It seems like a lifetime ago, but I used to date a half Singaporean and half Thai gal. While most people dread trips to their significant other’s homes, it was something I looked forward to because there was always a feast waiting at the table.
One of my favorite dishes was a specialty of her dad’s, made with salmon, cabbage and egg, steamed together in a red curry sauce. It didn’t look like much, but with the tender cabbage absorbing all the flavors from the piquant curry, it was as heavenly as it was humble.
I’ve reworked the dish somewhat so that it can be steamed in the oven. Pre-cooking the cabbage first in salt-water prevents the salmon from getting overcooked, and by rolling each fillet in a piece of cabbage, it makes it easier to portion out.
Because both the cabbage and salmon will release liquid as they steam, it’s important to use coconut cream instead of coconut milk. The difference is that coconut cream contains less water. You should be able to find it canned, or you can make it from powdered coconut milk by adding less water.
Cabbage Wrapped Red Curry Salmon
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 5 very large whole cabbage leaves
- 400 grams salmon cut into 4 pieces
- Cut a large piece of foil that will easily wrap around the cabbage and salmon several times. You may need to join two sheets together by folding the edges over each other to get enough width.
- Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 250 degrees F (120 C).
- Cut a piece of parchment paper that fits inside the foil.
- Whisk the coconut cream, red curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce.
- Trim the tough stems off the cabbage leaves.
- In a large pot of salted water, boil the cabbage until tender but not mushy (about 7-10 minutes) and then drain well.
- Place a leaf down in the middle of the parchment paper and then place a piece of salmon on top. Pour a few spoonfuls of sauce on top and fold the cabbage like you’re wrapping a package, it’s okay if some of the sauce leaks out. Repeat with the rest of the salmon. The extra leaf is incase one of the cabbage leaves tears, or if you’re leaves aren’t quite big enough. If you don’t need it, you can just roll it up by itself and add it next to the salmon rolls.
- Arrange the rolls so they fit in the middle of the parchment paper and then drizzle with the rest of the red curry.
- Fold the parchment paper up and over the salmon to hold all the sauce in and then fold the foil up and over the salmon, folding the edge over a few times to make a seal. Fold the two sides of foil over to make a package and then place the package on a sheet pan in case it leaks.
- Put the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a thermometer poked into the middle of a cabbage roll reads 135 degrees F (57 C).
- To serve, just transfer the foil package to a platter and cut the top off. Garnish with cilantro.
Yield: 2 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.