Several weeks ago Northern California went thorough a severe rain and wind storm. I woke up to find sections of my fence flattened, my yard flooded, and angry squirrels who blamed me for all of it. It was pretty dismal, until I read an e-mail sent to me from the good people at Kona Blue. They offered to send me their product, Kona Kambachi, at no cost, so I could test it out. I immediately Googled the company, discovering that Kona Kambachi is a premium sushi grade yellowtail species, full of omega-3 oils, mercury free, and farmed in Hawaii without damaging the ocean environment. And the fish is much sought after by top chefs, due to it's taste and texture. Suddenly, the flooded yard and angry squirrels faded in importance. I've always wondered about the quality of sushi grade fish sold by mail, and now I was about to receive some, no strings attached. The more I read about the fish from a variety of sources, not affiliated with Kona Blue, the more I looked forward to receiving it.
In my research, I found that most chefs like to serve the fish raw. So, I decided that the first dish I would make would be an adaption of a recipe from the cookbook Terra, which calls for sushi grade salmon and tuna, dressed with a lemon-ginger vinaigrette. Using the Kona Kambachi, it wound up being a memorable dish.
I was notified by Fed-Ex several days before the fish was shipped. It arrived, packed with ice, in beautiful condition. I was impressed with how clean and sweet the fish smelled, with no fishy odor at all. I weighed the fish and it was approximately 6 pounds. Luckily, there are no pictures of me filleting it, a skill that I need to work on. But I did it, and wound up with 2 meaty fillets. Unfortunately, I forgot to weigh them, but I did manage to make four different meals for two people, plus the tartare. And the frame had lots of meat on it, which I pulled off and used to make sashimi, dipped in ponzu.
Let me say that there's a reason that chefs prefer to use this fish raw. It's a mild, white fish, with a beautiful firm texture, and a rich, clean mouth feel, similar to other fish that have a high fat content. Here is some of the tartare before it was mixed with the vinaigrette.
I used a demitasse cup to mold the tartare, but also served some on top of cucumber slices, topped with wasabi mayo. They were good, but I preferred the tartare alone, because the cucumber competed with the texture of the fish. I didn't want that. I enjoyed the tartare immensely, and toyed with the idea of just eating raw fish until it was used up. I could have happily eaten just this recipe for days, and annoyed people by constantly talking about how wonderful it tasted. .
The next day I made a version of one of my favorite recipes from Dancing Shrimp, by Kasma Loha-Unchit. This was Wok Tossed Kona Kambachi With Red Bell Pepper And Basil. Normally, I make this using hot chilis, but I didn't want to overwhelm the fish. I cooked the fish for barely 2 minutes, and it was marvelous--moist, meaty, and delicate all at once. Here's the original recipe, using salmon instead of Kona Kambachi.
I made two more delicious dishes with Kona Kambachi, which I'll share later in the week.
Kona Kambachi Tartare with Spicy Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette
(Adapted from Terra ) Check out the original recipe by Chef Hiro Sone.
Use only absolutely fresh sashimi-grade fish, since it is served raw, and don't add the vinaigrette until the last minute because the acid in the vinaigrette will "cook" the fish. Sambal chili is an Indonesian or Malaysian hot chili paste available in Asian markets.
Yield: 6 servings
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sambal chili
1/8 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon grated garlic
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
Ponzu Mayonnaise (optional):
1/2 teaspoon ponzu sauce
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
wasabi paste, added to mayo to taste
12 ounces sashimi grade Kona Kambachi, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon red onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
3 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh tomato
1 cup upland cress or cilantro, rinsed and drained, for garnish
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
To make the mayonnaise, whisk together the ponzu and mayonnaise in a small bowl, and set aside. Add wasabi paste to the other 2 Tablespoons of mayo, mixing until it tastes to your liking. I like mine hot, but you may make it as mild or spicy as you want.
To make the tartare, combine all the ingredients just before you serve it in a medium bowl. Add the vinaigrette only at the last minute just before serving and mix well.
To serve, place a 3-inch-diameter, 1 ¼ inch-high ring mold in the center of a chilled plate and fill with the tartare. Press down lightly. Carefully remove the ring and repeat with the remaining tartare. You can also use other containers, if you like. I used a demitasse cup for mine. Drizzle the Ponzu mayonnaise around the tartare. Put a dollop of wasabi mayo on top and garnish with the cilantro or cress.