salmon with ginger caramel

photo 1

So here we are, back from holiday. Back from the first time abroad  in about 3 years, browner, more chilled, slightly stupefied after the flight from hell and totally ravenous.
I can confirm that the food in Portugal is truly fantastic. I won’t drone on, but look out for my piece early next year in Sainsbury’s magazine. What I will say is if you ever find yourself in Lisbon you absolutely must book yourself a place on the superb Eat, Drink Walk tour where amongst other things Célia will give you an insider’s tour of the newly opened Ribeiro market. Think Borough (minus the expense and tourists) meets taste of London (without the queues, with bigger portions and a lot cheaper) meets huge indoor warehouse with communal seating and nice people that come and clear your table. Here I got to sample some of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants at bafflingly slashed down prices. I also ate the most gourmet tinned tuna tapas ever in a crazy fishing bar I’d never have thought of stopping by at in a zillion years – that tour is worth every penny.
Anyway, so we’re back home and hungry, and the fridge is of course completely devoid of anything that isn’t a condiment. Luckily we’ve got some frozen salmon squirreled away and I decide to make this caramelised fish dish from the Vietnamese market cookbook that I’ve had my eye on for a while.
Terrific as the quality of food is in Portugal (and Spain, France, Italy etc.) I always find my tastebuds growing restless after about a week whenever I visit any place in which only one cultural cuisine dominates. Maybe it’s because I’m a spoilt Londoner, but in the same way I find myself missing the sound of Somalians shouting down their mobiles on the bus, the Pakistani mums with their impeccably behaved kids in the park, the Asian boys pretending to be hard on my street corner, the Rasta neighbour that feeds my cat whenever I forget and the Senegalese drug dealers who always, always help me carry my buggy up the stairs at St James st station. In the same way I miss these people, I find myself craving something just a bit more exotic, a bit more exciting after a few days of the same cuisine, no matter how superlatively fresh everything is.

So this was a life saver. Proof that you can conjure more exciting meals from your freezer than simply defrosting a lasagne. Oh and don’t be put off by the idea of caramel and fish – the counter weight of garlic, chilli and fish sauce means everything works quite beautifully.

photo 3

from The Vietnamese Market Cookbook by Van Tran and Anh Vu

serves 4

500g salmon fillets
50g thinly sliced ginger
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
200ml coconut milk (I hacked some off a block of creamed coconut and mixed with hot water)
2 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. gia vi (or a mix of 2 parts sugar, 1 part sea salt, 1 part ground black pepper, 1 part garlic powder)
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp. loose green tea
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tbsp. crushed garlic
2 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp. chopped galangal (or 1 extra tbsp. ginger)

caramel sauce:
4 tbsp. sugar
250ml water

cut the salmon fillets into 4cm chunks. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and rub into the salmon. Cover and leave in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

To make the caramel, place a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat, add the sugar and leave for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Turn the heat down to low and then stir constantly for about 2-3 minutes, until no grains of sugar are visible. The sugar will begin to melt and turn a brownish colour. Pay special attention to the colour of the caramel under the bubbles as it will darken very quickly. Just before it turns dark, add the water and cook until it boils. Don’t worry if the sugar hardens upon contact with the water, as it will melt as it cooks, forming a caramel sauce.

Leave the caramel sauce to cool down for about 10 minutes, then stir in the sliced ginger.

Pour this sauce over the marinated salmon, then cover and leave in the fridge for another 20 minutes.

Now put a pan over a medium heat, add the vegetable oil and add the marinated salmon.

When the salmon starts to bubble, pour in the coconut milk and then taste the sauce again and add more fish sauce or sugar if necessary, before adding the chopped chillies.

Turn the heat down to low and leave the salmon to simmer for about 25 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by half.

Serve with rice and pickles.


  1. Welcome back from your hols! I had strange food times in Portugal but I think I went through some wrong doors. Your post makes me want to go back. Love hearing about your various pans on the boil. You have so many!

    • gastrogeek

      thanks! Sorry to hear that about your hols, I hear your pain. (This time I did quite a bit of food research before going, spreadsheets and all that – was determined to avoid those wrong doors)

  2. thewesternchicken

    that looks amazing. O-O I was about to reach my hands through the screen to grab that plate 😀

  3. Oh wow this looks delicious.. I’m obsessed with both ginger and salmon so this is my meal from heaven!

  4. thanks for the recipe! I will make this for my husband! I love salmon!

  5. Looks amazing – salmon is my favourite fish and this is definitely something new for me to try with it. Great post 🙂

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