KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — Japan isn’t a country for low-carbers. I say this as someone who truly loves travelling to the Land of the Rising Sun (and do so whenever I can afford it — it’s not cheap).
From light-as-clouds tempura best enjoyed with cold soba noodles to premium tonkatsu made with Kagoshima kurobuta (black pig) that needs a steaming bowl of rice to go with it, there are carbohydrates with every meal.
And indeed, why shouldn’t it be so? I certainly enjoy my starches. My idea of heaven is lining up for an hour inside a tiny alley in Shinjuku just so I can sit on an uncomfortable stool, elbow to elbow with my neighbours on either side of me (one a half-drunk salaryman, the other a tattooed yakuza bouncer), and slurp up strand after strand of handmade ramen.
Well, one good reason could be your better half turning to you one day and saying, “I think I need to lose some weight. No more carbs from now on.”
Are there three words more terrifying than these? “No more carbs” ought to send shivers down the spine of anyone who loves nasi lemak, char kway teow, roti canai and, yes, a beautiful platter of sushi.
Yet these words can also be a playful challenge. How do I come up with a dish that is Japanese-inspired yet be relatively starch-free? Given how often salmon is employed as sushi topping of choice, marinating some fillets with another Japanese ingredient — miso (fermented soybeans) — could work.
To make it healthier (and to add more substance), adding some greens to the fish to make it a flavourful salad results in a balanced meal. Using fresh apples and pears adds a refreshing crunch, whets the appetite and, hopefully, helps one forget one is dining carbohydrate-free...
Salmon salad served with baked potatoes
Why are there baked potatoes if this is meant to be a low-carb recipe? The answer is simply: Peace.
Just because you decide to go low-carb doesn’t mean your partner or family members or friends who are dropping by for a Sunday lunch are as enamoured of the diet. Some spuds will save the day.
You can graze on your salad leaves and omega-3-rich salmon, and your dining companions may enjoy some seriously tasty starches in addition to fish and greens.
Why baked potatoes then? Pasta and rice, I’ve discovered, don’t really go well with this sort of salad, with its crunch and refreshing notes. Potatoes, especially when baked, with the crusty bits of crisped-up skin and flakes of sea salt, make for a better match while still satisfying hungry bellies.
The only danger, in fact, of pairing this salad with these baked potatoes is doing your darnedest best not to succumb to the taters yourself. If you do, and trust me, that’s rather likely, you can always start your low-carb diet another day...
2 fillets of salmon
1 large piece of fresh ginger, julienned
1 clove of garlic, puréed
2 limes, juice and zest
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon miso paste
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
4-5 small potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 pinches of sea salt flakes
1 apple, sliced thinly
1 pear, sliced thinly
6-8 cherry tomatoes
A handful of French beans, lightly blanched and cooled
Remove the fillets of salmon from the fridge and pat dry with a kitchen towel. (They don’t crisp quite as well when damp.) In a bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic, lime juice and zest, sesame oil, miso paste, coconut oil black pepper and sea salt. Use about half of this mixture to marinate the salmon fillets lightly. Reserve the remaining mixture to use as dressing later.
Using a sharp knife, cut the potatoes into thin strips without slicing all the way through. This will produce potato “fans” that will bake faster and crisp more evenly. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and flakes of sea salt. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the strips crisp up.
Using a non-stick pan over medium heat, pan fry the salmon fillets, about five minutes on each side depending on its thickness. No extra oil is needed due to the oil in the marinade. Remove from the pan when ready and set aside to cool.
Toss the apple, pear, cherry tomatoes and French beans together with the reserved ginger-garlic-lime mixture. Crumble the salmon fillets over the salad. Serve with the baked potatoes on the side, and a chilled pitcher of freshly squeezed juice, if desired.
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