red snapper

I have always wanted to try making a salt crusted fish, really ever since Emeril Lagasse made it on his show about ten years ago. It was so impressive when he cracked the fish out of its salty shell. He didn’t even need that trademark expression to pique my interest.

salt crusted red snapper with lemon and olive oil

salt crusted red snapper with lemon and olive oil

This dish is simple—yes, simple. And it makes quite an impression for a dinner party, which is when I made this recipe for the first time. Two of our guests, Aime and Whitney, had just ordered this at an over-priced restaurant in Las Vegas for a whopping $150—for a single fish at that.

I used the recipe from epicurious which was much simpler than Tyler Florence’s. I made two since I had a group of five. This was perfect and even left a bit of fish for Clarence to enjoy later.

salt crusted red snapper with lemon and olive oil

2 pounds Kosher salt
1 cup water
2 pound whole red snapper, cleaned
1 lemon
Olive oil

here I am patting the salt over the red snapper

here I am patting the salt over the red snapper

it's time for the oven

it’s time for the oven

the guests are enjoying themselves as I work in the kitchen

the guests are enjoying themselves as I work in the kitchen

just out of the oven it looks like dirty snow

just out of the oven it looks like dirty snow

my first ever salt crusted red snapper

my first ever salt crusted red snapper

Pre-heat oven to 450F.

Cut lemon in half then slice one half into three or four rounds. Fill fish’s cavity with lemon slices.
Pour water into salt and mix. Press about half of the moistened salt in the bottom of a baking sheet. Place fish on top. Press remaining salt over entire fish to make a bright white mound. Bake 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and crack open salt crust with a wooden spoon, meat tenderizer or what have you. This is the most impressive part of the entire process though messy, too. I performed this step in the kitchen, made a huge mess, and delighted my company.

Place fish on serving platter. Drizzle with some olive oil and lemon juice from reserved half lemon. Garnish and enjoy.

I served this with a hearty lentil and caramelized onion rice as we were drinking red wine that night.


Last November when Devaki from the beautiful blog, Weave of a Thousand Flavors, came to San Francisco, we took her to one of our favorite restaurants in town, the Slated Door. That visit, we tried a dish that I had not had before: deep fried whole branzino served on a bed of a thick sweet-and-sour sauce. Thanks Chef Charles Phan! This fish was ultra fresh, fried to perfection, crisp on the outside with a yummy flesh inside. Mmmm!!! We (me) actually ate everything, bones and cheeks included, and wiped the sauce off the plate with our fingers. Delish!

fried red snapper with tamarind date sauce

fried red snapper with tamarind date sauce

my tamarind date sauce on the side

my tamarind date sauce on the side

So this is my attempt to reproduce the dish at home. The branzino at Sun Fat was farm raised in Greece, so instead I bought wild caught red snapper from the Pacific. Much better.

The sauce from the restaurant, as I recall, was a simple combination of tamarind concentrate and spices. I think that my version’s close. I used a mix of tamarind concentrate and a tamarind-date chutney I found at a local Indian market. The list of chutney ingredients includes tamarind concentrate, dates, salt, sugar, chili and black peppers. Just the thought of it makes my mouth pucker happily lol

We served this for New Year’s Eve with fragrant herbed basmati polow.

tamarind  concentrate and tamarind date chutney

tamarind concentrate and tamarind date chutney

fried red snapper with tamarind date sauce

2 red snappers weighing about 2½ lbs each, cleaned
rice flour for dusting
Kosher salt
black pepper
oil for frying
slices of cucumber
lime wedges

for tamarind date sauce:

4 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp tamarind date chutney

Rinse and dry fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dust in rice flour and fry it in hot oil for about 8 minutes on each side or until crisp. Remove from pan to a dish covered with paper towels to drain any excess oil. I served the tamarind date sauce on the side after I got worried that the guests might not like it. My original idea was to drizzle the fish with the sauce. Silly me because we all loved it! This was another great tasting and satisfying meal.


This yummy recipe comes from The Kimchi Chronicles by Marja Vongerichten, a marvelous and very accessible Korean cookbook. Marja writes that she learned this recipe from her husband, who apparently first discovered it on a visit to a small island off the southern coast of Korea, called Jeju.

Korean kimchi seafood bouillabaisse AKA haemul jeongol

Korean kimchi seafood bouillabaisse AKA haemul jeongol

I love bouillabaisse-style seafood soups with flavorful clear broths, though this is not your typical one at all. This turned out lively with a powerful spicy and sour flavor. Somewhat reminiscent of Thai bouillabaisse this one does not use the aromatic herbs, galangal root, lemon grass and kafir lime leaves. But the umma paste gives it wonderful flavor.

