This is the Fish Ludo Lefebvre Calls the 'Butter of the Sea' [Video]
This week on Ludo à la Maison, Ludo Lefebvre shares a dish grounded in the eye-opening food experiences he’s had since leaving Paris two decades ago. Moving to Los Angeles changed much for him—as evidenced by his freewheeling, irreverent cooking style. Vietnamese flavors, for example, are a favorite inspiration of Ludo's. Though he’s never been to the Southeast Asian nation himself, he notes that LA has more amazing Vietnamese food that many other places on earth.
With those Vietnamese flavors in mind, he constructs a salad that layers tropical fruits—like green papaya and banana—with fried garnishes, pickles and a spicy vinaigrette to top sashimi-style hamachi. This is a great dish to enjoy as summer winds down—Ludo recommends making this “when it’s very hot. It’s so light, not too sweet,” and perfect for a sultry September evening.
If that's your plan, here's what you do: First, the frying—a great way to start off any salad. Slice shallots into thin rings and fry at 355 degrees until golden brown, around 3 minutes. “Everything is good with fried shallot,” says Ludo—“everything is good with fried food, actually.” Next, fry whole basil leaves—watch out for oil splatter with these—until the bubbles stop, about 30 seconds or so. “When it’s quiet like this, the basil is ready,” says Ludo. “The color is just so beautiful.” Finally, lotus root, peeled and sliced thin with a mandoline; fry, making sure the discs don’t stick together, until they are golden and start to curl at the edges.
Other elements include pickled red onions, sliced into small crescents and soaked in sherry vinegar for about half an hour, and a julienned salad of green papaya and jicama batonnets (little sticks). For the dressing, combine palm sugar, lime juice, garlic, a little bit of jalapeño, some fish sauce and whisk with a little bit of water. Leave it to infuse for a bit, tasting as you go; Ludo advises to start small with dramatic flavors like jalapeño, adding gradually until you’re happy with the intensity. “If it’s too spicy,” he says, “nothing you can do. Just crying.” Once your dressing has had time to meld, strain it to remove stray bits of garlic.
Finally, the star of the show: hamachi, also known as yellowtail. “Hamachi is a good fish,” says Ludo. “When you slice it, it’s like butter. I call that ‘the butter of the sea.’” Break it down, sashimi-style, spreading out on a plate before topping with the papaya and jicama salad (according to Ludo, your design inspiration should be “a game of pick up sticks”). Layer on some thin slices of banana, your pickled red onions, and the dressing. “The fish swim a little bit in the vinaigrette,” says Ludo—so don’t skimp on the sauce. Then there's nothing left to do but top with your fried vegetables and enjoy.