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Tuna carpaccio is a dish which is made by thinly slicing fresh raw tuna and serving it with a savory and often spicy sauce. Mustard sauces are common, but tuna carpaccio can also be served with Asian-inspired sauces and a wide assortment of dressings. This dish is sometimes on offer at high-quality seafood restaurants, especially in the summer, when it can be quite cool and refreshing, and it can also be made at home.
This seafood dish owes its roots to carpaccio, a dish which seems to have originated in Harry's Bar, a restaurant in Venice, Italy. According to legend, a customer in the 1950s requested a dish with raw beef, and the owner came up with the idea of thinly slicing the meat and serving it with a piquant sauce. The dish was named after the painter Carpaccio, supposedly in a reference to the colors of the dish, which evoked paintings by Vittore Carpaccio.
The crucial thing when making tuna carpaccio is to use fish which is as fresh and meticulously handled as possible. While raw tuna is generally perfectly safe to eat, it can pick up bacteria if it is poorly handled or frozen, and this is not desired. If you can, purchase the tuna directly at the docks, so that you can see the fish for yourself, and if you can't, be sure to tell the fishmonger that you will be eating the tuna raw, and specifically request fish which has not been frozen. Please be aware that the consumption of raw fish is not recommended for pregnant and immunocompromised individuals, as they are at much higher risk from unwanted bacteria.
Some people marinate their tuna carpaccio in lemon or lime before dressing it with sauce, which can be beneficial for those who want to get rid of any chance of bacterial invaders, because the acid will kill bacteria. Others simply handle their tuna very carefully, using scrupulously clean hands, cutting boards, and knives, and keeping the tuna chilled as much as possible.
High quality tuna is best, especially tender cuts like toro. Typically, the tuna is cut thin and then pounded to make it even thinner, and when the tuna is of good quality, tuna carpaccio will be extremely tender, with an almost buttery texture which causes it to melt in the mouth. Less high-quality cuts will be dry and stringy, which is not desired.
In addition to the sauce, tuna carpaccio is often served with a garnish like parsley, cilantro, or decoratively carved vegetables. It is classically offered as an appetizer, and may be presented with crisped pieces of bruschetta which can be used to pick up the fish.