I love the triumph of textures in this dish: the stickiness of the salmon that’s still deliciously tender, the tart pops of apple, the freshness of the herbs and the crunch of the coconut flakes. The star of the show is that chilli caramel that bastes both the fish and acts as a final drizzled flourish at the end. Serve this Vietnamese-inspired salad as a starter, side or main – it’s fabulous either way.
½ cup dried coconut flakes
4 skinless salmon fillets
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into matchsticks
1 cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup roughly chopped coriander (cilantro)
1 eschalot, finely sliced
1 long red chilli, finely sliced
100g (3.5 oz) shaved palm sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tsp kecap manis*
1 long red chilli, sliced
1 tbsp lime juice
For the chilli caramel, place all the ingredients except the lime juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and then cook for 10-12 minutes or until thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and stir through the lime juice.
Meanwhile, toast the coconut in a dry frying pan over high heat until golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Set aside until later.
Season each piece of salmon generously with salt. Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fish and cook 3-4 minutes each side or until golden brown and the flesh flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
When the salmon is cool enough to handle but still warm, break into large chunks and place in a large bowl with the toasted coconut, apple, mint leaves, coriander, eschalot, chilli and ¼ cup of the chilli caramel. Gently toss until just combined. Divide the salad among serving plates and drizzle with a little extra chilli caramel.
– Kecap manis is an Indonesian dark sweet soy sauce. It’s available from the Asian aisle of most supermarkets or from an Asian grocer.
– To serve this as a main course, keep the salmon fillets whole and serve them with the salad on the side.
– This recipe makes more chilli caramel than you need. The excess will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Use it as a dressing or dipping sauce.