Everybody knows how cray cray I am about Asian food, and that Japanese is one of my favorite Asian cuisines to stuff my face with. What a lot of you might not know is that I’m a sucker for Tuna Tataki. So much, in fact, that I plan on some day writing a thesis on how fish should only be eaten raw, with a sear at most.
A few weeks ago, I went to the Tasting Japan JETRO event in City Walk 2. It was one of those Gulf Food type of pop-ups that I would normally walk right by, but luckily I was supposed to meet a (now dear) friend I made online there before I headed to an event nearby. Believe it or not, this pop-up was more the highlight of my night than the actual very chic restaurant opening that I actually went to City Walk for that night.
My jaw was on the floor at pretty much every stall I visited. From freshly ground matcha to matcha blends of different kinds (there was a variant with roasted rice ground in!!); from yuzu concentrate to yuzu infused miso paste; from a Japanese patisserie to handmade koi fish moulded out of sugar (!), this pop-up was the hidden gem of Dubai Food Festival events and truly worth a visit.
I managed to bag a bag of samples. Nothing makes me happier than a goody-bag bearing actual goodies. As I walked home with said goody bag, I realized I must do justice to these prized ingredients, and must polish my Japanese cooking skills. I’ve only just commenced this journey, but I decided to go big or go home and started off by attempting a Tuna Tataki Salad, with a recipe created by Chef Fiona Uyema, who visited Dubai in February for the Taste of Japan in World Cuisine event.
My first attempt at this salad was a bit of a miss, and the less-than-desirable result threw me off my game so much that I ended up slacking on the plating as well. What went wrong was the actual slicing of the tuna steak. Once I seared it, and started slicing it, it seemed to start falling apart. This happened due to one very basic negligence: my knife was not sharp enough. I was so unhappy with the plating, that I decided to repeat this recipe again the next day. What I did differently this time around was I made sure to sharpen my knife nice and good, and it cut through the tuna like butter this time. I also deliberately seared it less the next day because I do like my tuna rare.
This salad was everything. You get the bitterness from the mixed greens, the richness from the tuna and sesame oil, the acidity to cut through said richness from the rice vinegar (or yuzu, if you’re lucky like me and have some on you) the saltiness from the soy sauce, sweetness from the mango. It’s completely umami, really. The best thing, is a reminder of how unbelievably healthy Japanese food is, because it baffles be how “healthy” can possibly taste this good. Chef Fiona Uyema even credits Japanese cuisine for helping her fight cancer.
Here’s the recipe, you guys!
Tuna Tataki and Mango Salad
- Sesame seeds to coat the tuna (black or white or both)
- 100 grams of fresh, sashimi grade tuna steak
- Salt to season the tuna steak
- 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 large, ripe mango, peeled and cut into thin strips
- Mixed salad leaves
- *For Dressing:
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp rice vinegar (or, if you're lucky like me, then use Yuzu!)
- Mix together the sesane seeds, salt, pepper (optional) on a flat plate and coat the tuna steak in this mixture.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a non stick pan or a cast iron skillet.
- Make sure the oil is very hot.
- Sear the tuna on each side for 10-15 seconds at most.
- Remove the tuna from the heat, place on a wooden board and slice into thin slices, preferably 1/2 cm each.
- Place mixed greens in a bowl or deep plate.
- Place mangoes on top, followed by the slices of tuna.
- Drizzle with dressing just before serving.