Canada’s Salmon Bounty

It was the news nobody expected to hear. After years of plummeting sockeye-salmon catches, this year’s salmon run, through British Columbia’s Fraser River, will offer the largest tally in over one hundred years. The Pacific Salmon Commission has predicted 25 to 30 million, as compared to last year’s worrisome 1.9 million. This comes after three years of no commercial fishing of Fraser River sockeye.

Nobody knows yet what caused the salmon surge, but nobody seems to be complaining, either. And I, for one, couldn’t help but think of David Suzuki.

I had been in Vancouver researching a magazine feature, part of which involved eating a sustainable seafood feast with the renowned scientist and environmentalist. As Dr. Suzuki and I dined at the Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar, a Yaletown hot spot for sustainable fish and seafood — click here for their sablefish recipe! — he told me the story of the salmon forest:

“If you look along the coast of North America, all the way from Alaska to Northern California, between the coastal mountains and the sea, is this thin strip of land called the coastal temperate rain forest,” he started. “The puzzle has always been that the biggest trees in the world are in these forests, but it rains so much that it washes all of the nutrients from the soil.” What they found, he said, “is that when you clear-cut a forest, the salmon population around it plummets, because salmon need the forest to keep the rivers cool. And now what scientists have found, is that the forest also needs the salmon.”

Photo Blog September 15 Canada Salmon Bounty Fish

Fish link the oceans to the forests to the animals and the rivers. Picture a bear plucking a fish from a stream, and then lumbering up a hill and eating it under a tree. Fish nourish and sustain. Still, while most of the world’s marine life is being depleted at an alarming rate, the sockeye salmon are back — big-time.

Photo Blog September 15 Canada Salmon Bounty Restaurant

So, as we remain cautiously optimistic about B.C. sockeye salmon’s future, here’s a recipe from executive chef David Wong of Oru, the new pan-Asian bistro in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver (above).

Photo Blog September 15 Canada Salmon Bounty

Thai Cured Salmon Recipe

(serves 2 as an appetizer)

1 stalk of lemongrass
1/2 oz. fresh peeled ginger
2 lime leaves, julienned
Juice of 2 limes, plus extra for garnish
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
5 oz. piece skinned sockeye salmon fillet
2 tbsp grape seed oil
Salt and white pepper
Fish sauce (optional)

Step 1: In a food processor, blend lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves, lime juice, sugar and salt.

Step 2: Place mixture in a shallow dish, and put skinned fillet of salmon into the mixture so it comes halfway up the side of the sockeye salmon fillets, with the (formerly skin) side down. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.

Step 3: Remove from refrigerator and pat dry.

Step 4: Heat a frying pan on high for one minute, and then reduce to medium heat. Add grape seed oil and heat until the pan is slightly smoking

Step 5: Season fish with a sprinkle of salt and season both sides with ground white pepper. Carefully place fillet in oiled pan non-skinned side down. Do not touch the fish or shake the pan. Allow to sear for 4 minutes or until fish is cooked to medium. The cured half of fish is a great contrast to the beautifully seared side of salmon.

Step 6: Serve with jasmine rice, vegetables, a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of fish sauce.

For more delicious salmon recipes, click here.

Photo credits:
1. Eat
2. Fairmont Pacific Rim
3. ESPN Outdoors, photography by Georgia Pellegrini

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