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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Poached Salmon With Soy and Lemon Pearls

Mette Randem for The Washington Post

SEP 10, 2008

The most unusual part of the dish is the "pearls," small jellified droplets that look almost like caviar and can be flavored with just about anything.

If you have access to a super-precise scale, it is advantageous to use a 1 to 2 percent solution of agar-agar (agar-agar is available at Whole Foods Markets and other health food stores). This is not crucial; the only result if you use more is that the pearls will be a bit harder and thus will dissolve more slowly as you eat them. To cool the droplets fast enough to form pearls, you must drip them into very cold oil. The oil is not meant to be consumed. You can use plain or lightly salted ice water as a substitute for the oil, but the outcome will not be as good.

If you double the recipe, there is no need to double the amount of ingredients for the pearls. (This recipe makes more pearls than you need because they are difficult to prepare in smaller quantities.)

You will need a cylindrical squeeze bottle with a small opening or a turkey baster/injector.

Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.



1 quart canola oil
3 teaspoons agar-agar flakes (about 2 grams), plus more as needed
1/2 cup water
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or yuzu (yuzu is a sour citrus fruit, available at some Asian markets)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or yuzu juice, plus more to taste
Sugar (optional)
Artificial color (optional; may substitute turmeric)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 fresh bay leaf (optional)
A few sprigs mixed herbs (optional)
2 8-ounce pieces skinless salmon fillet, at least 3/4-inch thick, pin bones removed

Unilateral Salmon With Leek and Wasabi Puree


For the droplets: Pour the oil into a plastic container with an opening wide enough to accommodate a slotted spoon, then cover or close tightly and place in the freezer. Allow to chill for a few hours or as long as overnight.

Combine the agar-agar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the agar-agar is dissolved. Divide between 2 small bowls, to which the different flavorings will be added.

Add the lemon zest and then lemon or yuzu juice and a little sugar to taste, if desired, to one of the bowls, stirring to mix well. For a bright yellow color, add artificial color or a little turmeric, if desired.

Add soy sauce to the mixture in the second bowl, stirring to mix well.

Allow both to cool a little.

Remove the oil from the freezer. If it has frozen, use a fork to break it up a little. After a few minutes, when the oil is getting transparent but is still quite thick and cold, at a temperature of no more than 20 degrees, start making the droplets. Transfer the lemon or yuzu mixture to a squeeze bottle with a small opening (such as a squeeze bottle used for condiments) or a large syringe (such as a turkey baster/injector).

Working rapidly, drip small or larger droplets into the cold oil. As they sink into the oil they will harden, forming small pearls. If the mixtures in the bowls start to gel before you have time to use them, reheat and they will turn to liquid again. (If they do not gel, there is probably not enough agar-agar in the liquid, in which case you should reheat the mixture and add agar-agar as needed.

You will not need more than 30 or 40 droplets of each. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon. Repeat with the soy mixture. Make sure the oil does not warm up too much during use; return it to the freezer, if necessary.

For the salmon: Bring 6 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Season the water with the bay leaf and herbs, if desired. Add the salmon, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature or slightly warmer. The fish will be done to medium-rare; to cook further, remove the salmon from the pan, add 1 to 2 cups water, heat to boiling and then turn off the heat. Return the salmon to the pan, cover and let it "cook" to the desired degree of doneness. (For more on this technique, see the Gastronomer column from March 12, or go to

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fillets to individual plates. Rinse the droplets in cold water if you do not want them to be oil-coated. Place 30 to 40 droplets on top of and around each portion of fish. Serve immediately.


From Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Nutritional Facts
Calories per serving (using half the pearls): 375
% Daily Values*
Total Fat: 17g 26%
Saturated Fat: 4g 20%
Cholesterol: 116mg 39%
Sodium: 482mg 20%
Total Carbohydrates: 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%
Sugar: n/a
Protein: 50g

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