As nature intended
Whether doused in spices or drizzled in citrus oil, raw seafood is enjoyed the world over
Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
Raw seafood is eaten in many cultures - crudo in Italy, tartare in France, hoe (raw fish) and gejang (raw crabs) in Korea, yu sheng (the raw fish salad eaten at Lunar New Year) in Singapore and parts of China, and, of course, sushi and sashimi in Japan. Some preparations take years of practice to perfect, but these recipes are much easier.
Because it's eaten raw, it's essential that the seafood is of top quality. Buy it from a supermarket that keeps its seafood on ice, not swimming in water from the harbour. Ask the fishmonger for recommendations on which of their products are suitable for eating raw.
Spicy tuna and avocado poke (pictured)
Poke - pronounced "po-kay" - is a Hawaiian dish. The seasonings vary from cook to cook - you can make it spicy or mild, use other types of fish, or different vegetables (I also like it with onion, cucumber, tomato and pickled seaweed). The shiso leaves are optional, but I like to spoon the mixture on to a leaf, wrap it up and eat it.
300 grams raw tuna fillet, in one piece
25 grams sriracha sauce, or to taste
5ml light soy sauce
5ml sesame oil
1 tsp honey, or to taste
1 ripe avocado
Toasted sesame seeds
Spring onions, minced
Shiso leaves, optional
Cut the tuna into 1cm cubes and put them in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the sriracha sauce with the soy sauce, sesame oil and honey. Dip a piece of the fish into the mixture and taste for seasonings, adjusting as needed. Pour the sauce over the tuna and mix gently.
Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Use a paring knife to cut the flesh into cubes then scoop them out of the shell.
Gently mix the avocado with the tuna, sprinkle with sesame seeds then mix again. Pile the poke onto a plate then garnish with the radish sprouts and spring onion. Serve with the shiso leaves, if desired.
Salmon carpaccio with lemon oil, ikura and crème fraiche
Buy wild salmon for this dish, rather than the stuff that's been farm-raised; the former has better texture.
The best place to buy ikura (cured salmon roe) is in shops that specialise in Japanese products, such as Apita, City'super or Fresh Mart (in Sogo).
The zest of one lemon, preferably organic
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot
250 grams salmon fillet, in one piece
60 grams (or more) ikura
Minced chives (don't use Chinese chives, as the flavour is too strong)
Use a citrus zester to remove the zest from the lemon in long, thin strands. Put the zest in a bowl and bruise by gently hitting it a few times with a pestle. Pour the oil over it and leave to infuse at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Mince the shallot and put the pieces in a small strainer. Rinse with cold water, then put them in a bowl, cover with iced water and leave for about 15 minutes before draining. Dry the pieces with paper towels.
Use a knife with a long, straight, very sharp blade to slice the salmon as thinly as possible and against the grain. Lay the pieces on a plate and drizzle with some of the lemon-infused oil. (You won't need all of the oil; the remainder can be strained to remove the zest, then refrigerated and used within a couple of weeks.)
Scatter the shallot over the fish. Top each slice of fish with a dab of crème fraiche, then spoon some ikura over the crème fraiche. Sprinkle with chives and serve at once.
Thai-style raw shrimp
One of the first things I ate on my first trip to Bangkok a long time ago was a dish of raw shrimp. A friend and I got off the plane at about 9pm, checked into our hotel then went in search of food. We found a street vendor in Patpong who had a high pile of tiny, whole shrimp on her cart. She mixed the shrimp with fish sauce, herbs and other flavourings, then served it to us as we sat on stools at a fold-out table. It was absolutely delicious - we kept eating even as my friend said over and over that we'd probably get hepatitis from the raw, unrefrigerated seafood (we didn't). I've never seen such tiny raw shrimp in Hong Kong, so I make the dish with larger specimens.
500 grams very fresh raw shrimp
2-3 fresh coriander roots, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
60ml fish sauce
About 30ml fresh lime juice
10 grams granulated sugar
Dried chilli flakes, to taste
1 tbsp toasted rice powder
A small handful of fresh mint leaves
The leaves of several sprigs of fresh coriander
2-3 spring onions, minced
Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp (use them to make shrimp stock). Slit the shrimp down the back and remove the digestive tract. Cut the shrimp in half lengthwise, then cut them into small pieces.
In a mortar, pound the coriander root, garlic and shallot to a rough paste. Mix in the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chilli flakes and toasted rice powder, then taste for seasonings and adjust, if necessary. Stir this mixture in with the shrimp and add the mint leaves, coriander leaves and spring onion. Serve immediately.