Pan-fried Cod with Coconut Milk Sauce

By Michelle Chang

With the human exploration of the unknown, and the ease of transportation, the barriers of borders have begun to disappear. The former explorers and immigrants now bring with them elements of their culture, food, and cooking style from outside the country. These relocated elements and the local environment, blend to create a new look and connotation of food.

Topinambur was originally cultivated by Native Americans. In 1603, Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer, discovered topinambur during an exchange with indigenous people in Canada, and recommended it to Mr. Marc Lescarbot, who was traveling to the French colony of Port-Royal in 1606. Lescarbot brought topinambur back to France in 1607.

The plant has been referred to in Chinese as ‘菊chrysanthemum’ and because of its appearance of a small taro, it has also been called ‘芋taro’. Another Chinese name is ‘洋姜western ginger’ because it comes from the West and resembles ginger in appearance. Most of the Taiwanese people’s knowledge of topinambur comes from Japan, because the Japanese introduced topinambur and greatly promoted its health benefits.

Topinambur is also known as Jerusalem artichoke because it tastes like artichokes when cooked, and has been called Canadian truffle because of its resemblance to a truffle.

After it was introduced to Europe, it became a European agricultural product because it was easy to cultivate and hardy. During World War II, due to the shortage of food, topinambur became a staple food for people and feed for animals. After the economy gradually recovered, to break the link with the memory of war and poverty, topinambur disappeared from the European table for a long time until the beginning of the 21st century, when the “Forgotten vegetable/Légumes oubliés” boom started, and topinambur began to be noticed once again.

Topinambur has a light sweet taste, and the source of the sweetness comes from inulin. Inulin is a naturally occurring polysaccharide produced by many types of plants. It is a prebiotic is metabolized by intestinal microbes into smaller molecules which can be absorbed and promote the growth of beneficial microbes.

However, because it cannot be broken down by the body’s digestive enzymes, some people may experience gastrointestinal discomfort after eating it. When eaten raw or undercooked, topinambur has a crisp texture and is ideal for salads or quick fried. Topinambur well-cooked has a texture similar to potatoes and artichokes, and can be used in soups, stews, and even as a dessert. To solve the problem of digestibility, you can ferment topinambur before you cook it.

Fermented Topinambur

Preparation Time: 20 minutes + Fermentation: 3 to 4 weeks


400g water
4 g kombu
500g peeled Topinambur
14g salt
4g kombu


1. Prepare a 1-liter canning jar, sterilized and dried.

2. Add the kombu, 10g salt and the water to the pot and bring to a boil.

3. Remove the pot from the heat. Then pour the brine and kombu into the jar and let it cool down.

4. Peel the Topinambur to a net weight of 500g, then cut them into sticks of 0.5cm*0.5cm*3cm.

5. Add 4g salt to the Topinambur and let them rest for 10 minutes.

6. Put the Topinambur in the cooled brine.

7. Press the Topinambur sticks and kombu under water, then place a baking paper to cover the liquid surface.

8. After sealing the lid, place in a cool place and let ferment for 3 to 4 weeks. (Winter).

Pan-fried Cod with Coconut Milk (4 Servings)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes + Cooking: 15 minutes


250g coconut milk
90g of minced shallots
100g of fermented Topinambur
30g olive oil
70g fermented Topinambur juice
½ portion of fermented kombou, cut into fine julienne
2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
140g cod filets x 4
A little flour
A little salt


The Sauce

1. Heat the pan in medium heat and add 30g olive oil.

2. Add the shallots and fry them to be soft.

3. Add the fermented juice of Topinambur and deglaze the pan.

4. Reduce heat when the fermented juice is boiling. Concentrate the sauce to half of the original quantity.

5. Add the coconut milk and the kombou, stirring with medium heat. Add appropriate salt.

The Fish

1. Sprinkle flour on 2 faces of the cod filets.
2. Heat the pan with medium heat and add 30 g olive oil, put the cod in the pan.
3. Pan frying the cod, fry them golden on both sides.
4. Place the cod on a plate, add the sauce and the Topinambur.
5. Garnished with lemon and thyme leaves.
6. Enjoy!

Michelle Chang was born in Taiwan in 1967. In 2012, she moved to France, and in 2017, opened her restaurant, La 5ème Saveur. Her cuisine is a revisitation of French cuisine through fermentation. She is also a writer and columnist for a Taiwanese health magazine.