Monday, February 16, 2009

Gifts from the Sea

I know I've written about seaweed on this blog before, but I can't help going on about the stuff. This "vegetarian caviar" deserves to be on the menus of finest restaurants, though the fact that it's difficult to keep would be a deterrent. The local Bajau tribe put a leaf or two from a tree that grows in coastal swamps with the seaweed to help keep it plump and fresh. It seems to me that it should keep a day or so if stored in seawater, but I never get to test the theory as we eat it almost immediately.

To my delight, Jok En (visiting us from Rome) found some seaweed in the Filipino night market here in Kota Kinabalu, so I trimmed the grape-like bunches off the stems, rinsed them and tossed them with lime juice, shredded young ginger, sliced shallots and a bit of tomato. Such an explosion of flavour in every mouthful!

Another gift from the sea is yellow-fin tuna, quite abundant and inexpensive here. I bought some in the Kudat fish market for RM12 a kilo (about US$3.50)from the fish seller who managed to conduct a conversation on his mobile phone while cutting off a thick slice.

I kept some of it for pan-frying (dipping it first in Dukkah spice and nut mix) and the rest went into a vaguely Asian tuna carpaccio, made as follows:

1/2 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) lime or lemon juice
4-6 teaspoons fish sauce (depends how salty you like it
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
400 g sashimi-quality fresh tuna, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaf

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, fish sauce and black pepper in a small bowl, whisking to blend. Pour half of the dressing onto a flat plate large enough to hold tuna slices in one layer. Arrange the tuna on top of the dressing, then spoon the remaining dressing over the top. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20-30 minutes. Transfer the tuna slices to a serving plate, sprinkling with fresh coriander leaf.

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