Salmon Steamed with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts
An autumn recipe from Japan and a calla lily from my husband are too elegant to allow me to sulk about dinner for one. Calla lilies are pleasingly ingenious and simple flowers, romantic and understated. The food is also simple, with subtle flavors of chestnuts and gingkos. Steaming the fish with kombo and a little saké is as easy to make for one as it would be for a party.
The new house has moved from potential, to possible and now to probably and I am imagining the plant, among others, blooming in the gigantic front window overlooking the gingko tree in the front yard…

Salmon Steamed with Chestnuts and Ginkgo NutsSake no kuri-mushi

from: Japanese Cooking

A Simple Art
by Shizuo Tsuji

4 servings
page 376

  • 1 ½ pounds salmon
  • salt
  • 12 raw chestnuts
  • 12 to 16 fresh ginkgo nuts or substitute ¼ cup green peas or edamame
  • 1 bunch mitsuba (or substitute ½ bunch spinach)
  • 4-x-6-inch (10-x15-cm) piece giant kelp (kombu)
  • saké

Silver Sauce

  • 2 cups dashi
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons saké
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 2 teaspoons water
  • few drops fresh ginger juice or lemon juice (optional)
  • or, in place of either, garnish with sprig of kinome or slivers of yuzu citron rind

Slice peeled chestnuts into paper-thin rounds. Wash sliced nuts under cold running water to remove starch. Drain well.
Use fresh, shelled and peeled ginkgo nuts. Canned are not recommended.
Chop trefoil stalks (or parboiled spinach) into 1½-inch (4-cm) lengths.
Wipe the giant kelp with a damp cloth. Cut into 4 pieces. The kelp is to impart flavor during steaming and is not to be eaten.
To assemble and steam: Steam in individual heatproof bowls. First lay a piece of giant kelp in each steaming bowl. On this place a piece of fish, skin side up. Sprinkle on raw chestnut slices and add 3 – 4 ginkgo nuts (or a few peas). At the side lay a neat mound of trefoil.
Over this arrangement splash about 1 Tablespoon saké.
Cover with plastic wrap or foil, sealing the edges tight. Even if your bowls have lids, use the plastic wrap for a tighter seal.
Place sealed bowls into a hot steamer. Cover. Steam 15 minutes over high heat.
To make the sauce: While the fish is steaming, in a medium-sized saucepan heat the dashi, then season with salt, light soy sauce, and saké. Bring to a simmer.
Just before serving, stir the cornstarch-and-water mixture and pour it into the hot liquid, stirring till thickened. At the very last moment, so as to preserve the fragrance, stir in the fresh ginger juice or lemon juice.
To Serve: Remove the bowls from the steamer, uncover, and top with thickened Silver Sauce. If the sauce has been made without ginger juice or lemon juice, you may garnish the bowls with fragrant slivers of yuzu citron rind or sprigs of kinome.

The oiginal recipe uses sea bream (tai), but Mr. Tsuji notes one can use sea bass, salmon, or trout.

17 thoughts on “Salmon Steamed with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts

  1. Oh, lovely news about the house Tess. And a simple meal has an aesthetic all its own. I like that you have combined the ginkos and the chesnuts – it really seems like good Autumn fare.

    • And you: experiencing spring! There are other seasonal meals on your table. I like to think about that. How we can be living in the same time, but our moments are so different. Does that make sense?
      The details with the house, sound difficult: a leaking sewer line, a couple of other things, but we seem to be coming to agreements. Buying a house is certainly not going a store for stuff, or even like buying a car…

  2. Oh Tess, I just know that you will make your new home absolutely delightful! And your lovely Ginko tree! I hope that the kitties will have a wonderful yard to play in!
    I love this recipe! It’s sort of like a Chawan Mushi, but sans egg? I’ll have to go to my local Mitsuwa to get the Chestnuts and the citron. Can’t wait to try it!

