Archive of ‘fish’ category
Everyone has a tattoo in the Marquesas. On their faces, hands, limbs, and I am sure all over their body. They are beautiful, unique
“Without tattoos you were worth less than a pig,” a Swiss anthropologist doing research in Hiva Oa told me.
Tattoos mark life events and define who you are, what you can do, and what you have been through. When girls became old enough to help their mothers in the kitchen, for instance, they got a tattoo on a finger of their right hand. Without that tattoo the girl isn’t allowed to handle food.
A tattoo on the face usually marks momentous events, protection from an accident, the death of a family member, the birth of a child, or the like. Even in the West people may get a tattoo to commemorate a major life event.
Today, the tattoo culture is not as strict as it once was. People don’t need tattoos to handle food. Not every girl gets a tattoo marking her first period. Not everyone we saw had a tattoo, but the culture remains and tattoos are respected and honored.
Every island has its own specific tattoos, even islands only a mile apart has its own distinct tattoos. Thus, if you know what you are looking for, you can identify exactly where a person is from.
I know several cruisers who have gotten tattooed in the Marquesas to celebrate their long crossing. As beautiful as Polynesian tattoos are, I decided not to get one. Especially after talking with my fellow crew members.
In Japan, Toshi San told me, tattoos are the mark of someone in the Yakuza, the Japanese Mob. Even if you are a foreigner, having a tattoo can get you banned from entering certain establishments. In most onsens, the popular hot springs of Japan, you are not allowed to enter if you have a tattoo. Even a little star on the ankle will get you kicked out of an onsen. It is incredible how what gives a person status in one country will strip you of respect in another.
Food however, is something that brings people and cultures together. Different cultures have their takes on food, but seeing different approaches and sampling new things is half the fun of travel.
I adore fish. Some people are squeamish about raw fish, but I can’t get enough of sashimi, which is what most people think of when they think of raw fish, but Japan is far from the only culture with a raw fish dish integral to their cuisine. There is ceviche in South America, carpaccio in Italy, or the Scandinavian gravlax, just to name a few.
French Polynesia’s version is called Poisson Cru au Lait Coco, literally translated raw fish with coconut milk. This delicious dish is pretty close to ceviche with coconut milk. There are variations of this dish throughout the South Pacific. This recipe is loosely based on one Sandra, our contact in the Marquesas, gave me.
Poseidon’s Poisson Cru au Lait Coco
Juice from 10 limes (about 1 ½ cups juice)
2 lbs. fresh fish (tuna is best but mahi mahi will do)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, julienned
1 t salt
½ t pepper
1 T Maggi Seasoning
1 c coconut milk
Cut fish into bite-sized cubes about ½”—1”
Pour lime juice over the fish, the juice should just cover the fish
Cover and refrigerate 1 hour
Mix in onions and season with salt, pepper, and Maggi
Refrigerate 24 hours giving the citric acid time to cook the fish
10 minutes before serving stir in cucumber and mix in coconut milk
Serve in cabbage leaves
You’re crewing on a Japanese-owned boat? You much catch a ton of fish!
Well, not so much. Not a one in the Bahamas. We did catch a ton of barracuda in Cuba, but we’d thrown all of them back. It may have been open water but we had absolutely no desire to mess with ciguatera, the fish-borne illness that’s featured in various places on the spectrum from wish-you-were-dead to actually deadly. We had caught a king fish and a few little things in harbors, but fish seemed to be keeping clear of Umineko.
Toshi San cleaning bonito
But our luck seemed to be changing on our long passage. We caught our first big(ish) fish. And a tasty one too, a bonito, and perfect for a Japanese boat. Japanese cooking uses bonito, or katsuo, flakes and stock in a whole lot of their dishes. I just had never tasted a fresh one.
When Toshi San, our resident fish expert, deftly cleaned our catch I found out the 10 pound catch had red meat. I’m not sure why I’d been expecting it to have white, but the dark red meat looked good. For this catch we had a real Japanese feast, curtsey of Toshi San, or as I like to call him, my sakane sensai (fish sensai).
He showed me how to trim all of the edges off of the fillets, leaving only the “beautiful” meat, for sashimi and chirashi sushi. We waste all of the scraps? I asked him, horrified. Not at all, he replied, putting them in a small pan.
