If you ever want to impress a dinner guest with a starter that’s really impressive-looking on the plate, tuna tartare would be a very good choice. It has everything I want in an appetizer going for it; it’s easy to make, can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until right before it’s needed, and with a little creativity, can be plated to look like something from a Michelin 3-star.
The story behind tuna tartare, at least according to the Atlantic, starts with one man: Shigefumi Tachibe, a Japanese-born, French-trained chef, who is likely first to put the dish on the menu of an upscale restaurant (in 1984), and thus launch it’s popularity. Since then, dozens of chefs have turned their creative abilities to the dish and there are now way too many variations to count.
I’m a fan of sushi and most other things Japanese, so when I set out to make my version of tuna tartare I knew that’s the direction I wanted to go. Then I spotted a container of “seaweed salad” at the grocer — yes, seaweed salad at a Harris-Teeter (which also has a sushi bar, BTW). Right above it in the seafood case was the most beautiful sushi-grade tuna I’d seen in a long while. Click.
Knowing I was going to serve the tuna on a bed of seaweed salad, the marinade was easy to figure out. A little sesame oil, some white soy sauce (white shoyu) and a little ginger and shallot. It’s simple and it’s easy to taste and adjust before adding to the tuna. The result is a dish in which the flavor of the tuna shines through and is complemented by the flavors in the marinade, rather than dominated by them.
Note: The tuna is, of course, raw. If you’re going to make this, be very sure you’re getting the good stuff, as fresh as you can. The tuna used in the photos is toro, which is a lighter red than, say bluefin. Alas, bluefin is just very hard to get and very expensive. The kind of tuna — toro, bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, etc. — is less important than the grade, though you may have a favorite, as I do. To be called sushi or sashimi-grade, tuna has to be graded #1. Period.
- 8 oz. sushi-grade tuna steak
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. white soy sauce (or light soy sauce)
- 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
- 3 tsp. minced fresh ginger
- 3 tsp. chopped chives
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh lemon juice
- Diced the fresh tuna into very small pieces (a quarter inch or less, if you can manage) and place in a large glass bowl and store in the refrigerators while you make the marinade.
- Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, shallots, ginger and chives and whick until emulsified.
- Add the marinade to the diced tuna and toss. Return to the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
- To plate, mound the marinated tuna on some quickly sauteed greens, such as spinach (or if you can get it, used a prepared seaweed salad, which is even better) drizzle a little meon juice over the tuna and top with a bit more greens, chopped chives and or parsley, accompanied by a little wasabi or wasabi sauce.