Broke Da Mouth? (That Means Mmm Mmm Gooood!!!)
Ahi tataki also known as seared tuna was honestly a dish that I never had the opportunity to take fully seriously.. I mean c’mon.. It’s fish that’s not fully cooked.. It seems like someone got too lazy to finish the job.. seriously people? That was my attitude for almost my entire life.. until this life changing moment took place.
My first year moving to Hawaii in 2003 was filled with food explorations at all the local grind eateries! My good friend Dave (a.k.a. “Daveman”) introduced me to Oahu’s best hole in the walls of endless delicacies ranging from the best spam musubi’s at convenient stores (John store), local plate lunches at okazuya’s (my favorite is the closed down Caryn’s Okazu-Ya), and lemongrass pork chops from Vietnamese pho restaurants.. and finally.. Ethel’s Grill.
Ethel’s Grill (This Deserves a Headline and Section of it’s Own!)
Ethel’s Grill located in the dirty deep of Kalihi is a novelty of itself. The restaurant appears to be located tucked beneath an apartment building which is so hidden that would be super easy to miss on a casual drive by. Specializing in local Japanese / Hawaiian style plate lunches, Ethel’s Grill symbolizes to me a special place of fellowship and highly unique grinds. Everything on the menu is simply amazing!
Their staple dish, ahi tataki (seared tuna), radically shifted my perspective on the capabilities of something being only slightly cooked. The freshly seared and sliced ahi sits on a bed of bean sprouts, red cabbage, sprouts over a pool of shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, amongst I’m sure other secrets just within the sauce itself. Oh.. and we can’t forget the picked garlic slices that seem to have been aged for days upon appearance.
The preparation of the combination of ingredients on the plate looks like a tasty hors d’oeuvre found at a ritzy party. I would make someone of a taco using the ahi tataki as a base while layering as much of the ingredients with the garlic as a cherry on top.. I would then scoup up the morsel and baptize about 1/3 of in the delicious sauce. The combination of the freshness of the fish, the crunch of the bean sprouts, the herbiness of the sprouts, and the bite of the picked garlic is literally heaven on earth!
I was sooooo delicious that I naturally figured that I need attempt to make a version of my own!
Check out my Ahi Tataki video:
Here’s what you need to make Ahi Tataki:
- A quality pan (I particularly prefer a Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron skillet)
- Fresh ahi
- Bean sprouts
- Green onions and/or onions
- Sauces (shoyu, sesame oil)
- Hawaiian salt
It Starts with the Sauce
The main reason why I’ll start with the sauce is for a few reasons. It gives you a good gauge of how the overall dish will be salted (the sauce is mainly shoyu, sesame oil, and Hawaiian salt which you’ll want to mix and taste). It also gives you time to chop up your garlic slices and have them marinate in the sauce. These sucka’s will soak up all that goodness like sponges even after 30-60 minutes. If you want to be extra, you can do this a week in advance (I heard that they also add brown sugar and gochujang sauce as well!).
Slice up Your Ahi into Blocks (Watch only from :00-:30!)
Do not cut the blocks yet into sashimi slices.. you’ll see why later!
7-Second Ahi Sear.. No More.. No Less!
Now you’re ready sear your ahi blocks over your pan (I particularly prefer a Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron skillet). The secret number I found is 7.. that’s in seconds to get your ahi blocks perfectly seared. You’ll need to move fast to ensure the top, bottom, and sides are evenly cooked. I like using butter as the base oil. You don’t want to sear the front and back so that we have that nice raw redness prominent with a framed cooked surface. Now that’s what I call picture perfect!
Let’s Plate this Bad Boy
You can start to plate the dish by first attending to the sauce with the garlic (which should now be nicely marinated). Take out the garlic and place in another bowl. You can pour a light puddle of the sauce onto the plate and then place the bean sprouts on top. You can come back to your ahi by continuing to watch the video above from :30.. but with your seared ahi blocks. The slides can be arranged nicely on the cutting board and then lifted with the knife to place on top of the bed of veggies.
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