Coconut shrimp with a variety of dipping sauces is a given in most casual-dining spots across the country. But, coconut can add texture and a slightly sweet flavour that pairs well with many other species of fish, too. Because so many global cuisines feature this tropical fruit, it can add an exotic fillip to the most mundane dish.
At Morgans on the Danforth in Toronto, Akiwenzies smoked whitefish assumes a Caribbean vibe with toasted kale and coconut. And, coconut water is the base for mussels steamed with Asian spices such as lime, chilies, ginger and lemongrass at Fusion Grill in Winnipeg. Mackerel becomes glamorous at Toronto’s Catch served with kale, whey custard, porcini mushrooms and coconut.
The classic British addition to a meal of fish and chips, these are traditionally prepared with marrowfat peas, cooked to extinction and mashed. You’ll find them in British pubs and BP wannabees across Canada. But, don’t dismiss these as plebian. Peas have a sweetness that pairs well with the unavoidable greasiness of fried fish. You’ll find mushy peas served with fish and chips at upmarket spots such as Joey’s Restaurants and Aioli’s on Vancouver Island. Even scallops benefit from a version of mushy peas in the form of a minted purée at Dalvay by the Sea, a resort in P.E.I.
Unfortunately, allergies have moved nuts off the menu in many restaurants. But, consider French classics such as Sole Amandine, which shows that the crunch of nuts can add a textural boost to a dish. Nuts add a crunch to fish in a way that breadcrumbs, or even panko, simply can’t. And, adding nuts, such as pistachios, pecans or macadamias, takes the menu up a notch. There’s Arctic char crusted with pistachios at Calgary’s Big Fish, and, at Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., chef Jason Parsons creates a crust on halibut with nuts. At Big Daddy’s in Toronto, pecan-crusted shrimp adds texture to the mixed seafood platter. And tilapia, which has become standard at many restaurants, gets a Hawaiian makeover with a covering of crushed macadamia nuts at Toronto’s Fish House.
Two years ago, The Globe and Mail speculated that sea buckthorn might be the next açai berry. Used extensively in Europe, and, in particular, in Scandinavia, the berries have a tangy, citrus flavour and are very high in antioxidants and nutrients. The leaves can be harvested and dried for teas. While it’s mainly used in sweets, a few chefs are recognizing that its characteristic tartness can complement fish very nicely. At Cambridge, Ont.’s Langdon Hall, guests enjoy crushed albacore tuna with healing herbs, fried bread and sea buckthorn. At Winnipeg’s Fusion Grill, beurre blanc of sea buckthorn comes with seared Digby scallops, creamy corn grits, micro greens and shallot fennel frond relish.