In this episode of the Table of Life podcast we are at The Seattle Fish Guys in the Central District of Seattle. You’ll hear how the heart of their business is based on family and cultural traditions passed down for generations, as well as the community outside and inside the walls of their venerable seafood market and restaurant.
Sal & Des’s business is heavily influenced by their families and those that become family while working with them. Listen and watch as Sal cooks us a crab stuffed sockeye salmon pinwheel that would be perfect for a dinner party, and some delicious garlicky mussels as well; I tried their incredible authentic poke, and I even tried uni for the first time!
I can’t wait for you to meet Sal, Des and the whole family at The Seattle Fish Guys. I left feeling like I gained new friends, and wrapped in that warm feeling you only get from family.
Get the recipes, see my uni reaction, and get the recipe for the delicious paella I made with the fresh shrimp and mussels I took home from The Seattle Fish Guys below.
“Three generations of all things fish. No one’s success is his alone. Everything I learned in life, about work ethics, responsibility, community, family was a combination of learning from others along the way. It started with my grandfather, two generations ago and continues to today.” Sal Panelo.
As I sit down to try to express in words the feelings I took away from my experience at The Seattle Fish Guys, I am finding it hard to convey. I hope you have a listen to the podcast so you can hear how Sal talks about his grandfather’s trophy fish hanging on the wall, the story behind the board of lures proudly displayed above the fresh seafood case as you walk into the doors, and the lessons he learned from his father and grandfather that shaped who he is today, and comes through in the commitment to quality and pride of the craft in everything we are lucky enough to enjoy at The Seattle Fish Guys. I wish I could have shared the experience I had after we stopped recording as well, as Des’s family shared more stories with me. I wish I could have captured her father coming in the door, heading behind the counter to get some soup and some of the mussels Sal cooked for us. The regulars that came in, greeting the crew like family, being offered tastes of the gorgeous salmon Sal made for us. You truly feel the love in this place.
I figured it’s best to share Sal’s bio with you, it says it all.
“It was my Grandpa Linc, Linc’s Tackle, and my dad who introduced me to seafood and all variations of it. From sea to land, to cooking and plating, everything has a story behind it, I was fortunate to be in the presence of great people who loved life and shared every moment. Growing up in a house with parents owning a fishing tackle shop was every boy’s dream. All the different fishing tools and displays for a kid was like being in a candy store. Everyone loved this place, young and old alike. You could get fish, seafood, gadgets of all kinds, colors and weights, line and lead, hooks and nets. And the stories everyone told! Oh boy, a young mind would just soak it up like a sponge. I can remember going to the store as a young man and hanging out with Grandpa Linc, Dad, all the uncles and other fishermen. It was not only fun, but it was also inspirational. Everybody had a story, the place was magical and educational.
When my sister and I were old enough, my father started taking us fishing with him. We would load our boat in the back of Dad’s El Camino, stop at KFC for the big bucket and head out to catch the early morning ferry. After all, everyone knows the fish bite early!
At first, fishing was tough for us kids. You had to be very still and quiet, trying not to make too many ripples in the water that would scare the fish away. Those were long wonderful days with Dad, sun up until sundown. My Dad told me all the time that to achieve what we wanted we had to work hard, and he set the perfect example. When I was fourteen, I was lucky enough to begin working at the store myself. I worked from 9 am until 7 pm during the summer for a minimum wage of $1.85 per hour! Summers were peak season for fishing and it was demanding work, but my Dad would take me to Chinatown for lunch at Tai Tung’s counter top, home of the best hum bows, and we’d hang out with Harry Chan. Sometimes we would go to Ichiban’s for the best Salted Saba around. It tasted good if you didn’t mind smelling like the Saba afterwards.
My Dad introduced me to all the different types of food in the area. I remember days at the tackle shop hen Grandpa Linc would have me try his daily catch. There were so many different kinds, from salted salmon eggs to salted herring roe on seaweed. Grandpa Linc was an artist when it came to cooking seafood. Each dish tasted as good as it looked. I think I learned how to display fish from him. Grandpa Linc made wonderful grilled salmon on a plank. Forty four years later I can still remember the smoked salmon taste.
