Two delicious: Pan-grilled fish, soba noodle salad

by Terry B on January 30, 2008

Fresh, flavorful and quick: Pan-grilled Citrus Yellowtail and Soba Noodle Salad. Recipes below.

Last week, I posted two recipes for cooking fish that ranged from simple to simpler. I kept them simple because I didn’t want anything masking the taste of the Hawaiian yellowtail I’d been asked to try by Kona Blue Water Farms. This week, two more recipes. First, Marion shows just how well this fish plays with other flavors. Then she streamlines a complex side dish into something quick, simple and simply delicious.

Terry and I both love to cook, but our tastes in cookbooks and food authors don’t particularly overlap. He avidly reads Anthony Bourdain; I go for obsessive re-readings of M.F.K. Fisher. His cookbook tastes run to the school of It’s Better If It’s French. My favorite cookbook is an obscure, grubby, out-of-print one about Szechwan food.

So we think it’s pretty interesting that, when Terry received that lovely shipment of Hawaiian yellowtail, we each, independently, turned to the same author. Ming Tsai—chef, restaurateur, star of two televised cooking shows and author of some very nice cookbooks—really has been our guide in understanding this amazing fish. When it was my turn in the kitchen, I found a pair of recipes in Ming’s Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai that became the foundation for a meal.

By the way, this morning a friend called and asked me what this fish tastes like. It tastes like standing on the edge of a high bluff looking straight out over the open Pacific, with the surface of the water like light beaten silver, and a faint cold morning wind washing over your face, and the wind has come four thousand uninterrupted miles straight to find you. It’s that clean and beautiful and pure.

The original and very delightful version of this recipe calls for ponzu sauce and snapper, and the fish, once cooked, goes on to become part of a salad with pea sprouts and a Dijon vinaigrette. Here is my foreshortened, non-salad take, abbreviated into a simple grilled dish. This recipe goes quickly once you begin it. Make sure your side dishes are in progress before you start on this.

Pan-grilled Citrus Yellowtail
Serves 2

2 4-ounce Hawaiian yellowtail fillets [or other fish—see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce

Mix together the marinade ingredients. Choose a bowl with a bottom just large enough to hold the fillets closely side by side and set the fish in it. Pour the marinade over all. Let everything sit for ten minutes [see Kitchen Notes]. Immediately pour off and discard the marinade. Pat the fillets gently dry.

Heat a grill pan over high heat, then brush it generously with canola or walnut oil. When the pan is nice and hot (a drop of water should skitter around and then vanish), lay the fillets on the pan—position the fish to make handsome grill marks. Cook on the first side about 3 minutes; then gently turn and cook on the other side 2 or 3 minutes. Serve, along with the soba noodle salad.

Kitchen Notes

The original recipe, for snapper, emphasizes that more than 10 minutes of marinating will make the fish mushy and fragile. Ten minutes left the yellowtail, which is far denser than snapper, delicately infused with citrus and ginger taste—the soy barely made an impression—and the outcome was wonderful. If you are in the mood for a more assertive flavor and are using a fish as dense as yellowtail (as compared to softer fish like snapper or haddock), I would consider extending the marinating time a little.

I am planning to try this marinade with white-fleshed fish, and of course it sounds like a natural for salmon. But I don’t think it would work out well with the more intensely flavored fish, like tuna, mackerel, or mahi mahi.

And now the noodles. Ming Tsai’s Soba Noodle Sushi recipe is the inspiration for my soba noodle salad, which makes an excellent companion to this way of cooking fish. His original recipe, also in Blue Ginger, includes a host of additional ingredients, such as wakame seaweed, pickled ginger and cucumber; once the noodle portion of the dish is prepared, the whole thing is neatly rolled up in nori, allowed to rest and sliced into sushi pieces.

This salad is a greatly foreshortened version of that dish—something to throw together quickly and happily. Despite the assertive ingredients—wasabi, cilantro, buckwheat noodles—it is wonderfully light and refreshing, a partner not a competitor to the rest of the meal. It also stands alone very nicely—the leftovers became my lunch the next day.