He chopped up some fresh ginger and arranged it over the fish. Then he poured a little mirin, a little soy sauce, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and enough water to cover the fish.
“I’ve been cooking fish since I was a child,” he told me. I never measure anything. I don’t have to!”
The dish was delicious but as I’m still not up to judging how much of what goes in I won’t put the recipe up. I’ll just have to experiment a bit more.
For the “beautiful dishes,” we made easy sushi rice, cooking the rice, folding in a sushi powder packet, and then training a fan on it: The modern take on hand-fanned sushi.
Then we thickly sliced the most beautiful fish rolls, each piece about 1” thick. He explained to me that dark meat was generally sliced more thickly in Japan.
He sliced the meat and arranged the pieces one after the other in elegant lines on a plate. Each one fit together perfectly. Next he chopped 3 cloves of garlic and spread it over the bonito. Finally he sprinkled finely chopped spring onions over the top, wrapped it in plastic film, and refrigerated it until dinner time.
I was in charge of arranging the toppings for the chirashi sushi. With the three dishes we had a glorious bonito feast that day.
Blue Water Bonito Sashimi
Blue Water Bonito Sushi
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- Spring onion
A scream of stark terror pierced the night.
“What happened!?” Toshi San was quick to ask.
I tried to forget the memory of the cold, slimy form wriggling between my toes.
You don’t expect to step on a flying fish in the hallway to your cabin. The hatch hadn’t been open more than a crack, but somehow the creature had found its way in. They were everywhere.
Like gifts from the sea gods, heaps of flying fish graced our trampoline and deck every morning. We had so many, Sato San started noting how many fish we’d gotten on the daily log. Each line had date, Position, how many miles we had left of the total, position, temperature, and number of flying fish noted.
Daily Log Board
On every other yacht I’d sailed flying fish were thrown over the side. The ones who crashed harder were cursed for smearing the deck with their scales (a nightmare to scrub off once you were in port). Umineko was different. Once, I threw one over the side and Sato San gasped in horror. We can eat those!
I had never even considered it, but he explained to me he really wanted flying fish for breakfast the next day. Yup, you heard right. Breakfast. Sure, fish for breakfast may sound strange to Westerners. I was certainly surprised. But I am almost always up for trying new things. After all, why crew on a Japanese boat if you don’t want to expand your culinary expertise and horizons?
And there it was. Flying fish were on the menu. But making one type of fish dish is boring. I had to diversify. Soon it became a challenge. What different types of flying fish could I make?
After about a week of flying fish for breakfast Sato San was still gung-ho about the whole thing, but other crew members (whom shall remain nameless) were pleading for a Western breakfast. Flying fish are quite tasty prepared the right way, but no matter how many variations you make no matter how hard you try they don’t do very well in American-style pancakes.
You cruisers may have never thought about frying up your flying fish, but I highly recommend it. Fish you don’t even have to hook? Why not? The Umineko boys were all about the bigger the fish the better. I have a different take on things. The small ones take less work. Like a lot less.
When a flying fish gets to a certain size they grow scales and you can’t eat the bones. I’m not a huge fan of or expert at descaling and filleting fish. It’s even more annoying when there are a ton of flying fish to clean. But the captain liked them. I got pretty skilled at it, though I still was much happier when the little ones offered themselves up for our breakfast.
As they are a bit of a chore to clean maybe not cooking them every day they appear on the deck, but I definitely recommend giving them a try once or twice. As I mentioned, I tried quite a few takes on flying fish, but this was one of my favorite recipes.
Fair Winds Flying Fish Donburi
- Rice, cooked
- Pickled veggies (we use pickled daikon(takuan), kimchee, and whatever other pickles we have)
- Flying fish, cleaned
- 2 T butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T soy sauce
- 1 T mirin (you can substitute 1 T water and 2 t sugar)
- Heat butter in pan over medium heat
- Fry garlic for 1 minute
- Add flying fish, skin-side down and cook 2-3 minutes (depending on size)
- Flip fish and cook another minute
- Add soy sauce and mirin and cook one more minute
- Serve over rice with pickles
The sailing world is fraught with myths, legends, and tradition. That it is bad luck have a woman on a boat may have fallen by the wayside (for some at least), but others remain. In name at least. Some, like the equator crossing tradition can be a fun way to break up a long passage.
