How do I explain why Maggie and I have reached the age of 65 without ever cooking sesame-crusted tuna? Ignorance? Carelessness? Bloody-minded commitment to European culinary conditions? All three of those reasons and probably more besides.
Anyway, I am consoled by the fact that we regularly introduce ourselves to new home-cooked dishes of food, at an average rate of about one per week; and that we are willing to order unfamiliar dishes when we travel overseas.
Which is how we came to eat some sesame-crusted tuna when we stayed at the Sheraton Grand Resort south of Da Nang. This is how it looked on the plate:
The tuna was served with a refreshing side-salad and a line of wasabi ‘sand’.
By the time we had left Da Nang for home, we had begun to bookmark recipes for the tuna, with a view to preparing it in our kitchen, sooner rather than later. Numerous online recipes are available, generally following the same method for the tuna component. This is what we did.
For starters, it is critical that the tuna is very fresh, ie sashimi quality. Secondly, we suggest that you take the piece(s) out of your fridge about 20 minutes before you cook them, so it is not unpleasantly cold in the middle when you serve it.
Then you should season it with some salt and pepper, to your own taste, before you use a wide-based bowl to coat it generously with raw sesame seeds. We just used white seeds, ie the ones that have had their black hull removed.
Don’t worry if there are gaps between the seeds, revealing the pink flesh. They will aid the cooking process and, speaking from experience, will also come in handy if you forget to season the fish first.
Now you are ready to heat some lightly-flavoured oil with a high burning point in a flat-based pan. We used plain vegetable oil; canola would be a fine alternative. Once the oil is quite hot – I’m not brave enough to wait until it is smoking – you should gently place the tuna in the pan, cook it for no more than one minute (60 seconds) before turning it. The tuna must come out after one more minute, to be briefly drained on paper towel before being sliced in pieces up to 1cm thick. (A sharp, serrated knife will help you to produce slices of even thickness.)
But before you cook the tuna, you need to organise the rest of your plate.
You’ll need a dipping sauce. The easiest option is a mixture of wasabi paste and soy sauce, preferably the soy sauce designed for having with sushi. Or you could kill some time by making something more elaborate, such as the wasabi-ponzu sauce you’ll find here. Given our liking for fiddly recipes, it is a safe bet that Maggie and I will head down that track quite soon.
And you need a salad. We chose to attempt a facsimile of the salad we were served in Vietnam. Our chosen ingredients were peeled daikon, peeled carrot, cucumber, mint leaves, chilli and the sweet & sour dressing that Adam Liaw had introduced to us.
The first three of those ingredients were prepared using our spiraliser, a utensil that was invented to separate backyard zucchini growers from their spare change. As each strand emerged from the spiraliser, Maggie just tore them randomly and put them in a bowl. Then she added the other ingredients, taking care with our homegrown hot chilli, tossed the salad by hand and put it on the plates ready for the tuna to be cooked and served.
Here’s how it turned out. Not bad looking for a first attempt! And it was quite delicious.