Global flavors add interest to seafood dishes

Global cuisines and flavors continue to brighten menus, adding bold and savory touches to dishes in a growing number of menu categories. Seafood is among the newest category to feel the influence of global flavors, as more and more chefs draw inspiration from countries near and far to add interest and excitement to fish and familiar seafood.

“I draw inspiration from all over the world and have developed a great appreciation for how different cultures incorporate seafood into their cuisine,” said chef Andrew Zimmerman of Proxi in Chicago.

Proxi’s menu, which reads like a trip around the world, includes seasonal whole fish with a tomato-tamarind masala and green mango salad inspired by coastal Indian cuisine from Goa and Kerala; grilled swordfish inspired by Japanese yakitori-style cuisine, skewered and cooked over charcoal and served with shishito peppers, Saikyo miso and yuzu kosho; and a grilled octopus with mole verde and charred squash, which serves as an ode to Mexican cuisine.


Coastal Indian cuisine shines in this whole fish dish with tomato-tamarind masala at Proxi in Chicago.

Junghyun Park, executive chef and owner of Atoboy, also takes a broad view of the world in the kitchen. a family-style Korean concept in New York.

“When designing dishes and cooking, I’m not just inspired by Korean cuisine, but by multiple cuisines,” Park said.

At Atoboy, Park serves a prepared octopus dish with mango, mojo verde and fermented dubu, which is a good example of its multicultural approach.

“[The octopus dish] draws its balance from fermented tofu from Chinese cuisine, mojo verde which is a Canarian green sauce, and it also uses other ethnic ingredients such as sumac and mango,” Park said.

At Lapeer Seafood Market, a restaurant and bar serving coastal cuisine in Alpharetta, Georgia, Executive Chef Blake Hartley draws inspiration from coastal regions around the world that use fresh seafood, most recently from Vietnam.

“Vietnam inspired us with the fresh flavors and condiments they use,” Hartley said. “Their proximity to the China Sea gives them access to an abundance of fresh seafood, which you see in Vietnamese cuisine.”

Currently, Hartley serves whole fish with nuoc cham, chili, basil and potato chips. Nuoc cham is a traditional Vietnamese dip usually made with fish sauce, citrus fruits, a sweetener, chili peppers and herbs. For his version, Hartley uses local chili peppers and agave nectar as a sweetener for the sauce, which he says “complements our wide selection of mezcal beautifully.”

Spanish and Japanese flavors and techniques merge Bar Ramone, a tapas restaurant in Chicago.

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Spanish and Japanese cuisines merge in this glazed fish dish at Bar Ramone.

“Many chefs in Spain use Japanese ingredients because the cuisines and techniques fit together so well,” said Bar Ramone chef Alex Trim..

The restaurant’s Japanese icefish is a play on traditional Spanish angulas (baby eel) with Japanese ingredients. The dish includes Japanese icefish, or shirauo, which some describe as a bit of anchovy, i.e. simmered in garlic oil, shiro dashi and brandy, then finished with crispy garlic, arbol chili and parsley.

“[The dish] incorporates the Japanese background and influence of chef and partner Hisanobu Osaka,” Trim said. “It resulted in a perfect fusion between the two cultures.”

Chef Lauro Romero brings a holistic approach to American seafood classics at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland. For example, Romero seasons grilled Oregon rockfish or shrimp for use in midday tacos with a homemade seasoning he calls “Mexican Togarashi.” Togarashi, or shichimi, is a Japanese spice blend with ingredients such as red chili, sansho (Japanese pepper), orange peel, sesame seeds, ginger, nori, and poppy seeds.

“I love the citrus element and balance of shichimi, but wanted something a little less spicy,” Romero said. “So I created my own version with dry-smoked chili peppers to bring in Mexican flavors.”

Romero also makes a peanut morita salsa for a Hamachi tostada crudo and clam escabeche toast, both using classic Mexican flavors and techniques.

Dino S. Williams