sliced cucumbers and radishes.
• Lay the fish slices on top.
• Garnish with shredded seaweed and sesame seeds.
• Drizzle the dressing over the fish and toss at the table. Enjoy.
SERVES FOUR TO FIVE
NEXT: How to make this dish safe for children