A fast food chain in Norway is making waves for building its entire menu around one of the country’s most famous imports — salmon.
Pink Fish, which started in November last year, is casting salmon in a trendy light. Instead of being traditionally baked or boiled and served with boiled potatoes, the fish is creatively presented as salads, wraps, burgers, soups, curries and even poke bowls (a Hawaiian fish salad dish, pronounced "po-kay").
The hip fast food brand, which is named after the colour of the flesh of the fish, sports a youthful vibe with bright orange wood panels and fun fish-inspired deco. Pink Fish’s F&B and concept manager is Norwegian chef Geir Skeie, 37, who made a splash in the culinary world when he clinched the top prize at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or World Finals in 2009 at the age of 28.
The toothsome Skeie plans to open seven more outlets in Norway this year. Demand for salmon
Changing Salmon's Sleepy Image
According to the Norwegian Seafood Council, Norway exported 1 million tonnes of farmed salmon around the world last year (Fun fact: 1% of this amount is exported to Singapore). Despite being the largest producer of farmed salmon, Norway is still miles away in finding swimmingly creative ways of serving salmon.
Skeie says: “It was strange that there was no fast-casual chain in Europe that focused on fish and seafood, despite their popularity. We can do so much more with salmon - it is versatile and can handle a lot of cooking methods and flavours.”
He also observes that salmon is not widely available in a “convenient and flavourful” way for younger consumers. “When young people eat out, they tend to go for pizzas and burgers. They turn to sushi as they do not know of other ways to consume salmon. There is a gap that can be plugged.”
One reason for this is rather ironic. He explains that Norway’s global reputation as the world’s salmon supplier meant that most of the fishes are shipped out entirely without being processed.
He says: “Instead of bringing salmon to the world like what Norway has been doing, I am bringing a whole new world of flavours to salmon.”
At Pink Fish, salmon burgers come slathered with a Texas BBQ sauce, Vietnamese-inspired spicy soya sauce with mango salsa, or smoked bell peppers and aioli.
Salmon soups include a Mexican soup with avocado, corn, chilli and tortilla chips and there is also Thai green curry with salmon (left). Pink Fish stays on-trend by introducing poke bowls, which are made of raw salmon cubes with Asian inspired dressings like yuzu and miso.
Salmon Takes On A World Of Flavours
Pink Fish’s international flavours are inspired from Skeie’s overseas trips. It was in Thailand that the idea of a Thai green curry with salmon struck. On a recent trip to cook for a trade dinner in Singapore, he picked up an idea of serving grilled salmon with char siew sauce.
Having won one of the world’s top cooking awards, it is surprising that Skeie is heading up the casual route. He lets in that since he snagged the top prize at the Bocuse d’Or, he has not been working much in the fine-dining arena. He says: “ I had a goal to win the Bocuse d’Or award by the time I was 30. When I got the award at 28, I didn’t have many goals left. I wanted to do something that had a bigger impact and got interested in entrepreneurship.”
Skeie’s interest in cooking was sparked as early as when he was six years old; he would experiment with bakes like muffins and pancakes, which made him realise that he likes working with his hands. In his teenaged years, he watched a television cooking show that featured Norwegian chef Bent Stiansen, who was the first Scandinavian gold medal winner of the Bocuse d'Or.
This set Skeie on the path of following in his idol's footsteps. After attending culinary school, Skeie went on to work in well-known restaurants in Oslo such as Le Canard, Solsiden and Palace Grill.
These days, he runs three restaurants besides Pink Fish. One of them, Brygga 11 (Pier 11) has outlets in in his hometown of Sandefjord and Stord that only open during the summer months. The restaurant shares the same premises of a fishmonger who delivers fresh catch such as langoustine and mussels that are freshly harvested from the sea.
Chef Geir Skeie’s Top Tips For Handling Salmon:
1. Always check the production date and expiry date of the salmon. If there is a long time between buying and storing the salmon at home, keep it in a cold bag with some ice.
2. Smell the fish. It should not smell too fishy.
3. The skin should be shiny and moist. The flesh has to be firm and bounce back when you touch it.
4. Salmon can be used in all cuisines. It is good in a curry and also in a burger. Use it in the same dishes you would normally use chicken, beef or pork but do not cook it for too long – just two to three minutes is enough for a stew or soup.
5. It is better undercook salmon as overcooking will make the meat dry and rubbery.
All photos are courtesy of Pink Fish