By Isaac Butler
This (currently unnamed dish!) is actually an adaptation of a David Chang recipe. Chang's recipes tend to break down into two categories: difficult/complicated recipes with easy to find ingredients, easy recipes with hard to find ingredients. Cured Hamachi with Horseradish-Edamame Puree & Furikake is one of the latter. You have to find very good tuna, and you have to find raw horseradish (actually impossible in my neighborhood in the summer, despite the half-dozen supermarkets and high end grocery stores within six or seven blocks of my apartment), and you have to find Furikake.
The actual application of the recipe is simple: you cure the tuna (Salt, sugar, flavorings of your choice) for up three hours, you make a cold, thick puree (edamame-horseradish), you slice the tuna thinly, put it on the puree, top with a crunchy garnish (the furikake).
When we tried it the Chang way, Anne said that she liked the dish in theory but that the edamame puree and the Sichuan peppercorn in the cure weren't really doing it for her. So this got me thinking about how the dish could be adapted for South Indian flavors. It took a while to puzzle out, particularly in terms of what would be a good, cold, not-too-thick puree. But over the weekend I had my eureeka moment and last night Anne gave the results two enthusiastic thumbs up.
So the two somewhat difficult to find ingredients in my version of the recipe are high quality tuna and curry leaf. Curry leaf is like the most remarkable thing in the universe and I really wish more places stocked it, as it's the key to finishing like every delicious Indian dish in the world. If you live near downtown brooklyn, you can buy it at Sahadi's in the freezer. If you live anywhere near an indian grocery store (or Kalustyans) they will also sell it to you there. You can also order it from ishopindian.com. Curry leaves keep for, like, ever in a freezer, so don't worry about buying too many. You can always use this as an invitation from the universe to cook more Indian food (if you do that, I recommend the cookbooks Grains, Greens and Grated Coconut and 660 Curries).
As for the Tuna. Just remember, this fish is not going to be cooked, it's going to be cured. It's worth the money to get "sushi grade" or "sashimi grade" tuna, yellow tail, or hamachi. At my local fishmongers, the amount of fish this recipe calls for costs about $18.00. Which is a lot for only 9 oz of fish but not a lot for a recipe that feeds 2 people as an entree or 4 as an appetizer and costs maybe $25 to make total.
1 heaping tsp cumin seeds
1 heaping tsp coriander seeds
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2.5 tablespoons sugar
One 9 ounce skinless hamachi or "sushi/sashimi grade" tuna or yellowtail etc. (my fishmonger has tuna so that's what we use)
Freshly sliced mango
canned unsweetened coconut milk
Green chili such as Jalepeño or Serrano
Curry leaves (About 15 or so, plucked from the stems)
Mustard seeds (a generous tablespoon)
(1) 2-3 hours before you are going to serve, cure the fish. Toast cumin and coriander in a pan, shaking occasionally to make sure they don't burn. Transfrer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Mix with salt and sugar thoroughly. Thoroughly coat the fish (make sure to get the sides!) and wrap with saran wrap. Put it in a tupperware or ziploc bag or you'll get fish liquid all over your refrigerator. Put in the refrigerator. (NOTE: Over-curing is a real risk here, so if dinner gets delayed and you reach the 2.5-3 hour mark, take the fish out, wipe as much of the cure off of it as you can, and put it back in the fridge)
(2) In a blender, combine a few slices of mango (I just bought pre-sliced mango at the store because life is too short. If you are using a fresh mange, get 1-2 small, ripe, yellow or "champaign" mango(es) for this) with the MINIMUM amount of coconut milk necessary for the blender to do its thing. Once you've got a nice, light-yellow liquid, cut off a small piece (or slice) of chili pepper and put it in there. Blend again. Taste. Do you want it spicier? More mangoey? More coconuty? Tinker and adjust until its the flavor you like. Just remember, a little coconut milk goes a *long* way, and the more mango you get in there, the thicker it will be, which is a good thing. Refrigerate when done.
(3) Alright, when it's showtime, here's what you do: Heat a tablespoon (or maybe a little less) of oil in your smallest cooking vessel that has a lid (the top of a small double boiler perhaps, or a small pan). When it is hot, add the mustard seeds and shake the pan a few times. As soon as they start popping (literally, like popcorn does, they'll start jumping in the pan), add the curry leaves. Put the lid on the pot, shake it a few times to make sure everything's getting evenly coated with goodness, and turn off the heat. Your garnish will be ready in a few seconds. You want the leaves crispy, the mustard seeds slightly smokey. A little smoke when you open the lid again is fine, you haven't burnt it, don't worry.
(4) Okay, now, take your tuna and wipe off the cure (and accumulated tuna liquid) from its exterior. You will not be able to get all of it, and that's okay. Now, take your sharpest knife and slice the tuna into slices that are about 1/4 of an inch thick. Too thin, and the cured texture will be lost. Too thick and it could be too salty. Every person making this recipe is going to get a different shaped piece of tuna from their fishmonger or grocery store, so slice which ever way is going to result in most of the pieces being something around 2" square. Don't overthink it too much, you'll figure it out.
(5) This recipe serves 2 people as an entree or four as an appetizer. So take the appropriate number of plates and, on each plate, take a spoon full of puree and plop it gently down off-center in the plate. Use the back of your spoon to brush the puree out from that dollop in a pleasant half-moon kinda gesture. Now, as Chang puts it, "shingle" the individual pieces of tuna so they for a nice little stack that intersects with your half moon of puree. Spring an equal amount of the garnish on top of each plate and serve.
I served this with a side of pan sauteed cauliflower (sauté in hot hot hot olive oil with salt and pepper, flipping and moving it about occasionally, until browned to your liking, squirt the juice of one lime on top when done, toss, and serve) and that worked out great.