Sashimi For The Squeamish

SUNDAY GOURMET

January 02, 1994|By GAIL FORMAN

Many people have no taste for slices of plain raw fish. But they do enjoy fish cooked rare like steak. Sesame seared tuna sashimi was made for them.

I sampled it at the Sound of the Falls, a resort hotel on Kaanapali Beach in Maui, Hawaii. Executive chef James Reaux, who conducts cooking lessons for guests, taught me how to make it.

A little like sashimi, sushi and tempura in one, seared sashimi combines the best features of some traditional Japanese

favorites: fish, seaweed and batter-coated, deep-fried foods. The sauce that accompanies it marries Japanese ponzu (a lemony dipping sauce for simmered foods) with the usual soy and wasabi mixture that goes with sushi and sashimi.

Sesame seared tuna sashimi also gives a boost to multiculturalism. Portuguese travelers introduced the Japanese to batter-coated, deep-fried foods in the 16th century. The Portuguese also introduced bread to the Japanese. (Panko, the name for the Japanese coarse bread crumbs used in this recipe, is derived from pao, the Portuguese word for bread.)

And pure Pacific Rim is the idea of wrapping fish in the same seaweed sheets used for sushi, coating the outside with bread crumbs and deep-frying until the coating is crisp while the fish is barely cooked. Chef Reaux, who took top honors at the Third Annual Hawaii Seafood Festival Competition in 1992, called it the kind of dish that makes Pacific cooking so special.

The most demanding part of preparing sesame seared tuna sashimi is making a trip to a Japanese grocery for the ingredients. If that's out of the question, you can get a good rendition of the dish using substitutes readily available at any supermarket.

SESAME SEARED TUNA SASHIMI

SAUCE:

1 cup tamari or Kikkoman soy sauce

2 tablespoons wasabi, or to taste (or substitute dry mustard powder to taste)

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon grated ginger

SASHIMI:

1 pound yellowfin tuna (fresh enough to be eaten raw), cut in half lengthwise

2 nori seaweed sheets

2 carrots, julienned

2 ounces French green beans, cleaned (or substitute julienned string beans)

8 perilla (shiso in Japanese) leaves, (or substitute fresh mint or basil leaves)

1 cup plain panko (or substitute coarse fresh bread crumbs)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

2 cups peanut oil

Combine sauce ingredients. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Shortly before serving, place one "log" of tuna in the center of each nori sheet. Lay one half of the carrots and beans on top of each and cover with four shiso leaves. Roll up nori, moisten edges with water and press to seal.

Combine panko and sesame seeds. Dip logs lightly in egg and roll in panko mixture, coating evenly. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and fry logs until brown. (Tuna should be "sashimi-style," seared around the edges but not thoroughly cooked.) Drain on paper towels. Slice thinly and serve immediately with sauce. Serves four.

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