Have I ever mentioned that salmon is my favorite fish in the whole world? It is, actually. Not tuna, not tilapia, not bangus, but salmon — smoked, preferably, but quite alright just fresh. My daughters are very much aware of my preference that they decided to give me Nick Nairn’s Top 100 Salmon Recipes cookbook for Christmas. This salmon salad was adapted from a recipe in Mr. Nairn’s book.
The original recipe calls for diced very ripe mangoes but since it isn’t mango season yet and finding sweet mangoes is a hit-and-miss thing until the summer, I substituted the bottled mango sauce that I bought for the next time I cook samosas. And, instead of lime juice, I squeezed half a lemon. I did pay attention to Mr. Nairn’s instruction to be generous with the cilantro. The result? Probably the best darn salmon salad I’ve ever had in my life.
It’s something like kilawin, really — the barely cooked salmon is torn into large chunks and tossed with the vegetables and the dressing. It is the acid of the lemon (or lime) that completes the “cooking” of the salmon, turning it totally opaque by the time it reaches your mouth. The difference is the slight sweetness of the mango which is not totally overpowered by the acidity of the lemon. Plus, the addition of cilantro is nothing short of genius. Oh, and did I mention chilis? You add chilis so you can just imagine the flavors.
Sear the salmon in a very hot non-stick pan or grill, about 2 minutes per side (the center should still be pink). Set aside to cool.
Dice the tomatoes and onion and place in a large bowl. Tear the salmon into large chunks; add to the bowl. Tear (or cut) the cilantro and add to the salmon and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chili flakes, pour in the lemon juice and mango sauce and toss lightly. I recommend chilling before serving to allow the flavors to blend. It’s really wonderful — no superlatives can suffice.