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Seared Salmon with Basil

Before cooking the salmon, quickly check for errant bones by running your fingers lightly over each fillet. If you detect any bones, remove them with needle-nosed pliers or a paring knife, pulling them straight out to avoid tearing the fish.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 3 Tbs. water
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 green jalapeño chili, coarsely chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, preferably Thai
  • 2 Tbs. Asian fish sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbs. corn or peanut oil
  • 4 salmon fillets, about 1 1/2 lb. total
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Steamed rice for serving


Make the chili-garlic paste
In a blender, combine 1 Tbs. of the water, the garlic, chili, green onions and cilantro. Add the basil and process until a paste forms.

Make the sauce
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 Tbs. water, the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Warm a small fry pan over medium heat until hot and add 2 Tbs. of the oil. Add the chili-garlic paste and sauté until very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce mixture and simmer for 2 minutes to blend the flavors. Keep warm.

Sear the salmon
Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Warm a large fry pan over high heat until very hot and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the fillets and sear, turning once, until golden brown on the outside and still slightly rare in the center, about 2 minutes on each side.

Transfer the salmon to a platter or dinner plates and drizzle with the warm sauce. Serve immediately with steamed rice. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Asian, by Farina Wong Kingsley (Oxmoor House, 2007).