I used store-bought kimchi this time but for the next, I want to make my own.

store-bought kimchi

store-bought kimchi

Korean kimchi seafood bouillabaisse AKA haemul jeogol

3 cups chopped kimichi with juices
8 cups water
1 small onion, cut into large cubes
6 Korean radish (moo) or daikon root sliced thin, ~ 2 cups
1 bunch watercress
3 tbsp umma paste
2 tbsp fish sauce
½ tsp sugar
10 clams
10 mussels
6 shrimp
1 piece red snapper

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan, add chopped kimichi and boil for about 5 minutes. Add moo, umma paste, fish sauce, sugar and salt and cook for 8-10 minutes. Adjust flavor with more salt, fish sauce or even umma paste. Add fish and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove fish and keep warm. Add clams and mussels and let them cook until they open. Discard unopened shells. Turn temperature to low, add shrimp, fish and watercress. Turn heat off, keep it covered until watercress has wilted and shrimp turn pink. Serve and enjoy!


Tensley syrah cioppino

by Heguiberto on March 25, 2011

Last July when Steven’s parents were here for a couple of days, we took them sightseeing in Sausalito. We got hungry so they took us to an early dinner at Scoma’s, a beautiful seafood food restaurant nestled by the Bay with amazing views of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges. Overall the food at Scoma’s was excellent. Steven ordered the cioppino, that classic fish stew that is de rigueur for any visit here. I think it was the most delicious cioppino that I’ve tried. Everything was super fresh and tasty.

Tensley syrah cioppino

Tensley syrah cioppino

Since I’ve wanted to try this at home. Cioppino is made with a lot of seafood, even if you only get a small morsel of each thing. The idea is that all the fishermen (and fisherwomen?) would get together at the end of the day, share whatever they caught, and make a large stew for all to enjoy. So this requires a party to be practical. Well, I like parties! I made it about a fortnight ago for my newly engaged friends, Jocelyn and Devin, the happily married JT, and my zinfandel-drinking buddy, Chris.

There are thousands of cioppino recipes online. Here’s one, another here, or here.

One thing to consider is what color wine you’re planning to use. Of course, whatever it is, it must be dry. After that the wine can have a huge impact on the appearance (and flavor) of the stew. If you go for red, the sauce will become dark with an almost chocolate color; if you use white, then the dish will be bright tomato red.

I chose red (you guessed that already, right?) Since we were having a big party, what could be better than a bold Tensely syrah right out of magnum? You can’t get bigger than that. The syrah made my sauce look like a Mexican mole, which was unexpected but awesome. We all enjoyed the richness of the look and the flavors.

I prepared the stew in a large pot that I placed directly on the table, nabemono-style. It was an unforgettable evening.

Tensley syrah cioppino

For the sauce:

4 shallots, minced
1 white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large can tomatoes (28oz)
4 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp dried basil
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
1 cup clam juice
1½ cups vegetable or fish stock
¾ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp ground black pepper
1½ cups Tensley syrah or similar
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste

For the seafood:

1 lb large shrimp/prawns, tails on, cleaned and deveined
1 to 2 lbs little neck clams (vongole), cleaned
1 lb cooked king crab leg, shells broken up (to facilitate easier eating at table)
1 lb boneless red snapper, cut into chunks
1lb sea scallop

Heat olive oil in a large pot then add onion and shallot. Sauté until translucent. Add garlic, bay leaf, peppers, basil and salt. Continue sautéing until aromatic. Stir in tomato paste followed by wine, clam juice and stock.

Cook uncovered for about 5-10 minutes until alcohol has evaporated and sauce has thickened a bit. Add canned tomato, parsley and simmer covered for about 25 minutes more, stirring every now and then. Sauce will be relatively thick at this point. Adjust flavors with more salt and/or pepper.

Increase temperature to high. Add crab legs and clams. Cover and let them steam in the sauce until clams begin to open. Remove clams to warm bowl. Discard the ones that don’t open. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the shrimp, fish, and scallops. Add them to the pot. Cook for about 4-5 minutes (overcooking will make shrimp and scallops rubbery). Remove from heat. Return clams to pot and serve.

It’s traditional to have this with either sourdough bread or foccacia to sop up all the excellent sauce. Steven prepared a delicious foccacia to pair with the cioppino.


seafood vegetable nabe

by Heguiberto on January 7, 2011

Nabe (sometimes called nabemono) is a brothy soup made with a hodgepodge of vegetables, seafood and meat that is prepared with all of the aforementioned items combined into endless “weirdcombinations.” If you have not tried classic nabes such as Oden, Sukiaki, Shabu-Shabu or Chanko Nabe you are definitely missing out! They are all delicious and perfect for the kind of weather that we’ve been having across the U.S. lately, and in the case of San Francisco, the chilly City by the Bay, I would say anytime of the year.

seafood vegetable nabe

seafood vegetable nabe

serving seafood vegetable nabe

serving seafood vegetable nabe on a dark and chilly night

My neighbor in Brazil, Aidê, is married to a lovely man, Shibahara, who happens to be a native of Japan. From time to time the couple would invite my sister, Tinha, and I for beautiful Japanese inspired dinners at their place. It was such a treat! Aidê took some Japanese cooking classes when she lived there and she became quite accomplished. Her sukiakis were incredible.

