One of my favorite sauces is spicy mayo. You know which sauce I'm talking about - the one they use for spicy tuna rolls or spicy salmon rolls. It has an addictive flavor of its own and works really well with all sorts of raw fish.
Granted, please don't waste the sauce on really fresh fish that can stand on its own. But for your ordinary everyday roll? Why not?
Tartare typically costs less because it's made with inferior or uglier materials. The most beautiful pieces of fish are cut into sashimi or nigiri slices. The remaining bits, which still often have great flavor but possibly compromised texture, must be chopped up and served some other way.
The ones that don't have as good flavor can easily be enhanced with the addition of this magical spicy mayo. It's a great and simple way to dress up less expensive fish into something fancy and delicious.
I recently visited New Deal Fish Market to check out their fish selection. I asked if they had toro (tuna belly, one of my favorite foods in the world). Unfortunately, they had sold out of toro, but they did have this less expensive cut of fatty tuna (pictured above, bottom left piece with the stripes).
Carl Fantasia, the owner, told me that this cut was more flavorful than normal tuna (maguro) because it had more fat. You can tell too - it's got the classic pink color of toro and tons of marbling. However, this part of the fish has a lot of connective tissue (all those white stripes you see), and therefore the only way to really prepare this fish is to chop it up into small pieces or painstakingly remove the connective tissue.
I took his advice, sort of. I painstakingly removed the connective tissue AND chopped it all up into little pieces (once I realized that the tiny slivers of meat between the connective tissue were pretty much useless on their own).
I mixed it up with some spicy mayo and, viola! I had my own tuna tartare.
Spicy Tuna Tartare
½ teaspoon Sriracha Sauce (Asian chili sauce)
¼ teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 T Mayonnaise
Raw fish, finely chopped
Combine Sriracha sauce, mayonnaise and sesame oil in a bowl and mix together well. Add more Sriracha sauce and/or sesame oil to taste. Combine with chopped up tuna and serve.
If you'd like, you can stuff the finished tartare into a small cup and invert it onto a plate for a more dramatic presentation. Top with something green, like scallions (as pictured), parsley, or chives.
Note: please make sure to purchase fish suitable for eating raw. This usually means it's really fresh (you can always ask the fishmonger) or it has been frozen for a specific amount of time according to FDA guidelines.
Here are a few other tartares from some very nice Michelin-starred chefs. Can you guess where these are from? (click on the photo to find out).
Finally, A Note on Sustainability
Unfortunately, bluefin tuna is highly overfished and is not a sustainable choice. According to the Monteray Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, all populations of bluefin tuna are currently being caught faster than they can reproduce. The better choice for tuna would be certain types of yellowfin tuna (also known as "ahi" sometimes), U.S. Atlantic bigeye tuna, or certain types of albacore tuna. You can see the entire list here.
I'm personally very guilty of being woefully unaware of whether the food I am eating is sustainable or not. The thought of bluefin tuna going extinct because of our current unsustainable practices makes me sad, and therefore I've decided to try harder to become better educated about the seafood I eat.
Spicy Chili Mayo
Homemade Chirashi (New Deal Fish Market)
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