I first made this in Mexico, using river trout, but Tasmanian Petuna ocean trout takes it to another level. The richness of the fish and the delicate flakes it breaks into makes this stunning. Add to this some beetle leaves and lots of beautiful aromatic salad ingredients and you have a very tasty snack or canapé. Nam jim is also so fresh and spicy that it just makes sense to use this beautiful Thai dressing here. So from Mexico to Thailand and then back to Oz.
• 1 small side of ocean trout, skin on, de-boned
• salt and pepper, to taste
• 12 betel leaves (2 per serve), rinsed and stalks removed
• 4 red bird’s eye chillies
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled
• 6 coriander roots, cleaned
• 50 g palm sugar or brown sugar
• pinch of salt
• 1 makrut lime leaf, centre vein removed, coarsely chopped
• 2 cm piece lemongrass root, bruised and chopped
• 50 ml strained lime juice
• 150 ml fish sauce
• 2 fresh long fresh red chillies, halved, seeded and cut into julienne
• 2 red Asian shallots, thinly sliced
• 4 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
• 1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthways and thinly sliced on the diagonal
• ½ green paw paw, peeled, seeded and cut into julienne (about 1 cup)
• 4 makrut lime leaves centre veins removed, very thinly sliced
• ¼ cup picked mint leaves
• 250 g cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 1 small bunch coriander, leaves picked
To smoke the ocean trout, place the smoking chips in a non-reactive bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Season the trout with salt and pepper, then place skin-side down, onto a baking tray and place in the smoker. Drain the smoking chips and shake off any excess water. If you have a kitchen torch or blowtorch, use it to take out any moisture from the chips – they shouldn’t ignite, just smoke. Slide them into the smoker and cook the fish for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the nam jim dressing, place all the ingredients except the lime juice and fish sauce in a mortar and pestle and pound until a smooth paste forms. Add the lime juice, then season with fish sauce. The dressing should have a balance of salty, sour, sweet and hot. Balance the flavour with the sugar, fish sauce or lime as necessary.
Remove the fish from the smoker. To check the fish is cooked, gently press on the flesh at the thickest part of the fish. If it’s firm with a little give when pressed, it’s ready. It should flake easily. Let it cool, then carefully peel off the skin and gently flake about half the fish.
Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl and add enough nam jim dressing to lightly coat. Gently toss through the flaked fish, then serve the salad in a bowl with the betel leaves and any remaining dressing on the side for guests to help themselves.
• A smoker like the one I used is perfect for the home, it is called a Murrikka smoker it is compact and efficient. Remember that you should only use wood that is meant for smoking, treated woods have dangerous chemical that could be bad for your health.
• You won’t need all the fish for the salad, but it will keep refrigerated for 3-4 days.