Quite Possibly The Best Salmon Ever?

Morro Bay King Salmon, troll-caught hook and line

Crispy-Skin Morro Bay King Salmon, Miso-Braised Buna-Shimeji
Diced Daikon Sautéed in Sesame Oil, Vietnamese Herbs, Bonito Flakes, Dashi Broth

Being a salmon aficionado and curious about the unusually complex rich flavors of this particular fish, I called the fishmonger at Bristol Farms. Salmon from Morro Bay, just like her famous Northern sister, the Copper River King, has unique qualities that come from “lifestyle” – the environment where they hatch, what they feed on, the temperature and strength of the currents they swim in and against, and finally how they are harvested and brought to market.

LL: “I purchased Wild California King Salmon from you yesterday. Can you tell me more about it?”

FM: “Oh yes! They are troll fishing for King Salmon in Morro Bay right now, using hook and line, bringing one fish at a time on board the boats. The fish are handled with the utmost care.”

LL: “I think it is quite possibly the best salmon I’ve ever had.”

FM: “We think so too. It’s extraordinary.”

Morro Bay King Salmon is the star of this dish. All the other components play a supporting role while creating an ethereal experience. Unlike the super-fatty Copper River chinooks, the Morro Bay is perhaps more balanced? While Morro Bay kings are still very rich in the omega-3 fats, there is also a depth and complexity of flavor that is unmatched by any salmon I’ve ever enjoyed. Unwittingly, I chose a light preparation for the dish, so glad I didn’t overshadow the bright character of the fish with heavy sauces or competing ingredients.

The Best Salmon Recipe
daikon radish diced

Peel and dice daikon. Sauté in toasted sesame oil. Set aside and keep warm.

buna-shimeji beech

Slice the very bottom of the stem from the buna shimeji (beech mushroom), taking care to leave enough stem so mushrooms are still bound together in clusters. Cook in simmering white miso broth until tender. Drain. Set aside and keep warm.

how to make crispy-skin salmon

Meanwhile, rub the dry, room-temperature salmon fillets with olive oil. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Place in a hot dry non-stick skillet, skin-side down.

As the fish cooks, use the back of a spatula to press the fillets into the pan to remove any air pockets between the skin, flesh, or pan. This method will give a perfect crisp skin. When the fish is cooked to medium-rare and the skin is crisp, flip the fillets over and very briefly sear the other side.

rau ram, vietnamese coriander

Rau Ram

I recently met some friends for a delightful lunch in Orange County’s Little Saigon. It’s absolutely impossible for me to leave that town without stopping at one of the big bustling Vietnamese supermarkets. This time I came home with several bunches of fresh herbs, among them – rau ram and hung cay.

hung cay, vietnamese mint

Hung Cay

The Vietnamese herbs bring another dimension to this dish which has predominantly Japanese flavors. Rau ram is also known as Vietnamese coriander. It does have a cilantro-like aroma and flavor, but also lends a more exotic lemony/soapy element. Hung cay adds the fresh spicy/minty quality and is much more alluring than the ubiquitous garden-variety spearmint.

the best salmon dashi dish

Place the daikon and buna shimeji in a shallow bowl along with Vietnamese herbs (torn in half if too large). Ladle hot dashi over the vegetables, but do not submerge the vegetables completely. They should make a bed for the salmon, so the fillet is not sitting in the dashi, but atop the vegetables.

salmon dashi daikon buna shimeji

Place the salmon fillet over the vegetables, skin-side up. Garnish the fish with a sprinkling of bonito flakes and a few herb leaves.

If you are fortunate to have access to fresh Morro Bay King Salmon this season, definitely take advantage of this unparalleled catch!

morro bay king salmon
Since we adore salmon AND it is so heart-healthy, I would love to hear about your best salmon recipe or restaurant dish. Feel free to leave a link in the comment section.

19 thoughts on “Quite Possibly The Best Salmon Ever?”

  1. I love salmon, Lori Lynn, but have problems with handling the smell of it cooking for some reason. I’d avoided it for a while for that reason but recently decided to try baking it en papillote ~ rather tightly wrapped in paper {with a drizzle of oils, herbs and so on} and it’s been a wonderful solution, as well as tasty. But your recipe has me tempted to try pan-frying it again ~ thank you for the tip on the crispy skin!

  2. Oh, Lori, I’m just drooling reading this post. I, too, love salmon and have to really seek out fresh and wild. As I’ve said before, I so envy your part of the world and your ability to get such wonderful ingredients many of which I learn about for the first time when I visit TWTE.

  3. I am drooling. I love salmon and more importantly, I love learning about sustainable and healthy salmon. Here on the East Coast, wild salmon is such a treat. I am loving this very simple yet impressive preparation. Fabulous.

  4. Oh wow this is such a fabulous recipe, I love miso-fish combinations and eat such a lot of salmon in the summer months, I can’t wait to try this!

  5. All right – but don’t malign my Copper River Salmon. I live for that in June. I love the exotic greens you can get – but I can make do – love the looks of your salmon and that delicious crisp on the skin.

    1. Hi Claudia – oh, please don’t get me wrong, we ADORE Copper River King, I was just looking for a way to describe the differences between them and their terrior. When Copper River Kings show up here, I’ll be the first in line.
      Mint and cilantro would absolutely work in this dish, you probably have in your garden?

  6. Wow, this looks incredible. I adore salmon and grew up eating tons of it. My dad loved to fish so we learned to appreciate fish at a young age. I now have such a craving for a great piece of salmon.

  7. When you say the best, then I totally believe you! We usually get Copper River salmon from a Japanese market, and I buy a lot when they are out since there is no guarantee I can have next time… I’d love to try this along with your delicious recipe!! Katsuobushi on top? Your pantry must have lots of Japanese ingredients. =)

    1. Hi Nami – it does…I’m at the Japanese market as often as Whole Foods 🙂
      Since you are in NoCal, definitely look for Morro Bay Kings!

  8. This dish is so beautifully composed. That is a pretty high claim though about this being the best salmon ever…must try to believe 😉 I am curious about those special herbs too. Looks fantastic!

  9. Beautiful dish! I usually bake salmon and only rub on it sea salt and freshly milled pepper. If I have fresh dill, I add a bit of it. The flavor of this fish is so amazing.

  10. Thank you – I just tried this recipe and it’s fantastic, even with a mere “mortal” salmon! The daikon gives such a great offset in texture and I adore the mushrooms. You asked for other recipes. Don’t know if this one can compare, but I do it often and the family snarfs it, so for what it’s worth — similar prep of the salmon itself, but before placing salmon in the pan I infuse a tiny bit of canola or grapeseed oil with a few slices of ginger. Then, I make a salad of daikon sprouts, enoki mushrooms, julienned hot house cucumbers and water chestnuts. The viniagrette is a blend of rice vinegar, mirin, dashi, and ponzu. Toss salad ingredients really lightly, just to coat, then mound on top of the cooked salmon. Sprinkle toasted white and/or black sesame seeds on the whole concoction and enjoy!

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