Salmon with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts


I’m rich! If only I could take my treasure, laughing, all the way to the bank: I have collected and cleaned several hundred ginkgo nuts.

What will I do with them? Some of the unshelled nuts are frozen, some are in the refrigerator, and some are in a sealed plastic container in the pantry. I’m not sure of how to properly store them, so this is an experiment. I shared some with co-workers who seemed to enjoy them, and my family will probably get some for holiday gifts.

They certainly are on many future menus here in The Ginkgo House: I don’t think we will get tired of them. Ginkgo nuts are valued for their flavor and fortune. They are used in good luck dishes served at New Years and weddings. They are cooked in soups, stir-fries, desserts, and eaten with beer for good health.

The Chinese (later also Japanese [ginnan]) word ginkyo means “silver apricot” (gin=silver, kyo=apricot). Coincidentally, this recipe has a silver sauce (gin-an). It is a gentle dashi-based sauce thickened with cornstarch or kuzu starch (arrowroot).

This recipe was previously posted last year.
Salmon Steamed with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts
Sake no kuri ginnan-mushi

from: Japanese Cooking
A Simple Art

by Shizuo Tsuji

4 servings
page 376

  • 1 ½ pounds salmon
  • salt
  • 12 raw chestnuts
  • 20 fresh ginkgo nuts
  • 1 bunch mitsuba (or substitute ½ bunch spinach or sliced Brussels sprouts)
  • 4-x-6-inch (10-x15-cm) piece giant kelp (kombu)
  • saké

銀杏 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.
銀杏 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.
銀杏 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.

Silver Sauce
Gin-an

銀 ???
銀製 ソース
  • 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

銀杏 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.
銀杏 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.

Please note that it is not a great idea to cook this meal in the oven as I did. It was 8:30, we were hungry and tired, and my hand (which I burned last week) was hurting. It took about 40 minutes in a moderate (350°) oven, was tasty, but the fish was a bit dried out by the time the vegetables were cooked…

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2 thoughts on “Salmon with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts

  1. Oooooh your poor hand! Did you use ice and aloe vera?
    Elegant and delicious looking dish.
    Reading East Wind Melts the Ice – I was interested to learn that icho – (sorry don’t know how to place the little flat roof over the o), derives from a character obsolete in modern Japanese – meaning duck feet. Perhaps an appropriate appellation for the leaves but I prefer to think of the leaves as fans and fruit, as you say above, as silver apricots. I am actually reading the Spring almanac but skipped ahead to Fall to read alongside your post.

    • Yes, it is elegant, more so if you steam it: you don’t get the burnt splash effect because steam is hotter but more gentle because of it’s moisture.

      Interesting about the duck feet. I did have a post about using chicken feet so I imagine duck feet (as food) would be equally or more frightening.

      Ginkgo as fans or fruit is more palatable.

      I will definitely have to get East Wind Melts the Ice. I’m coming to the end of your book, which as I told you inspires (compels) me to do my physical therapy balance exercises. I hope one of our libraries has it read aloud on CD or MP3! I did love “Geisha” which I read for the second time when my mother-in-law was in intensive care (1998) because she also liked that book…

      Often books I read during a significant life event bring back so many memories. And vice versa.

      My Ginkgo tree is yellow green today, almost spring-like. But it was so cloudy today, and I was working, so I didn’t get a picture of it. Tomorrow will be sunny (hope), so I’m hoping to get a picture of it in its glory…

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