As I got a little older it was time for me to think about what I wanted to do with my life. My Dad’s best friend owned Mutual Fish and Dad asked me if I wanted to work there. What an amazing job that was. They had every kind of fish; I never knew there could be so many! Because the owner was my Dads best friend, I knew I had better work hard and set a good example, not to let my Dad down. I liked working hard and was no stranger to it. I had been a football player, a wrestler, pole vaulter, a karate kid kinda guy. But this job was a wake up call. Sure I knew how to work hard, but I didn’t know enough about all the amazing types of seafood Mutual Fish carried: things like kamaboka, Satsumage, Kasu black cod. All new and exotic, I had to learn about each and every item. Working at Mutual was the beginning of my seafood career. I was taught by the best in the seafood industry. There must be a million things to learn, from proper handling of the fish, to cutting, storage, and cooking.
After leaving Mutual Fish I worked at Takara Sushi restaurant. It was here that I learned traditional Japanese cooking from Junko Yazawa, Kozo Sato, and Kuma San, who were all from Japan. I learned how to make sukiyaki, chawan musshi, tempura udon and all kinds of donburi’s.
From Takara’s Sushi I got back into seafood by working at the famous Pike Place fish market. Wow what a fun time, acting combined with helping customers, fast paced, and meeting famous people all at one time!
But my fish journey didn’t stop at Pike’s Place. I worked the corporate grocery store Matts in their seafood department side by side with David Levy, former owner of City Fish. Eventually, I moved from there to working for Solomon Amon at Pure Food Fish, one of the oldest fish markets in Seattle. Sol gave me the freedom to use everything I learned over the past years. It was Sol who let me try my hand at creating seafood displays of all kinds, large, small, show stoppers.
The next step in this journey to Seattle Fish Guys was a time working at Seafood Uwayjimaya until I had an opportunity to own my own seafood business in the Pike Place Market, City Fish. After five years at City Fish I felt it was time to start a new venture: Seattle Fish Guys located at 23rd and Jackson. We see this as being back in the hood, back in the neighborhood, a community where everyone knows everyone. Home, where we all grew up.
No one’s success is his alone. Everything I learned in life, about work ethics, responsibility, community, family was a combination of learning from others along the way. It started with my grandfather, two generations ago and continues to today. We hope you enjoy your visit to our store.”
I hope you enjoy listening to our interview, and I do hope you’ll be able to experience everything The Seattle Fish Guys has to offer yourself! For more information please click here.
Watch the Facebook Live session –> here. Don’t forget to like our page so you get notified when we go live!
Watch me try uni for the first time ever! Click —> here.
Watch the replay anytime on YouTube –> here. Don’t forget to subscribe!
Recipes from this episode:
Sal’s Crab Stuffed Salmon Pinwheels
Serves about 6
1 fillet fresh sockeye salmon, skinned and boned, cut lengthwise into about 1″ strips
1 cup fresh picked cooked crab meat
1 cup finely diced onions and celery, lightly sauteed
1 Tb soft butter
1 cup fresh minced soft bread
About 1 Tb fresh minced dill
Salt & pepper
1 cup white wine
Fresh lemon wedges and dill for serving
Combine the crab, onions and celery, butter, bread, fresh dill, salt and pepper, mix with your hands, tossing gently as not to mash the filling. Lay out your strips of salmon, add the filling evenly over the entire strip, then roll up into a pinwheel. Secure with a toothpick. Place the pinwheels on a baking sheet and add white wine to the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until just cooked through. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and a sprinkling of fresh dill and enjoy!
Chef Kirsten’s Paella made simple with Mesa de Vida Smoky Latin inspired healthy cooking sauce
Get the recipe —> here.
I took home some fresh shrimp and mussels from The Seattle Fish Guys to make an incredible paella for my husband’s birthday the day after we filmed this episode. You can find my recipe here. For this version I added about 3/4 lb diced chicken thighs to the base, then when the rice was almost fully cooked I added the mussels and shrimp to the top. Covered and cooked over low until the seafood was cooked and had exuded all of their delicious juices into the paella, and the rice developed just a bit of crispiness on the bottom. This is so simple, yet so spectacular, I do hope you’ll try it!
More about Table of Life, a weekly series I am SO excited to share with you! Here is the rundown:
Food is nourishment but it also is the cornerstone for nurturing family, culture, community and tradition. The table is where LIFE HAPPENS, memories are made, stories are shared, values are passed on, and the place where many friendships are forged. I want to share the stories of women in food that inspire me; healthy cooking tips and recipes; journey’s through health, wellness and a glimpse into the life of a foodpreneur and/or mompreneurs. Most importantly I want to extend a seat at our table to you, so pull up a chair and join us!
- I’ll be recording a brand new Table of Life Facebook Live session every Thursday morning, around 10:30 PST on the Mesa de Vida Facebook page. I would love to have you join in live to ask questions and be part of the conversation!
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