27 June 2010

Sesame-Seared Tuna and Tempura Papaya Sushi with Spicy Sesame Sauce and Papaya Chutney

Quite a title, eh? SO. Remember that foodie fights thing I told you about like... 2 days ago? Well, guess who snagged a spot on the battle...um... kitchen this week? That's right, baby. After missing my chance last week, I made sure to be all over the sign-ups this week, even though I had no idea what to create with the ingredients- sesame seeds and starfruit. After a bit of thinking I came up with a sushi idea, but alas! No starfruit was to be found. Luckily Dan and Nick saw that starfruit availability might be an issue, so they decided to allow papaya as a substitute. I've never cooked with papaya, but they've been in every grocery store recently- so what better time to go ahead and try them out? Papaya slid into starfruit's spot in my mental recipes without a problem, and what was manifested was pretty darn spectacular.

Yes, I'm a vegetarian. Vegan when I can be. But sushi... well, that is my only vice. I'm sure anyone who has experienced quality sushi can agree: It's just too damn good to give up. And since this battle had a bit of a tropical (papaya)/oriental (sesame seeds) feel to it, what better way to marry the two ingredients than in a fresh roll of fishy fruity ricey goodness? I began with the concept of sesame-crusted pan-seared tuna and tempura battered papaya, wrapped in sticky rice and nori with some avocado, cucumber, and bean sprouts. Good by itself, yes, but I didnt feel like I got enough out of the ingredients. That's when I came up with spicy sesame sauce.

Soy sauce is good and all, but it can often cover up all the fresh flavors of sushi. Also, wasabi gives sushi a nice kick, but being in Arizona all I had were copious amounts of chili powder and red pepper flakes. So basically, what I wanted out of this sauce was that rich, toasty sesame flavor, a somewhat diluted salty soy sauce flavor, and enough heat to make things exciting. I "borrowed" the food processor from my parent's house, and just started throwing things in. It was a bit touch and go for a while, but wow. Total success. Soy sauce means nothing to me now.

And then there were the 3 pounds of Papaya I had left after tempura battering. I ought to give it one last chance to shine, right? The obvious answer was a chutney, since Papayas are so like mangoes. After lots of chopping, dicing, mincing, and a brief moment of panic when I feared the chutney tasted too Indian and not Oriental enough, everything came together in a pretty shade of pinkish orange.

And so Sesame-Seared Tuna and Tempura Papaya Sushi with Spicy Sesame Sauce and Papaya Chutney was born. We rolled, we cut, we garnished, we ate, we rejoiced. All in all, it was a great day, and a ton of fun. I had an awesome time with my first foodie fights battle, and I definitely hope to do more in the future. Don't forget to GO VOTE for me! If you do, I might even give you some of the two remaining sushi rolls. Best of luck to all my competitors! And now, the recipe:

Sesame-Seared Tuna and Tempura Papaya Sushi with Spicy Sesame Sauce and Papaya Chutney
Spicy Sesame Sauce
1 cup sesame seeds
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1.5 tsp chili powder
1.5 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
red pepper flakes and sesame seeds to garnish

Papaya Chutney
1/2 a large papaya, cut into small chunks
1 white onion, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1.5 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
1/4 cup soy sauce

Sesame-crusted pan-seared tuna
1/2 pound sushi grade albacore or ahi tuna steaks
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
1/3 cup black sesame seeds
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Tempura Papaya
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2/3 cup ice water
vegetable oil for frying
2-3 cups papaya, cut into thin 3-inch long strips

3 cups short grain sushi rice
3 cups water
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1.5 tbsp salt
4 to 5 nori sheets
1 cucumber
2 avocados
bean sprouts
sesame seeds (for garnish)

enough ingredients for ya? yeah, I though so.

1. Prepare the sauces first so that they can chill in the fridge. Begin by placing the cup of sesame seeds in a food processor and process until it's a weird grainy substance. Slowly add the sesame seed oil, adding more or less until the mixture starts to come together into a ball. Add the lemon juice, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Process.

Add the olive oil and soy sauce. Process and taste. If it isn't spicy enough, add more red pepper flakes. If it's too salty, add more oil and sesame seeds. Process until smooth. Add more or less 1/4 cup water to thin to desired sauce consistency. Garnish with red pepper flakes and sesame seeds and refrigerate.