    • I’d been thinking to make chawan mushi again, but J. is out of town and there is so much food in the fridge.
      This recipe is very simple and so may could be chawan mushi w/o eggs, but it is not at all trickky. No worry the eggs don’t cook right. (I just used lime juice because finding yuzo here is not going to go. Still yummm

      The house,
      it might be a go! I won’t jinx it yet with pictures. Enough that I say how excited I am about the ginkgo tree. LOL

  3. Tess, we’re having salmon tonight, though a much simpler version than your lovely recipe.

    Many good wishes about the house. House shopping is terribly stressful but I hope this is your dream house at last.

    • I’m sure your dinner will be great. Hard to go wrong with a nice piece of salmon.

      You are right that buying a house is stressful. Especially these days. You wouldn’t believe how much documentation one needs, even after getting a pre-approval on a mortgage.

      Hey, I would like to ask you about chestnut flour sometime, if you have any info,

      • Tess, I know about water chestnut flour, used as a breading for fried foods, but not chestnut flour, though it is available, I’m sure.

        Were you thinking of the water chestnut flour?

        • Wow, I’ve never heard of water chestnut flour! But it sort of makes sense for it to be a coating for fried food.
          I may have seen chestnut flour at the Korean store just on the corner. I’ll keep it in mind for research and experiments…

          • Tess, I used to purchase water chestnut flour when we lived in the middle of Asian food store heaven. It makes a lovely crisp coating for frying.

            I know that chestnut flour is used in parts of France, but I’ve never seen it in the U.S. It may well be all over the place and I’ve just missed it. Have you seen used in Japanese or Korean recipes? You’ve peaked my curiosity. :)

            • Well, now my curiosity is up too.
              I thought I’d seen chestnut flour at the Korean store on the corner, but maybe it was water chestnut flour.

              I’ll try to stop in there this weekend to check what it was. Or if it was my imagination.

              Chestnuts are so good though. And chestnut flour sounds equally as interesting…

          • Tess, I searched Asian recipes for chestnut flour and water chestnut flour recipes came up.

            I also remembered and confirmed that chestnut flour is used often in Italy. There are many interesting recipes out there.

            I should have said ‘piqued my interest’ in a previous post. Forgiveness is begged for incorrect grammar. ;-)

            • Thanks Marcia!
              I’ll see about the water chestnut flour.

              I wasn’t piqued by the typo…

              It is tempting to think that your attention might be aroused to a high point by “peaking” your curiosity; but in fact, “pique” is a French word meaning “prick,” in the sense of “stimulate.” The expression has nothing to do with “peek,” either. Therefore the expression is “my curiosity was piqued.”


              • I was aware that the summit of a mountain was not a peek. lol. Thank you for the link.

                You might look at some of the Italian recipes for chestnut flour. Mario Batali has something interesting which pops up, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it may be.

  4. I always learn something new reading your recipes, and this time I learned about ginkgo nuts. I did not know such a thing existed!
    I love the shape of ginkgo leaves. I have a cookie cutter in the shape of one.
    I am in Minneapolis visiting family, and maybe I can find chestnuts in the supermarkets here. I will look.


    • Try Asian stores for chestnuts. The fresh ones don’t keep very long, and in Michigan (A2—Ann Arbor) they are only available between Thanksgiving and Christmas (sporadically).

      You could also find ginkgo nuts in cans, but they are expensive and not at all like fresh ones. They are not a commercial crop, at least not in the U.S. I did find some in a Japanese store once, but they were very pricy.

      Chestnuts, though, are worth looking for. That recipe I posted about, chicken and chestnuts is so delicious…

      This sort of special food is so very not local food, but is interesting. I very much enjoy these discoveries.

      Hey, if this house works out, I would like to send you some ginkgo leaves. They would make wonderful bookmarkers.

  5. Pingback: Seasonal spotlight: Chestnuts « Tales from a Tokyo Kitchen

  6. Pingback: Salmon with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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