You know how food tastes better when you’re on vacation? I’ve had a lingering memory of a vacation meal for years now. It wasn’t even anything special or planned in advance or exotic. It was a meal at a restaurant we picked because it was the first place we found and we were hungry. I ordered a simple salmon dish served with spinach, and it was flavored with ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. That combination of ingredients is so meant to be that I still think about that meal and have hoped to experience it again. It was light but satisfying. Anytime I see salmon with spinach and ginger on a menu, I think, that’s it, but of course it’s not so simple. The sauce can’t be heavy and the salmon can’t be dry and the soy sauce can’t overpower the other flavors. With all of that in mind, when I saw this salmon and coconut spinach dish in Donna Hay’s Off the Shelf, I had a feeling it would be great. This is close to the meal I remember, but the coconut milk and red chiles are an added touch. All the other flavors are there, and as a bonus, this is really quick to prepare.
Wild salmon was marinated with grated ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce, and then it was briefly seared on each side. Meanwhile, I cleaned some spinach I received from my CSA. Garlic, chopped red chiles, and chlli paste were cooked in a saucepan with a little oil. Coconut milk and lemon juice were added and simmered. Then, in went the spinach which cooked until it wilted. The end. Dinner was ready. This was possibly the fastest meal I’ve made in months.
I accept that being on vacation, being away from home, being in a place for the sole purpose of having fun does indeed make food taste great, and that’s why I remember that meal so fondly. It’s also true that some ingredients just go together really well, and salmon, spinach, and ginger fit that description. This version with coconut milk and red chiles built on that theme. I enjoyed it as much as I thought I might, and I like that it wasn’t an exact re-creation. Instead, it became that great salmon and spinach meal I made at home that reminded me of that vacation.