To cross the equator you need the sea god’s permission. There are different takes on it. Some legends state that newbies, the people who haven’t crossed before, must perform a ritual. Others say that the oldest member on board must make the sacrifice, but luckily (for me) Sato San decided that the newbies had to come up with the skit.
Rather than doing an actual skit we agreed that we would do a picture skit. Each scene would be a still shot and the pictures would say everything. No memorizing lines, no action. Just implied action. Apparently this kind of thing was extremely popular in Japan.
Toshi San and I thought about it for a few days. Cross dressing and nudity were common in these ceremonies. I vetoed removing any of my clothes, or wearing a coconut bra or Brazilian string bikini the guys had been suggesting. Cross dressing on the other hand… now that was a definite possibility. And who better than to dress up as a woman than Sato San, the biggest advocate of me wearing less clothes.
Here’s how our story went:
The winds had died because we needed to ask the sea god’s permission to cross the equator. The sea god needed a sacrifice.
One sailor catches a beautiful mermaid (as played by Sato San) and decides to give her to the sea god to marry.
One sailor prepares the mermaid for the marriage but gets jealous that the mermaid is marrying a god so calls in her friend in Pacific Al Quanaika (the word means “where it is” in Japanese, but Toshi San wanted it as a play on Al Qaeda) who stabs the mermaid
The sea god appears saying he doesn’t want his beautiful mermaid hurt or need a sacrifice so he brings her back to life with rum. (this is also a joke as alcohol can be used to kill fish)
The sea god brings the wind and everyone happily sings a song.
It must have worked. Not half an hour later a pod of 7 small whales, possibly pilot whales breached alongside of us. I was delighted watching the creatures surfaces so close to the hull. Sato San, on the other hand just wanted them gone. They weren’t big, only 2-3 times the size of a dolphin, with curious rounded heads and dark bodies.
When Toshi San made the joke about whale steaks I knew the gentle giants must not have seen the Japanese flag.
One of our favorite meals is somen. It’s quick, easy, and delicious on a hot day, which we get quite a few of in equatorial waters. Somen isn’t for rough seas, but it’s a great thing to eat on calm waters, at anchor, or in a marina. Healthy, delicious, and above all easy it’s a fun cool meal for crew to eat together on the deck with a breeze blowing over you.
South of the Equator Somen
- 1 500 gram package of somen noodles
- Tomato, thinly sliced
- Spring onions, finely chopped
- ½ carrot, julienned
- 1 can fish (sardines or Japanese canned fish)
- ½ cucumber, julienned
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ c katsuo dipping sauce
- Boil water
- Put somen in and cook for 2 minutes
- Drain and run cold water over noodles until cool (it stops the noodles cooking and cools them)
- Fry eggs in small, oiled pan (ideally square) over medium heat about 2 minutes on one side and flip.
- Slice egg into very thin slices
- Arrange egg and veggies on a plate with fish in the middle
- Set on table with wasabi and katsuo
- Each person has a little bowl and each person makes their own lunch:
- Pour katsuo dipping sauce into bowl
- Stir in wasabi to taste
- Sprinkle in spring onions
- Add noodles, veggies and fish
- Refill bowl and eat until full!
The barter system is still thriving in the sailing community. One of my favorite trades was on Elephant Island in San Blas. I traded some banana bread for a winch handle. I was delighted with my side, but the Australian couple seemed equally pleased with their banana bread. The woman even threw in some clothes she liked the bread so much! That isn’t quite the norm though.
At Shelter Bay marina by Colon, Panama was a party every night. Not only were the fabulous people from WARC 2014 there, but as with most marinas there were interesting people living on many of the boats. We befriended one megayacht’s crew, a young South African surfer and a wry Brit. They had caught an enormous tuna a few days earlier and asked me if I wanted any of the meat.
I jumped on the offer and told them that I would cook them dinner with it. This kind of barter on boats is a lot more common. Very few yachts have a ton of freezer space and even fewer have a flash freezer. When a crew of four catches a 20-lb tuna you’re a) going to be eating a lot of tuna for a while and b) will have to give away at least some of it if you don’t want to throw it away.
