I only have my tuna as sashimi or in a ceviche. I honestly can’t think of a single ‘cooked’ tuna dish that I truly love. If I really had to, I prefer to fully break down those meat fibers with a more aggressive cooking method such as braising, rather than going for something relatively quick such as grilling or pan-frying. I just find this fish too lean, readily turning tough and dry with the slightest application of heat.
Keeping it raw or as close to that state would be a totally different story on the other hand. As unpleasantly flaky as I find it when cooked, it really is unbelievably smooth left in raw preparations such as in this tartare.
Much like in any other ceviche recipe, this oriental tartare relies on just two key components – top-grade tuna and an excellent curing solution.
Given that you’ve already sourced for tuna of very good quality, let’s jump into our flavor-cure. Inspired by oriental flavors, this is a simple mix of soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, chili oil, chopped scallions, and grated ginger.
Let me expand on these ingredients with some suggestions or alternatives:
Soy Sauce – a Japanese brand, Kikkoman to be more specific, has a very distinct fermented flavor that you’ll hardly find from more common types or brands
Brown Sugar – can be replaced with white sugar or honey without much effect to the flavor
Sesame Oil – will keep the pieces of tuna smooth while also adding a very distinct smokiness. No other oil could come close in flavor.
Chili Oil – adds heat to the tartare without the sour note you’ll likely get from most commercially available brands of hot sauce. Fresh chopped chili may also be used but may prove to be overwhelming for some.
Chopped Scallions – adds that subtle onion flavor but less pungent. Onions or shallots minced very fine would be totally acceptable.
Ginger – adds a fresh cooling effect to this dish. Better grated using a citrus zester to make the bits nearly imperceptible to the tongue.
Also notice that unlike most ceviches, this cure does not include an acid component like lemon or lime juice. I intentionally left that as a last-minute addition to keep the proteins in the tuna from coagulating, making it tough and discolored with extended marination.
Give all the ingredients a thorough stir until the sugar fully dissolves before tossing the tuna in. As for the cut of tuna, go by the size that works for you. Just make them as uniform as you could to allow for even curing.
This tartare is actually good to serve at this point. Chilling it to let those flavors sink in would of course, be worth the extra wait.
Just before serving, simply squeeze a few drops of fresh lime juice into your tartare for some extra freshness.