I really enjoy this kind of soup: a relatively clear but aromatic broth with lots of exciting things to discover under the surface. I’ve tried my hand at Thai Tom-Yum, and South Indian Rasam. Nabe is superficially similar to these yet completely different in taste and flavor. Perhaps sometime soon I’ll try to make a vegetarian version of a traditional French consomé.

Another thing that all these soup recipes have in common is that they’re relatively labor-intensive, what with all the ingredients and the importance of making a clear broth with a subtle yet distinctly memorable flavor. Nevertheless, you will not be disappointed when you sit down to this hearty delightful dish.

I made this in homage to my friend, Aidê. The recipe itself is adapted from rasamalaysia.

Look here for more about nabe.

seafood vegetable nabe

for Dashi broth:

12 cups water
1 12inch piece of kombu (dried kelp)
1 cup dried smoked bonito flakes

for seafood vegetable nabe:

8 cups dashi broth
1 cup mirin
4 tbsp sake
1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
8 leaves of Napa cabbage
12 manila clams
4 head-on shrimp
4 sea scallops
1 whole red snapper (about 1½ lbs), cleaned and cut into a few chunks
a small bunch spinach
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 small package fresh enoki mushrooms
1 re-hydrated tremella mushroom quartered (learn more here)
1 lb firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin pieces
2 giant Japanese scallions (negi)
1 tbsp butter
Kosher salt
shichimi togarashi (Japanese chili pepper mix)

to prepare Dashi broth:

Place water in a large pot. Add kelp, cover and let it re-hydrate for two hours. Move pot to stove. Bring temperature to high and cook kelp for one minute after water reaches boiling stage. Discard kelp. Turn temperature to low. Add ½ cup of cold water to bring temperature down a bit. Add bonito flakes to broth and simmer for a couple of minutes. When the flakes sink to the bottom of the pan, it is time to remove them. Place a large strainer over a large bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Pour broth through towel and strainer. Discard bonito flakes.

I had some leftover broth, which I froze to make another kind of soup later. I’m thinking soba noodle.

to prepare nabe:

Combine dashi, mirin, shoyu and sake in a large pot or bowl. This is the broth for the nabe. Using another large pot, lay Napa cabbage leaves at the bottom. Interchangeably arrange vegetables and red snapper in the pot. Pour broth over stacked fish and vegetables. Cover and bring to boil. Taste broth and if necessary adjust flavors with more shoyu or salt. Add shrimp, clams, scallops and cook long enough for the clams to open. Remove from heat, add butter and serve. Sprinkle some shichimi togarashi on top. This is delicious!

my bowl of seafood vegetable nabe

my bowl of seafood vegetable nabe

I found this quote about nabemono that really went to the heart of the recipe:

Eating together from a shared pot is considered as an important feature of nabemono; East Asian people believe that eating from one pot makes for closer relationships. The Japanese thus say, Nabe (w)o kakomu (鍋を囲む、”sitting around the pot”), implying that sharing nabemono will create warm relations between the diners who eat together from the shared pot.

We shared this soup with our friend, Juanita. It warmed our bellies, and since our friendship is already warm, I guess then it made it warmer still!


We had this dish for the New Year’s Eve. I went to my local fish market for the whole red snapper. They cleaned and filleted it for me on the spot. I kept the bones to fry as an exciting treat. The fish flesh itself became this wonderful dish.

red snapper with clam and mussel sauce

It stuck to my pan a bit which made it tough to have the final product look cute. One option could have been to use more oil but I’d already decided to fry the bones, so it seemed excessive. It tasted damn fine, despite falling apart and sticking to the pan a little.

The sauce is based on a recipe our friend Kristen prepared for us before. I added mussels and cherry tomatoesto it. It was good but maybe the tomatoes were too acidic. Next time I’m gonna leave them out.

sautéing red snapper

Sautéd Red Snapper Fillets in Garlicky Clam and Mussel Sauce

2 large red snapper fillets, skin on
½ lb live mussels in shells or more, cleaned with “beards” removed
½ lb live clams in shells or more, cleaned
½ lb ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
1 shallot, minced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup dry white wine
Red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

How to:

Add 2 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan over medium temperature. Sauté the garlic and shallots until translucent. Turn heat to high then add tomatoes, salt, pepper and wine. Cook with pan uncovered for a couple of minutes to allow sauce to develop. Add clams and mussels. Cover pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until shells open. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, using a cast iron pan or a skillet, heat remaining oil on high. Place red snapper fillet, flesh side down, and cook for about 5 minutes. Using a spatula flip onto skin side and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan.

Serve fish plated with a ladle of clam mussel sauce. Drizzle with some extra olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese to finish. We served this with a side of mushrooms with red quinoa.

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