This leads to quite a few presents and exchanges of fish between yachties. And if you’re given fish it only makes sense to cook it for your patron.
What could we do with delicious fresh tuna though? Sashimi was an option, of course, but that was more of a starter. We needed something for a lovely dinner party.
I first tried chirashi sushi, or chirashizushi in Argentina when my lovely friend Machiko invited me over for dinner. I fell in love with it from the first bite. Chirashizushi means “scattered” sushi and it is also a favorite in Japanese home cooking. Since then I have tried chirashi sushi in a restaurant, rice with decadent slabs of sashimi, but I really prefer the homemade variety.
It isn’t hard to make, and like so many Japanese dishes it looks beautiful. If you bring chirashi sushi you will be sure to be the hit of the dinner party.
Charter Chirashi Sushi
- 4 cups short grained or sushi rice
- 1 packet Tamanoi Sushinoko sushi rice seasoning powder
- 3 lbs fresh tuna (3-days old is ideal)
- Pickled daikon, thinly sliced or shredded
- Nori, cut into thin strips
- Kazimi ginger (pink pickled ginger in thin strips)
- 2 eggs
- Cook rice
- Spread in large bowl, and fan to cool
- Gently fold in sushi rice seasoning powder using flat rice spoon
- You shouldn’t make the sushi rice so far in advance that you need to refrigerate it. In fact, it should never be refrigerated. The ideal sushi rice is served at body temperature.
- Spread on a flat platter
- Beat the eggs and cook 2 minutes over medium heat in small square skillet if you have one. A small skillet will do.
- Flip and cook the other side about 1 minute
- Turn onto cutting board and cut into thin strips (it’s called tamagoyaki)
- Cut fish into bite-sized chunks
- Arrange fish, kazami ginger, tamagoyaki, nori strips, and pickled daikon strips over rice
- Serve and enjoy!
The worst single word you can hear at a cash register. It worse still when you have spent 4 hours provisioning and the cashier has rung up a month’s worth of groceries. When the store in question is over an hour taxi ride away from the marina it is like something out of a nightmare.
Umineko had gotten to Balboa marina the day before and it was lovely. It had a swimming pool, hot showers, fast internet, not to mention it was filled with WARC yachts resplendent in their flags. This was a new WARC so I didn’t know most of the yachts, but I had met a few of them in San Blas.
The large crew of Boingo Alive, delightful men (and 2 women) from a Swiss yacht whom I had met in San Blas, Panama were drinking at the bar. It is always fantastic to see familiar faces in new ports and this was no exception. We spent a late first night drinking, catching up, and getting to know one another.
The next morning we all went provisioning; their entire crew and me as Umineko’s representative. I couldn’t believe how far it was to Cologne from Balboa. What made it worse was that the taxi had to stop for nearly an hour waiting for ships the size of city to transit the Panama Canal locks and the bridge to go down. There was actually a roadside stand selling banana bread, sandwiches, and drinks for people who had to wait while the canal bridge was up!
We arrived at the dilapidated shopping center a little before 10, and made plans with the grocery store’s drivers to take us back at 14:00. After a quick neunies (a Swiss traditional snack between breakfast and lunch they had drunkenly told me about the day before) we got down to provisioning.
Provisioning is far from my favorite thing to do. Buying enough food for months (or at least one) at sea is overwhelming to say the least. Just imagine if you had to do all of your shopping for a month+ in one go and you can’t buy or get anything else. Well, possibly some fresh fish but that’s it.
Still, I was going through the aisles, crossing things off the list and getting things done. I filled up the first cart. By 13:30 the second cart was overflowing. Myself and half of the marina. The queues of WARC members provisioning, each one with several carts piled high with groceries, was comical. By the time I finally got to the register I was more than ready to be back at the marina.
It took 20 minutes for the plump Panamanian cashier to scan all of the items. When I handed her my debit card I was already helping the bag person arrange items in heavy boxes.
“Your card was not accepted,” she told me in Spanish handing it back.
“Try it again,” I said, the panic building.
The world went grey. I’d left my credit card on the boat for safe keeping. After all, we were in Cologne, reputedly dangerous. I looked through my wallet just to see if money had miraculously appeared. No luck: I didn’t have even close to enough money on me.
