Synonymous with sushi and sashimi delicacies, the ahi (in Hawaiian) or yellowfin tuna is fast becoming an able and delicious replacement for the severely depleted and over-fished bluefin tuna species. Often served rare to medium rare, sashimi-grade tuna steaks are much sought after and a whole fish could go for thousands of dollars in auction in Japan. In fact, the highest price ever paid for a bluefin tuna was 20 million yen (or a little over US$173,000) back in 2001! Japan is the largest consumer of tuna and prices for the "perfect" tuna can fetch astronomical numbers. According to a recent news report from January 5th, 2009, two sushi bar owners shared the cost of a 282 lb. bluefin tuna. The price? A whopping $104,700!
This is a tuna appetizer that I created based on the many sushi dishes I've had over the years. Start with a sashimi-grade ahi tuna steak. As this is a pepper-seared tuna appetizer, season the steak with a little salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper. In fact, coat the entire surface of the tuna with plenty of pepper. Trust me, it'll be delicious! Heat up oil in a skillet and sear all four sides of the tuna steak ever so slightly--about a minute or less on each side. We are looking for a rare to medium-rare temperature. No sense in wasting such a nice piece of tuna, right? Use a sharp knife to slice the tuna steak, revealing its beautiful rare center.
Accompanying the tuna, I made some sushi rice and placed it on top of a piece of "nori" or roasted seaweed. Sprinkle some sesame seeds for taste and presentation. To add some color to the dish, I julienned some carrots and soaked them in a mixture of sugar and rice wine vinegar to just slightly pickle them. As a sauce, I made some wasabi and cucumber mayonnaise, topped with bits of chopped up parsley. Also provide some ponzu (citrus soy sauce) as a dip.
Going one step further, I also made miso soup to go along with this appetizer. I actually made a silly mistake in this picture. One does not drink miso soup with chopsticks unless they are hollow and can be used as straws! So, just ignore the chopsticks and replace it with a spoon in your imagination. LOL!