California Red Curry Salmon Salad

“Now you can drive from Los Angeles to my Great-Aunt Maggie’s ranch on the other side of the mountains in a couple of hours or so, but the first time I went there it took most of a day.”

~ MFK Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

A few years ago, my partner and I were in Chico, California, a place mainly populated by old hippies and full of farmer’s markets and astonishing produce. I’m a huge fan of both of these, by the way. Also a fan of that brilliant California sun that makes everyone’s skin look golden and perfect. We went out to lunch at a little cafe whose name I’ve forgotten where I had a very tasty curried salmon salad sandwich on a croissant. It was one of those meals where I took a bite and mmmed then took a second bite and thought, “I could make this.”

Inspired by those old hippies, maybe, this is a throw-a-bit-of-this-in-if-you-have-it kind of recipe. Canned salmon? That works. Leftover baked salmon en papillote? Parfait. Salmon sushi rolls? That’s going too far, but I love you, you crazy kid.

The one item I find essential, though, is good Thai red curry paste. Please don’t bother with those tiny jars that you can find in a traditional Western supermarket. So overpriced and, I find, they go bad if you don’t use them quickly. Instead, do yourself a favor and get Mae Ploy red curry paste (and yellow and green) posthaste. The plastic-lidded tubs are more than 3 times the size of the supermarket jars (and that’s the small one), easily found in Asian markets or online and extremely cost effective. Here’s a quick comparison of cost by ounce, assuming online ordering, but without shipping calculated in:

Mae Ploy brand red curry paste (14 oz)

  • $.52/oz Amazon
  • $.21/oz Efooddepot.com (expensive shipping though)

Supermarket brand

  • $2.06/oz Amazon
  • $1.21/oz Jet.com

For a taste test comparison, check out this blog post. Mae Ploy comes out near the top.

Probably even with shipping the cost for Mae Ploy is worth it. And, listen, a food safety expert might disagree with me, but this stuff is indestructible. I’ve had open tubs of it in my fridge for months and it never seems to go bad. Plus, it’s very flavorful, for making quick curries or tasty sandwiches like the one below, though if you want to make your own, more power to you.

California Red Curry Salmon Salad

  • 1 can salmon or equivalent amount of cooked salmon
  • 1-2 T red curry paste (to taste)
  • 3-4 T mayo, vegan mayo, or yogurt (basically something to moisten it and make it creamy)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • assorted chopped veggies: onions or scallions, carrots and celery would be classic, diced very small. Capers give it a nice salty bite. Or throw in what you have lying around. Or nothing. That’s good, too.

Place salmon in a bowl and break up with a fork. Add curry paste, a little at first, and mayo or substitute. Add more curry paste as needed. Mix in lemon and veggies. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Serve on toasted bread or over greens.

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