Soba Noodle Salad
Generously serves 2

1/2 pound dried soba noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro [reserve a few whole leaves for garnishing the top]
1/4 cup finely chopped green part of scallions
1 red bell pepper, finely slivered [reserve a few slivers for garnish]
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon wasabi powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sushi vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the soba noodles until they are just beyond al dente. Immediately drain them and transfer them to a large bowl of iced water. Swirl the noodles in the iced water until the noodles are cold; then toss out any remaining ice cubes and drain the noodles well.

While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.

Transfer noodles to a serving bowl. Pour over the dressing and gently toss. Add the vegetables, grind a little black pepper over everything and gently fold it all together. Garnish with the reserved cilantro leaves and bell pepper slivers, and serve.

Kitchen notes

As is, this salad can stand on its own as a simple lunch, and of course it is totally vegan friendly. I intend to try this again adding finely minced lemon grass to the dressing and gently folding in extra-firm, sautéed tofu in the mixing stage. The next time, I think I’ll also add a bit more wasabi powder to the dressing—just a little bit more.

Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 1/30/2008

How the wild things sound. When the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are becomes a movie, wild child Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O sounds like a natural choice to write the soundtrack, at WTF? Random food for thought.

Mouth noises as art. Beatbox, New York’s New Museum and a dancing parrot? This sounds more like WTF than What’s on the kitchen boombox?


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

White On Rice Couple January 30, 2008 at 5:41 am

Thanks for the beautiful and tasty reminder about soba noodles. It’s a fantastic noodle that we need to eat more of! Thanks for the book reference for this delicious soba and yellowtail! Love your beautiful plate too!

Toni January 30, 2008 at 6:53 am

I obviously need to buy some more plates! Your photo is drop-dead gorgeous!

I adore soba noodles, but I usually turn to them when the weather is warmer, as they are generally served chilled. I adore the sound of this salad. I’m bookmarking it for futures – thanks!

Jennifer Hess January 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Gorgeous. I’ve been craving soba lately, and I think I know what I’m going to make myself for lunch today. :)

Patricia Scarpin January 30, 2008 at 2:00 pm

I wish I could eat that for lunch… (I’ll have a lousy sandwich, for crying out loud!)
I have never had soba noodles, Terry – and now you’ve made me even more curious!

RecipeGirl January 30, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Looks delicious! And I love the PLATE!

Lydia January 30, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Beautiful photo, and two recipes that will easily slip into my repertoire. You’ve really had fun with that fish!

Anticiplate January 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm

I love cooking fish, but I do not like my house to smell like fish. Any suggestions on how to prevent that? The recipe looks gorgeous though!

Terry B January 30, 2008 at 4:18 pm

White On Rice Couple—Welcome to Blue Kitchen! I’m definitely going to be spending some time on your beautiful food blog.

Toni—Your comment on the seasonality of soba noodles made me smile. I just checked San Diego’s weather—it’s 48ºF there, Toni. In Chicago, we’d be going around in shorts. [Well, not me. I don’t wear shorts. Ever.] It’s 1ºF here right now, and it feels like -18. But you’re right, of course, about soba noodles mostly being served cold, and when Marion asked me for ice cubes as part of our dinner, I was a little taken aback, I’ll admit. But they are soooo good that I don’t want to relegate them to just warm weather.

Jennifer—I think you’ll like this version!

Patricia—Soba noodles are made with buckwheat and are chock full of all sorts of good things. They’re high in protein and provide a number of essential nutrients not found in other grains. They’re worth seeking out in Asian markets for health reasons alone, and they lend themselves to so many interesting treatments that will take your cooking new places.

Hi, RecipeGirl. Welcome! I’m looking forward to exploring your blog.

Lydia—The fish was truly wonderful, so fresh. And it’s got me in the mode to explore more fish.

AnticiPlate—According to fish guru Helen over at Beyond Salmon, dry cooking methods tend to give off the most fishy smells. So if you don’t have a vent over your stove, go for wetter cooking methods. With my Salmon Tarragon recipe, for instance, I sauté some vegetables, then add wine to the skillet. Next I lay the fish on the bed of vegetables and cover the pan, letting the steam cook the fish. It’s not absolutely odor-free, but it’s much better than, say, sautéing salmon.

Ha! I just noticed that I photographed the salmon recipe above on the very same plate that’s been getting compliments here. I think it came from Target. Marion and I have gotten into the habit of cruising the dinnerware/kitchenware/etcetera departments of places like Target, Crate & Barrel, CB2 and Sur La Table, always on the hunt for interesting dishes. As a result, our cabinets are filling up with lots of one-offs like this.