“Could you run it again?”
The woman obliged, but shook her head. Declined.
My eyes went big. We were well over an hour away from Balboa yacht club not to mention the fact we’d taken an expensive taxi to get here.
I did the only thing I could. Harry, one of my new friends on Boingo Alive, was in line several carts back.
“They declined my card!” I told him in a wail, my face ghost white.
“How much do you need?” The shaggy-haired Swiss artist asked, not missing a beat. He pulled out his wallet and counted out twenties.
I almost fainted with the strength of the wave of relief and gratitude that washed over me. When Harry met Sally? Yeah, he saved her life. Cruisers are amazing. The welcoming nature of the sailing community seems to draw the best people to it. Or maybe sailing simply brings out the best in people. I’m not sure if it is because sailors are more in tune with nature, realize their own mortality on the high seas, are just doing something they love, or any number of other reasons, bit sailors are some of the friendliest, most helpful people in the world. To other sailors at least.
Harry had known me for less than a week and without hesitating he lent me the money to pay for the groceries. No, he wasn’t a Swiss banker.
Earlier Harry had asked if we had any wasabi we could trade Boingo Alive (they weren’t sure for what but that’s how things work in sailing). Later that day I paid Harry back and brought over a tube of wasabi. Boingo Alive went through the canal the day before Umineko so sadly we didn’t have time for a dinner party but hopefully I will get a chance to cook for them in some port in the future.
Boingo Alive wanted the wasabi for all the fresh fish they were going to catch, but I love to use wasabi in all sorts of dishes. I was delighted when I found a vegetable truck in Portobello, Panama selling watercress and all sorts of delicious treasures. I’ve loved watercress sandwiches since childhood and wanted to put a Japanese spin on them.
Winch Watercress Wasabi Salmon Sandwiches
- 1 8 oz package cream cheese
- 1 c watercress leaves (and thinner stems), chopped
- 2 T wasabi paste
- 2 T lemon juice
- ½ t pepper
- 1 t salt
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 8 oz smoked salmon
- Mix cream cheese, wasabi, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in small bowl
- Stir in watercress leaves
- Spread on slice of bread
- Arrange cucumber slices on top
- Lay smoked salmon over cucumber
- Top with second slice of bread and cut in half
Sailing is fantastic. More than just the exhilarating, relaxing, challenging time on the water, I adore nature, snorkeling, and exploring new places. But what makes places is the people and the unique traditions.
From the start of our stay Kuna Indians rowed dugout canoes out to Umineko hawking bracelets, and the traditional mola weavings they were famed for. Several plump Kuna women made their rounds to the yachts, delighted to have so many potential customers.
molas were expensive, but the craftsmanship and time that went into making them was impressive. The figures stitched onto the colorful weavings looked similar to aboriginal art from Australia. Each one was unique, the fabric layers painstakingly hand-stitched as they had been for hundreds of years. When one mola-master demonstrated the intricacy, each stich so fine it was almost invisible to the naked eye I realized how exceptional these traditional weavings truly were.
Every day new canoes rowed up to us. One man came with his son in a dugout canoe. The short We invited the two on board to chat. Each canoe was made from a single “cedar amargo” tree. Everything was still made traditionally with machetes and axes. One canoe could last decades, but today not everyone made their own. Special canoe-makers made canoes.
With no markets on Chichime, or any of the surrounding islands we were running low on vegetables. The isolation was as bad as being on a long passage. We were starting to wonder if we would have to sail somewhere that had a grocery store. That morning we were delighted to have a canoe pull up beside us selling that day’s catch of fish and lobster.
We were a little disappointed that they didn’t have veggies but how could we pass on a fish delivery service? For $10 we bought the whole lot. We didn’t have a lot of fresh veggies, but with the delicious variety of seafood I just had to make paella. Isn’t half of cooking in a galley about making delicious things with what you have?
