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For many years, I revered restaurant-produced ahi tuna dishes as exotic mysteries, rare delicacies far beyond my own merely mortal culinary powers. There was one in particular – a sesame-encrusted seared ahi with a spicy, tangy, otherworldly good dipping sauce served at the venerable First Street Café in the hometown of my youth – that always left me reeling with flavor-induced delight. Delicious as it was, though, I never tried to re-create it; after all, the preparation of semi-raw fish always seemed like a job best left to professionals. And so despite the exorbitant price of most seared ahi creations, it was not until very recently that I decided (thanks to the pressures of a tight budget, the confidence instilled in me by a year or so of commercial cooking experience and a lil’ liquid courage) to grow a pair and take matters into my own hands.

The plan was to glaze and sear the ahi. What actually happened, after several minutes of reflection and subsequent coaxing on my part, was that I created a glaze and dipping sauce in homage to my hometown favorite, chickened out at the sight of all that raw fish, and let my father, for whom undercooked food is not the death-cheating specter that, I confess, it still is for me, do the actual cooking part. So I’m still an ahi wimp…but here’s the silver lining: I make a perfect sesame-soy grilling glaze and a mean, mouthwatering dipping sauce – and now I’m going to share them both with you! Oh, and for all you vegetarians and fellow raw-fishophobes out there, take heart: this dipping sauce doubles as a fantastic salad dressing and pairs equally well with chicken, tofu or gilled vegetables. So glaze & grill the protein of your choice, serve over mixed baby greens, drizzle with dipping sauce and serve with a nice dry Riesling. Yum.

(Note: According to my dad the grill master, ahi should be brushed with glaze before cooking and then seared 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness of the piece. I take no responsibility for these instructions or the results of their execution. Thank you.)

Sesame Glaze

¾ Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp honey
twist of lemon

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl and refrigerate. Brush on ahi (or chicken or tofu or veggies) before grilling.

Wasabi-Ginger Dipping Sauce

1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1-2 tsp wasabi paste (or even more, to taste)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp chili powder
¼ cup scallions, minced

Set scallions aside. Whisk ingredients together and refrigerate. Top with scallions before serving, adjust volume and wasabi content to taste. If you desire a creamier sauce, add 1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise to the mixture and blend until smooth.

by Lauren Westerfield

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