Katerina January 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm

The yellowtail looks suberb. I think the only way to really appreciate good fish is with a simple preparation and you have nailed it.

Terry B January 30, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Katerina—Thanks! I am not one for over-the-top preparation and presentation, so simple is usually my course of action in general. Mark Bittman, the New York Times Minimalist, is my hero and role model.

Carolyn January 30, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Wonderful prose, Marion! It’s so fabulous it needs saying again.

“By the way, this morning a friend called and asked me what this fish tastes like. It tastes like standing on the edge of a high bluff looking straight out over the open Pacific, with the surface of the water like light beaten silver, and a faint cold morning wind washing over your face, and the wind has come four thousand uninterrupted miles straight to find you. It’s that clean and beautiful and pure.”

Thank you!

Rasa Malaysia January 30, 2008 at 11:49 pm

This is a wonderful combination and looks very delish. I love your serving piece, too. It adds accent to the dish and presentation. :)

Susan from Food Blogga January 31, 2008 at 1:39 am

What a wonderfully appetizing photo! I love soba noodles and wish I had all of the ingredients to whip this up tonight. Maybe I could substitute if I had to though, because it looks so darned good.

Terry B January 31, 2008 at 3:00 am

Carolyn—Thanks! I loved that passage too.

Rasa Malaysia—What a delight to check in at your blog and see that you’re traveling in France. How lucky!

Susan—I’m counting on you to improvise; I know how good you are at it.

SteamyKitchen January 31, 2008 at 3:37 am

i got Ming’s other book and have cooked a couple of dishes from it. I’ve been wanting this book!

Helmut January 31, 2008 at 10:42 am

Your yellowtail and noodles plate looks so delicious. The description of the fish’s taste is quite mystical. Great writing. Not so chill here in the Black Forest. Yesterday some snow in the mountains tho. Big noise with German Carnival.

Terry B January 31, 2008 at 3:43 pm

SteamyKitchen—Hi, Jaden! Many of the recipes are somewhat involved, but as Marion did with the soba noodles, you can sometimes streamline a part of a recipe into a satisfying dish in its own right.

Thanks, Helmut [on Marion’s behalf]! Everyone, Helmut and I have been friends since high school. Ironically, thanks to the Internet, we’re in more contact since he moved to Germany than we had been for years.

Michael Willis January 31, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Hello Terry and Helmut–Gruesse von San Francisco!
Terry, I’ve been dreaming about fish ever since I had a whole roasted one this January in New Orleans. It’ll be fish from here on out for a while.


Terry B January 31, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Wow, it’s old home week at Blue Kitchen. Michael is also a friend from high school days, now living in San Francisco. We met up with him and his lovely bride in a Burmese restaurant last November on our wonderful California road trip.

Christina February 1, 2008 at 5:46 am

Beautiful post with beautiful recipes. That noodle salad recipe looks like the perfect summer meal for me: fresh, tangy, and slippery good.

Kevin February 2, 2008 at 1:26 am

This dinner looks good and sounds really tasty. I like using soba noodles in cool salads.

Daddy cook February 3, 2008 at 12:52 am

Soba noodles…mmmm. But where did you get that plate it’s wild!

Sylvia February 4, 2008 at 7:16 pm

There is a long time that I don’t cook soba noodles (that me and my husband love). I love the combination and you make my mouth water. This is not fair..I wanna change my dinner :)

SurfaceEarth February 6, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Stopping in to wish you congratulations n hitting 100,000 views! The great cyberblogger, Ronnie, had a lovely announcement on her site.

This recipe looks wonderful……….we are definitely trying this one!

Terry B February 6, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Thanks, SurfaceEarth. I saw Ronnie’s lovely post! She’s a good, good friend. And you’re right about her blog—she’s always got something interesting to say.

molly February 14, 2008 at 12:59 am

Beautiful! I can’t wait to try the soba recipe.

Chimmichunga April 20, 2012 at 2:36 am

I just made this tonight for dinner! Yum! I added a little more wasabi powder for kick, no sherry because I’m preggers, and my husband and I had a delicious, healthy meal. I adore buckwheat noodles.

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