Sunday, March 1. 2009
Got the following letter from a Bart Smith, presumably a Wichita resident, in response to my Wichita Eats post. Smith makes some suggestions, mostly new to me, and raises a question about lox.
The Vietnamese restaurant on Pawnee is Pho Hot, just east of I-135 (2409 E Pawnee). I tried it again last week; wasn't very pleased, but in fairness I have yet to bring myself to order the noodle soups that everyone else in the restaurant orders.
I've eaten at Sweet Basil a couple of times. It's certainly not bad, but it's not that great either. I suppose one could argue that I've been jaded by living in New York and working next door to a very fine Italian restaurant there, but thus far I prefer Carrabba's and the late Macaroni Grill.
Regarding lox: you can pick that up at almost any Dillon's. I prefer the oak smoked farm-raised atlantic to the brighter sockeye, even though a chemical assay of the former might be disturbing. These come in 4 oz. packages, about $5 each. The higher-end Dillons have some more expensive packages that are somewhat nicer. I prefer Scottish style, which is dry-salted and smoked with oak. Traditional lox -- the kind that's so hard to find any more -- has been cured in a wet brine, leaving it very salty. More common nova lox is less salty, and there are other variations, such as Scottish. It's also possible to find gravlax, which is cured in salt, sugar, and dill -- basically a Swedish innovation. One brand I particularly like is Ducktrap, but I haven't found it in any stores in Wichita.
On the other hand, the important thing is the salt cure, not the cold smoke. The latter adds a bit of flavor but is hard to do without cooking the fish. The salt cure, on the other hand, could hardly be easier: take two pounds of fresh salmon filets; sprinkle with three tablespoons of coarse kosher salt; wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 12 hours, turning occasionally to redistribute the juices. Wash the salt off. If the fish is too salty, soak it in cold water (or multiple washes of cold water) until you get the salt right. You can then use it like lox. It will keep in the refrigerator wrapped up for a week or more. The fresher the fish, the better, of course, but I've gotten good results every time I've tried.
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