My social calendar kind of exploded last week, leaving little time to cook. I spent Wednesday evening out with friends for gourmet burgers, french fries with truffle oil cheese sauce (amazing!), and spiked milkshakes at BRGR in Pittsburgh, followed by some low-key bar-hopping in the South Side. On Friday, I spent most of my day in the car, driving down to Knoxville, TN, and enjoyed a long weekend there with my boyfriend and two close friends—we kayaked, went tubing, watched movies, and enjoyed some great food along the way (including delicious dishes and beer from a British pub called The Crowne and Goose). I got home from my trip down south yesterday and was back on duty for dinner tonight, being given the task to make something for my dad that he and I would like, but that my mom wouldn’t feel bad about missing (she had to go to an event tonight and she hates to miss out on my cooking). My dad and I are big fans of seared tuna—beautiful golden brown on the outside, perfectly pink on the inside, served warm—and I love to make this sesame-seared tuna and udon noodle dish for the two of us (adapted from here and here) when my mom can’t make it to dinner (she’s more of a “tuna cooked all the way” kind of person).
Prep. time: 20-30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
For the tuna:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet wine; cooking sherry works as well)
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- Wasabi paste
- 4, 6 oz. tuna steaks (the high the quality, the better)
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds (I use toasted seeds)
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
For the udon noodles:
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced or grated (I actually use a zester to finely grate it)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup peanut oil
- 3 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 dash hot pepper sauce
- 1 green bell pepper, julienned (thinly sliced)
- 1 orange bell pepper, julienned (thinly sliced)
- 4 green onions, minced (grocery stores sell them in small bunches, so I just use a whole bunch. Be sure to use the whites and only a little of the green above it—that’s where all the flavor is)
- 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
- 1, 7 oz. package udon noodles (I use dry noodles, not fresh)
For the tuna: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin (or cooking sherry), honey, and sesame oil and whisk together with a fork. Divide into two equal parts, then stir the rice vinegar into one part and set it aside as a dipping sauce (divide into four small bowls so each person gets their own). Put the tuna steaks in the bowl with the remaining mixture let them marinate while you prepare the other ingredients (be sure to turn them over so the sauce gets all over them). Spread the sesame seeds out on a paper plate and press the tuna steaks into the sesame seeds to coat both sides and the edges. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until very hot. Place steaks in the skillet and sear for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side. Serve with the dipping sauce and wasabi paste. The tuna should be cooked through just slightly, and remain pink on the inside—sear it for a short amount of time if you want it mostly raw on the inside.
For the udon noodles: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut oil, sesame oil, and hot pepper sauce. Close the lid and shake vigorously to mix the sauce. Set aside to let the flavors blend, shaking occasionally to mix it (the oils will separate if they sit too long). Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the udon noodles, cooking until tender, about 7 minutes (follow the package instructions for best results). Drain and return to pot. In the meantime, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the pepper slices and minced green onion. Heat in the microwave until warm, but still crisp, about 1&1/2 to 2 minutes. Add to the noodles and pour the sauce over everything, tossing to coat it all. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.
The marinade for the udon noodles is packed with great Asian flavors, like soy sauce and ginger, which makes it incredibly flavorful. The crunchy peppers and green onion add texture and a bright pop of color to the soft noodles too. If you get good quality tuna, it will slice like butter and melt in your mouth when properly cooked, and it’s absolutely delicious. Feel free to mix up what color bell peppers you use and consider grilling the tuna for a deeper flavor.