What Is Tuna Tataki?

K.C. Bruning

Tuna tataki is a Japanese dish. It is a type of sashimi, which is thinly sliced, lightly seared raw fish. The fish is usually garnished and served with a dipping sauce. In many recipes it is also coated with a crust of sesame seeds before searing.

Many chefs advise using tuna tataki as a sushi dish.
Many chefs advise using tuna tataki as a sushi dish.

Tataki refers to the method of preparation, it means hit into pieces or pounded. It does not refer to the fish, but rather the way the ginger which typically seasons the dish is mashed into a paste. In Japanese cuisine, several kinds of dishes and meats are prepared with this method. It is believed to have been developed by a samurai in the 19th century who was inspired by the way Europeans grilled meat.

Some species of tuna -- which provides the popular fish for sushi -- can grow more than six feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds.
Some species of tuna -- which provides the popular fish for sushi -- can grow more than six feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds.

Though it can be made with any variety of tuna, many chefs advise using sushi- or sashimi-grade tuna. The dish is best prepared with a thick fillet, which can be found at the tail end of the fish. For the best results, it is also advisable to purchase the fish as fresh as possible.

Though tuna tataki can be cooked with no previous preparation, some cooks will coat the fish in sesame seeds. These tend to adhere best to the tuna when they have been smashed first. Tuna fillets may also be seasoned with salt and pepper before cooking.

The tuna is placed in a hot pan with a small amount of sesame, peanut, or vegetable oil. It is then seared slightly, usually on all but two sides. The fish is ready when only the edges and a small margin of the fillet are browned. Most of the fish will still be glossy and firm, with a dark, pinkish-red hue. Once cooked, the tuna is cut into thin slices.

Tuna tataki slices can be served in numerous ways and with many different kinds of accompaniments. It is typically served with garnishes such as a slice of lime, lettuce, radish shoots, and thin slices of pickled ginger. The dish can be served alone or with noodles, rice, or with sushi and other varieties of sashimi.

A dipping sauce is also frequently served with this dish. One of the most popular options is ponzu sauce, which is sold in bottles. Other types of sauce typically paired with Tuna tataki include ingredients such as ginger, lemon and soy sauce. Wasabi or wasabi mayonnaise may also be served with the fish.

A pan needs to be very hot for searing tuna.
A pan needs to be very hot for searing tuna.

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