Prep 20 mins Cook 2 mins Eat 22 mins
This Lemon Grass-Crusted Tuna with Cucumber Salsa and Peanut Sauce recipe was created on a sailboat in Tahiti. That is code for super easy to make, but it helps when you are literally swimming in fresh tuna! Last year at this time, I was preparing for my trip to Tahiti with the Women’s Sailing Association “girls”. This was a dream of a lifetime trip with 31 women and two men on four sailboats in French Polynesia’s Society Islands. Read all about it here. A year later when I look back at the photos, I smile. I wish I could recreate this trip, it was so much fun.
One thing I can do to recreate that moment in time is to to make the Lemon Grass-Crusted Tuna with Cucumber Salsa and Peanut Sauce at home. I love how edible sensory moments will bring you right back to that place and time. The crew loved this recipe and will always remember our trip by it too…and dare I say, my brilliant culinary skills. After all, cooking a photo-worthy meal in a ten-square foot kitchen, known as a galley is quite a feat…and something I am delighted to share with some hungry sailor girls.
I am going to show you here how I did it with the French Polynesian resources I had and what you probably have in your kitchen…or can easily get. I had a cucumber, which I peeled and diced. Add a little sliced fresh basil
I could not find fresh gingerroot in the supermarket, but we did find pickled ginger, so I added that to the salsa to flavor it along with some habanero pepper (replaced with jalapeno at home), lime zest and juice (I brought my microplane for zesting), garlic and olive oil.
I minced the lemon grass that I brought from my garden and then pressed it into the fresh red tuna that had been drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Use lemon zest, if you can’t find lemon grass, which is available at Asian markets and better grocery stores. At home I mince the lemon grass in my small food processor. I was tempted to bring my nifty manual food processor , which I do bring on the sailboat locally, but instead thought a good sharp chef’s knife fit into my luggage more easily.
Make the peanut sauce – so easy. Combine in a bowl or a small saucepan – peanut butter, unsweetened coconut milk (not water – milk is thick and white) from a can, brown sugar, soy sauce and curry powder. Stir it well. You can heat it in the saucepan, if you like, but it is not necessary. This recipe makes a generous portion of peanut sauce, which you can use for other recipes or freeze it. The red tuna pictured here was cheaper than chicken at the local supermarkets in Tahiti and it couldn’t have been fresher.
When everything is ready and prepped including any side dishes, heat your skillet to high and place the tuna steaks in for one minute on each side, just to sear, so it stays nice and rare inside. The tuna steaks I made at home you see here are frozen ahi tuna steaks from Trader Joe’s. In culinary school, I learned that sushi grade tuna is often frozen to -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days to kill parasites. So, turns out, frozen is better in this case.
As soon as the tuna is cooked, plate it up. Smear a large puddle of peanut sauce on the plate and place the ahi tuna steak on top of it and spoon some of the cucumber salsa alongside it.
I think you are going to have some very happy guests when you serve this dish. We enjoyed this dish so much, I served it twice on our two-week trip.
After a wonderful meal and some restful sleep, we woke up to this view the next day. Life is pretty good in Tahiti. If you ever have an opportunity to sail around the Society Islands, say yes!!… but even if you don’t have sea legs, you can enjoy a taste of Tahiti through this dish.
Lemon Grass-Crusted Tuna with Cucumber Salsa and Peanut Sauce
1 stalk lemon grass, minced or 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
4 6 oz. portions ahi tuna steaks
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper ( to taste)
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 lime zest (done before juicing) and juice
1 Tablespoon Ginger-root; fresh; minced
1/2 jalapeno chile, minced (remove seeds if you prefer)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh basil or cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1. Slice lemon grass stalk into thin slices like a green onion. Then place in a food processor to mince the rounds as finely as possible or do so with a very sharp Chef’s knife.
2. On a plate drizzle each tuna steak with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press the minced lemon grass into the top and bottom of each fish steak. Set aside
3. Prepare Cucumber Salsa: Dice cucumber and place in a bowl. Zest a lime and add to the bowl along with the lime juice. Mince garlic, ginger and jalapeno in a food processor. Add to cucumbers and mix along with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and the basil and salt. Set aside.
4. Make Peanut Sauce: Place peanut butter, coconut, brown sugar, soy sauce and curry powder in a small bowl or heat in a small saucepan. Mix together until smooth.
5. Make sure everything is ready before cooking the tuna. Heat a dry skillet on high for a couple minutes or until hot. Add the tuna steaks. You should hear a sizzle. Cook for one minute. Flip over and cook for another minute. Cook longer if you do not want your tuna steaks rare. Remove to a platter and begin plating up.
6. To serve, spread several spoonfuls of peanut sauce on the plate, top with the ahi steak and spoon some cucumber salsa along the side.
Servings: 4 – 675 calories per serving