- 2 ½ c water
- 2 T vegeta
- 1 ½ c long-grain rice
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- ½ c white wine
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 generous pinch saffron (alas our saffron was too old so the paella wasn’t yellow)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ½ c shrimp
- 1 c squid
- 4 small lobster tails
- 2 T lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon)
- In large skillet sauté garlic and onion in olive oil about 2 minutes on medium heat
- Add rice, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and vegeta and stir until rice is fully coated
- Add water, white wine, and saffron, cover pan with lid and simmer 20 minutes
- Add lobster and simmer another 5 minutes
- Add shrimp and squid and cook 2 minutes more
- Sprinkle lemon juice over paella
Sailing into Chichime Island, skirting shipwrecks and coral heads, was stunning. A lush palm forest ringed in transparent turquoise. I understood why backpackers paid upwards of $500 for a week squeezed into tourist boats like so many sardines to visit the famed San Blas Islands. A glimpse of this paradise was almost worth it.
Dozens of masts reached up to the sky greeting us as we sailed up to Chichime Island, San Blas. We were with the World ARC round-the-world rally, at least through the Panama canal. It wouldn’t be anything like sailing with the previous year’s WARC rally since we would just be with them for a few weeks. Still, both Sato San and I were more than a little nostalgic.
When the Rally Control, or WARC organizers, boat motored up to us in a little dinghy, we were delighted to see some of our old friends. To make it even better, we were in San Blas, Islands which I had been curious about ever since I heard about them years before when traveling through Colombia.
For a first breakfast in San Blas I had made one of my favorite omelets. Fish sausages are one of my favorite cruising foods. In reality they are really less of sausages and more like plastic-wrapped fish hot dogs. Actually that’s not quite fair as they are really tasty. The most exciting thing about them, and what makes them a wonderful cruising food is that they don’t need refrigeration. I’m really not sure how many preservatives are used in them, but they last for ages.
The fish sausages can be used in a lot of things, but one of my favorites is to make an omelet out of them.
Furling Fish Sausage Omelet
Serves 2-3 people
- Vegetable oil, to grease the pan
- 5 eggs
- ½ c milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Japanese fish sausage, sliced
- 2 slices cheese, halved
- ½ green pepper, chopped
- ½ onion, chopped
- Whisk together milk, eggs, salt, and pepper
- Heat oiled large nonstick skillet over medium heat
- Sauté onion and pepper in small skillet, about 5 minutes
- Pour egg mixture into pan and cook until starting to solidify, 2-3 minutes
- Sprinkle onion mixture over half of the omelet (the less-cooked half if there is one)
- Arrange fish sausage over mixture
- Lay cheese slices on top
- Fold omelet over the filled side and cook another 2 minutes
- Serve and enjoy!
Varadero isn’t Cuba,” countless people told us. It’s just for tourists. You can’t see the real Cuba there. When we got to Havana I had to agree. Havana seemed like a different world from the famous beaches, performances, and posh hotels catering to foreigners of the lauded beach town.
But when we left Havana it was the same. Everyone told us Havana wasn’t the real Cuba. So what is the real Cuba? Cuba isn’t one country. Every city and place I visited was completely different from every other place. Havana: the post-apocalyptic Cartagena and most photogenic city I have ever visited. But less than an hour away, the sleepy little town of Jaimanitas, is ideologically a world apart.
Cien Fuegos: a charming well-ordered town with a Peruvian feel to its downtown. On the Southern coast, it was never built up for the visiting American jetsetters in the 40s and 50s so it doesn’t have the feel of an abandoned once-great city. No, everything is clean and seems like it runs quite well. Well, most things. Internet access and the marina not having a shower were the two things that really hurt. Internet access may be painfully slow and expensive in Havana and Varadero but it is possible. It wasn’t even possible at the posh hotels in Cien Fuegos when I visited. Like stepping back in time.
Speaking of stepping back in time, about an hour’s drive from Cien Fuegos lies Trinidad, Cuba’s oldest city and a UNESCO world heritage site. Weavers, artists, and other artisans with purses made out of coke can tops and every other recycled product set up their stalls along the narrow cobblestone streets. Trinidad is a tourist trap, but the history, culture and the feel of the place make it delightful anyway.
Trinidad was charming, but I was almost more surprised by the countryside. It is something entirely different entirely. Truly like stepping back in time. People ride horses, use oxen to pull carts. More often than not the buses are wagons drawn by horses. Men cut down high grass with sickles on the roadside. This wasn’t going back to the 50s. This was going back several centuries.