Mmm, creamy, toasty, spicy, sesame-y goodness.
2. Prepare the papaya chutney. Chop the onion, ginger, and papaya beforehand. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and add the red pepper flakes to toast. Add the onion and allow to sweat for 5-10 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes

Add brown sugar, vinegar, curry powder, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. Stir until boiling. Add Papaya and stir so that all chunks are coated with the chutney base.

Let simmer for 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently until it looks like this:

While you're simmering the chutney, you may want to begin to cook the sushi rice (see step 5 below). If you want a thinner chutney, cut the papaya chunks smaller and cook longer. Otherwise, remove from heat and let cool. Chill in fridge until ready to use.

3. Prepare the sesame-crusted pan-seared tuna. Cut tuna into thin 3-4 inch long strips. Pat dry and then rub with vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Place both white and black sesame seeds in a shallow dish and mix. Roll each strip of tuna in the sesame seeds until coated.

Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a frying pan until it begins to smoke. Place each piece of tuna in the pan VERY briefly, rolling the tuna so that all sides come in contact with the pan. Remove and let cool. The tuna should be white on the outside and pink on the inside, with the white sesame seeds golden brown.
4. Prepare the tempura papaya. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Cut the papaya into strips. Combine flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Beat the egg and combine with the ice water in a medium bowl. Slowly add the dry mixture, stirring only until combined. The batter will be lumpy. Dip each piece of papaya in the batter, wiping as much excess as possible off with your fingers. Very little batter is needed for tempura. You should still be able to see the pink of the papaya. Place the battered papaya in the oil and remove after about ten seconds to avoid burning.

5. Cook the rice. This can be done while other parts of the recipe are cooking. Begin by putting the 3 cups rice in a bowl. Cover with water and mix with your hands. Drain the water. Repeat this process 4-5 times, or until the water above the rice is relatively clear. Drain and put the rice and 3 cups water in a large pan. Cook on high, uncovered, until it boils. Once it begins boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook ten additional minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Microwave for 30 seconds on high and stir. In a large ceramic bowl, combine the rice with the vinegar mixture. Fold until all rice is coated. Allow to cool to room temperature.
6. Assemble. Cut the cucumber into long, thin strips, discarding the seeds. remove the skins from the avocado and slice.

Clear off the table or counter and set out the bowl of sticky rice, the sauce, the chutney, the tuna, the papaya, a bamboo rolling mat, tin foil or plastic wrap, nori sheets, the veggies, a cup of warm water, a sharp knife, and a serving plate.

Decide whether you want the rice to be on the inside or the outside of the roll. My first roll had the rice on the outside, but since the rice was so fresh and sticky, it made the roll difficult to work with and cut. Rolling the rice on the inside was much more manageable, but not as pretty. If you are rolling the rice on the outside, cover your bamboo mat in tin foil or plastic wrap to keep it clean. Either spread about 1.5 cups rice directly on the mat and cover with a nori sheet, or put down a nori sheet first and cover with rice.

Place your fillings in a row about one inch from the edge of the nori sheet. Avocado can go inside the roll, or, if you are keeping the rice on the outside, it can top the roll.

Roll by gripping the fillings to keep them in place with your finger tips while using your palms to roll the mat and nori over the fillings. Make sure to tuck the edge under as you complete the roll so that the extra sticky rice holds everything together.

Cut the roll by dipping the knife in warm water between each cut. Cut slowly and carefully, making sure to go all the way through the nori. Arrange the sushi on a serving plate and garnish each piece with spicy sesame sauce and papaya chutney. Eat with chopsticks and try not to faint with happiness.

Happy eating, everyone. Good luck competitors! And happy birthday, Mom :)



  1. this not only looks delicious but it's absolutely beautiful also! Major creativity here!

  2. thanks! it was super fun to make :)

  3. This looks absolutely incredible. You have my vote!

  4. Wow this look good! I don't think the fish would stay fresh on it's way to Nova Scotia, I'll just have to make this one myself. I have some friends that I like to make sushi with. We are getting together tomorrow night to cook up something crazy. This could be it...

  5. Wow, you know what you could charge for these babies at a chic sushi joint. Good luck with the battle.

  6. Very creative use of the battle ingredients. Looks beautiful.

  7. I love how gorgeous it is! Yum! :)

  8. Congratulations! Can I grab the main picture to put on my blog in my post about the results?

  9. thanks! yours looked absolutely fantastic as well. of course, go right ahead :)

  10. EMILY! I'm so happy you won. Your recipe looked wonderful. Congratulations, girl.

    -Alex Harlan