Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!
Before getting into the topic of this month's column, I want to say a few words about the recent farmed salmon controversy. Scientists distributed a report saying that farmed salmon had higher level of carcinogens (PCB's) than wild salmon and the litigation is now running rampant throughout the food industry and government. All salmon provides nutrients, like the omega-3 compounds, that are good for your health. Without going into detail, let's look at a few facts:
- Most farmed salmon is imported from Chile, Canada, Scotland or some other country.
- The US cannot control or monitor food sources for imported farmed fish.
- Fish farming is very profitable and efficient as it takes about two pounds of feed to produce one pound of fish.
- Farmed salmon is artificially colored pink or red for market appeal.
- Farmed salmon is cheaper than wild salmon.
- Salmon farming has resulted in adverse environmental effects due to high concentrations of effluent and parasites.
- Farmed salmon that escape pose threats to natural salmon populations.
- Wild salmon has fewer contaminants and parasites than farmed salmon.
- Wild salmon is naturally pink, orange or red in color.
- Wild salmon do not adversely affect the environment and provide food for many species including man.
- Most wild salmon in the US were born in hatcheries to mitigate the loss of spawning tributaries for native fish.
- Wild salmon has a firmer texture than farmed salmon.
- Wild salmon tastes better than farmed salmon.
Is farmed salmon bad for you? Probably not, unless eaten to excess. Pregnant women should probably avoid eating farmed salmon, just to be on the safe side. Others should limit their intake of farmed salmon to once or twice per month. I must say, wild salmon is far superior in flavor and texture to farmed salmon. I once smoked a piece of farmed salmon and it turned into mush. I have never had this happen with wild salmon. I personally prefer to catch my own salmon, however most people depend on their local market to provide this product. If your local market doesn't carry wild salmon, ask them to get some. But, expect to pay a slightly higher price for it. The quality will not disappoint you if the fish is reasonably fresh or fresh frozen and recently thawed.
Next to catching your own salmon, or having fresh salmon in your local market, is to buy fresh frozen wild salmon from Alaska over the internet. I can personally attest to the fact that wild Alaskan salmon is far superior to farmed salmon, and even better than wild salmon from the California coast. Most fish processors in Alaska sell all 5 types of Pacific salmon, canned, smoked or fresh frozen and vacuum sealed. The best eating, in my opinion, are king (Chinook) salmon and silver (Coho, lower cost) salmon. Sockeye salmon is not as oily as king or silver, but very flavorful with a deep red color. Many Alaskans consider the sockeye the best eating salmon. These processors will ship your fish frozen in an insulated box to assure it stays frozen and arrives in good condition. Here are 3 sources that I am familiar with for wild Alaskan salmon:
Now, on to this month's topic, Honey Walnut Prawns!
I like shrimp and prawns cooked just about any way, but this recipe makes them even better. I first had this dish in a Chinese / Vietnamese restaurant. Ordering it on a whim to see what it was like, I was thoroughly impressed with not only the flavor, but the presentation of the dish. The chef had decorated the serving with purple flowers that made the dish very appealing to the eye. The walnuts were crisp and sweet, the prawns were cooked to perfection, and the sauce was smooth, silky and sweet with honey.
Since then, I have made several attempts to reproduce this dish, with results that were varied and not quite as good as the restaurant. However, last night I fine tuned the recipe and produced a dish that was truly exceptional and exceeded even my expectations. So, this month, I offer you my fine tuned recipe to try for yourselves.
I didn't have any flowers to garnish the plate with, so I just used some cilantro instead. In any case, the flavor of this dish was just about perfect. This is certainly an exceptional dish to present for a special occasion.
Here's the recipe! Be well, and good eating!
- 1/2 cup walnut halves
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 2 egg whites
- 2 T. mayonnaise
- 4 T. sweetened condensed milk
- Juice of 1/3 lemon
- 1 T. light colored honey
- Oil for deep frying
- 1 lb. raw peeled large shrimp or prawns
- Lettuce leaves for the serving dish
- Sesame seeds
- Several sprigs fresh cilantro or flowers for garnish (optional)
Begin by boiling the walnut halves in 2 cups of water. When the water becomes dark from the walnut peel, drain the nuts and boil again in fresh clean water. Repeat this process until the boiling water has little color or is clear (about 3 to 4 times). This process will remove the bitterness from the walnut halves. Once the walnut halves are boiling water that is fairly clear, add 1 cup of sugar and boil for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool and then drain the nuts and set aside on a paper or kitchen towel to dry.
Next, mix the corn starch and egg white in a bowl until smooth. Add a little of the condensed milk, or water, if necessary until a thick batter consistency is obtained. Add the peeled shrimp to this mixture, mix and set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and honey. Whisk this mixture until smooth and creamy. Set this sauce aside for the final presentation.
Heat the oil for deep frying and once the oil is very hot, deep fry the walnuts for 5 to 7 minutes or until they are a deep brown color. Once cooked, remove from the hot oil and place on a towel to drain. Next, make sure that each prawn is well coated with the egg and cornstarch mixture and deep them for about 2 to 3 minutes each, draining them on a paper towel.
Finally, arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Place the walnuts over the lettuce, and then place the fried prawns over the walnuts. Spoon the sauce over the prawns evenly and sprinkle sesame seeds lightly over the top. Garnish with flowers or cilantro and serve hot with noodles, rice, egg flower soup, or whatever other side dishes you might like.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Preparation Time: 45 minutes