The Cuban government doesn’t want tourists visiting the countryside. Well, to be fair it isn’t really geared towards tourism. Buses don’t go there, there aren’t tourist accommodations in the smaller towns. My visit to a home in the country was a trip to a yachtie’s boxing instructor’s house. I visited a yachtie’s boxing instructor’s home. unfinished cinderblock home reminded me of some of the country homes I had seen in Zambia. Nothing that I had seen in my travels in South America, but the house was according to the yachtie, far and away nicer than what it had been just a few months before. He had built it himself and was inexorably proud of the place. Surrounded by banana trees, it was nice that he had fresh fruit so close.
The country life, according to an expat yachtie, who had lived at Marina Hemmingway on and off for 7 years, was the real Cuba. The Cuba that tourists didn’t see. But I am not sure that I could define any one part of Cuba I saw as the real Cuba. Everywhere is so incredibly different from everywhere else. I would love to see more of the countryside, to visit the tobacco plantations, and explore the mountains. Maybe even discover the “real” Cuba. There is always next time.
Not that salmon has much to do with Cuba, other than that I made this delicious dish while Umineko was in a marina in Cuba with frozen fillets we had bought in the United States. To be perfectly honest I didn’t even see salmon on a menu while I was there, but this dish is too tasty not to put up.
Sloop Soba Salmon
- 1 T ginger paste
- 2 Cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ c mirin
- ⅓ soy
- 2 T sake
- 2 T sugar
- 1 T sesame oil
- 4 salmon fillets
- 400 g soba
- Boil soba about 5 minutes
- Drain and run cold water to stop cooking, set aside
- Mix sake, soy, sugar, and ginger paste in small bowl stirring until sugar is dissolved, set aside
- Fry garlic in sesame oil in large skillet about 3 min over med heat
- Cook salmon fillets in oil, 2 minutes per side, just enough to brown
- Place salmon on plate
- Pour sauce into skillet and cook until mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken
- Return salmon to pan and cook 2 minutes more on each side, sauce will reduce to glaze
- Serve over soba noodles
Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite bar
Touristic Havana can be expensive, or at least the prices can be comparable to the US. Often even at higher prices selection is limited (I couldn’t find something as simple as flour in Havana to save my life). But if you know where to go, or are lucky and stumble across them, there are wonderful hidden treasures to be found for next-to-nothing.
While walking through the streets of Havana Vieja, a Cuban invited an Australian couple into his house and sold them 4 good-sized lobster tails for 5 CUC! I never had that happen, nor as a girl walking around on my own would I have gone inside a strange Cuban man’s house alone. I found my treasures other places.
We were running out of seafood on Umineko so one of Marina Hemmingway’s expats took me in search of fish on his scooter. We asked several Cubans on the streets of Jaimanitas, a suburb of Havana. Most of them shrugged their shoulders, but at last a little Cuban grandmother pointed out the house where a man had fish. The man opened his freezer and it was brimming with frozen fish. He took out one enormous bag of fillets, followed by a large bag of lobster tails, and finally an enormous block of grey-brown something.
“Cangrejo,” he told me. Crab. After a bit of bargaining he sold me 5 kilos of cleaned crab for 8 CUC. We were eating delicious crab on Umineko for months. As Sato San’s favorite American dish (and one of mine) is crab cakes. This is perfect as crab cakes are extremely easy to make, freeze, and then heat up again as needed.
If you have the ingredients, I definitely recommend making a bunch of crab cakes and freezing them for a passage. They are easy to make, easier to heat up, and are always a hit.
Catamaran Crab Cakes
- 1 lb lump crab
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- 2 T mayonnaise
- 2 T Dijon mustard
- 1 T old bay seasoning
- 1 T lemon juice
- 4 eggs
- ¼ c green onions, finely sliced
- 1 c bread crumbs
- Stir all ingredients together until mixed but not too much (leave crab lumps) in medium bowl
- Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot
- Spray with cooking spray
- Spoon crab mixture onto skillet in ⅓ c portions
- Press down into patties
- Cook 3 minutes
- Flip and cook another 3 minutes
- Enjoy then or freeze for later
Crab cakes freeze extremely well and are great for heating up underway