Tuna Crusted with Wasabi Peas
A few days ago I ran across Cin's presentation of Wasabi-Pea Encrusted Barramundi on her blog A Few of My Favorite Things and suddenly I couldn't get the idea out of my mind - and I don't mean the barramundi (which is a diadromous fish native to Northern Australia, which as Cin mentions in her post, is farmed in Australia as well) since it isn't available here in the U.S. No, it was the idea of fresh fish rolled in crushed wasabi peas! It seemed to me an absolutely perfect concept, so the next trip to the market saw me bringing home a package of the spicy peas, and a few days later I came across a beautifully fresh chunk of yellowfin tuna at my neighborhood fish market.
Wasabi is prepared from the root of a plant in the mustard family, and if you've been to the sushi bars around the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo (mecca for sushi lovers) and had the fresh-grated wasabi served there, you know that the wasabi paste we get from tubes or mixed up from powder is a pale imitation. Nonetheless, this impostor paste, which is made from horseradish, mustard and food coloring, is a ubiquitous flavor in Japan, accepted and enjoyed even while everyone knows it's not the real thing. Wasabi peas are green peas that have been dried, coated with wasabi paste and baked crisp.
The combination of the crunch and passage-clearing impact of the wasabi peas with the fresh tuna, flash-cooked rare to retain its delicate flavor and texture, made for a memorable meal. The fish was served with a dipping sauce based on teriyaki sauce, and, in keeping with the Japanese theme, accompanied by somen noodles flavored with red miso (a non-authentic Stephencooks concoction), garnished with minced scallions, and a little mound of vinegared cucumbers (from Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art).
A little Google-sleuthing turned up the fact that wasabi pea crusting has been in the air lately, both for fish and chicken, but I have to thank Cin for first bringing it to my attention. This was a great meal: simple, fresh ingredients in familiar flavor combinations but with a wonderful twist.
Tuna Crusted with Crushed Wasabi Peas
with Miso-Flavored Somen Noodles and Vineagared Cucumbers
2 fresh tuna steaks, 1" thick (20 - 24 oz total)
5 oz wasabi peas
1 C milk
1 C flour
canola or other flavorless oil
Cut each steak in half. Wash and dry them well and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for about 45 minutes. Whisk the egg and the milk together. Crush the peas with a mortar and pestle until they have the consistency of very coarse salt. Unwrap and roll each piece of tuna in the flour, then dip them in the egg/milk mixture and then roll them in the crushed peas. Place on a plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat a heavy cast-iron frying pan on low heat. After the resting-period is over, turn the heat to high and add about 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Allow to heat for about a minute and then add the fish pieces. With the heat on high, sauté the fish 1 minute on each side, including the edges. Serve immediately, accompanied by the dipping sauce (below). For diners using chopsticks the fish should be served sliced.
Adapted from Shizuo Tsuji, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.
5 T saké
5 T mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
5 T soy sauce
1-1/2 T sugar
1 T butter
1 T scallion, finely minced
Combine the saké, mirin, soy sauce and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Maintain at a low boil for several minutes to thicken the sauce slightly, then stir in the butter. Serve in individual dipping bowls with a pinch of the scallions in each bowl.
Somen Noodles with Miso
8 oz somen noodles (fine wheat noodles)
4 T red miso
1 T butter
2 scallions, chopped fine
Warm the miso and butter in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Boil the noodles in salted water until cooked. Drain the noodles and toss with the miso mixture. Serve immediately, garnished with the scallions.
From Shizuo Tsuji, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.
6" seedless hothouse cucumber
1 C rice vinegar
1 C dashi
4 T soy sauce
2 T sugar
Slice the cucumber into paper thin slices with a sharp kife or mandolin. (The Japanese traditionally do not eat the peels of fruits or vegetables, so Tsuji calls for the cucumber to be peeled. I prefer to wash the cucumbers and leave the peels on, for visual reasons primarily.) Lay them out on a work surface and sprinkle with salt, then gather them up in your hands and knead them for about a minute, squeezing moisture from the cucumber. Without rinsing, place in a bowl.
Place the vinegar, dashi, soy sauce and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Immediately force cool the sauce in a metal bowl set in ice water.
To serve, pour half the sauce over the cucumbers, squeeze them with your hands and then pour off and discard the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce over the cucumbers and place mounds in small individual dishes.
Acccording to Tsuji, "this goes well with everything."