TJ’s AHI TUNA


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“The secret to cooking Ahi Tuna is not to overcook it”

“Ahi” is the Hawaiian word for Yellowfin Tuna. AHI TUNA STEAKS are sold in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. As the package states, “Wild Caught, Spain”, means it was fished from Spanish waters of the Atlantic.

How To Cook: A slow defrost overnight or longer in the fridge is the best method. Slow defrosting is best = but in an “emergency” you can try putting the package in a shallow dish and using the running cold water method, put it under the faucet with a slow stream of cold water. I suggest you Do Not nuke it to defrost it. The package states you should “remove from package before defrosting”. Huh? I’m not quite sure why… does anyone have a clue why? Anyway I defrost it in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours if I can. Once the fish is defrosted I marinate it for a half hour to an hour. As far as marinades go, I generally make a typical Asian/Japanese style marinade: Soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of honey or brown sugar, plus a bit of some oil, either olive oil or better still a teaspoon of TJ’s dark roasted sesame oil. You can add some type of acid if you like: a tiny amount of cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sake if you have it. You should serve it with some citrus, fresh Lemon or Lime.

Cooking Ahi Tuna: It is crucial that you don’t overcook tuna as it can dry out easily. Tuna is very easily overcooked so be careful with your cooking time. Personally I think AHI is best cooked in the Japanese “Tataki-style” way which is just searing the outside on all sides and leaving the center barely cooked, a bit pink. I generally cook it in a black cast iron pan over med-high heat with a little neutral oil, searing the outside for 60-90 seconds on one side then turning with tongs to cook the other sides for a minute. You can use the tongs on the sides but again be careful not to overcook your fish. After you do it once or twice you will get the hang of cooking this way. When done, take the fish out of the pan, and let it rest for a few minutes before you slice it. Which you will do against the grain like a steak. Be sure to save the pan juices and any juice that runs out on the cutting board to pour over your fish.

You can deglaze the pan with sake, rice vinegar, or a tablespoon of water, or some extra marinade that you saved at the beginning. I found that if you marinated the fish and use that marinade to deglaze the pan there is protein that coagulates when you cook it, so it glops up a little (I just thin it with soy and some water, it doesn’t bother me too much,  it makes it thicker thats all). If that gloppy stuff bothers you, don’t use the marinade, make a fresh sauce to serve with the fish. Here’s some ideas for sauces….

“Butter Shoyu” (Soy Butter Sauce) Put a fat dollop of butter in the pan along with a little soy sauce, which are a terrific combination. Mix it well and and pour over the Ahi. Serve with slices of fresh lemon or lime.

PONZU: Another classic Japanese sauce. Combine Soy sauce and fresh Lemon Juice. Do not cook this, just mix together. A bit of grated lemon rind would be a gourmet touch.

As in the photo of my finished Ahi, it should end up seared on the outside and pink in the center, just how pink is up to you. I like mine like it is in the thickest part, the center (just this side of raw) while my wife likes it as it is cooked on the ends (medium) which I think of as overcooked. As a final touch, I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top, sliced it against the grain, and put it on a bed of arugula, pouring the pan juices over the top. Ahi Tuna is really delicious and I am sure your family will also love this very steak-y fish (which they normally know from a can).

You could even try it as “Poke” I guess (ceviche style). I am willing to eat it this way but my (Japanese) wife won’t let me make this as poke as she says this is not “sashimi grade tuna” (true) which costs three times as much, selling for about $25/lb instead of this at $8/lb. So at 8 bucks a pound this is a another good deal from Mr. Trader Joe. Ahi Tuna is one of my favorite fishes that TJ’s carries, and I highly recommend trying it if you never have before. If you have any leftovers, it is delicious served cold the next day, maybe on a bed of rice or a salad.

ASIAN MARINADE: 2-3 tbs soy sauce; 1″ peeled fresh ginger, grated; fresh ground black pepper, a little honey or brown sugar, teaspoon of sesame oil (or olive oil) plus lemon or lime juice for a marinade (you can make a bit more and save some to serve on the side). Marinate in the fridge (on fully defrosted fish) for 30-60 minutes turning it once. Cook as desired.

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Having said how great this fish is please let’s not eat TOO much as this species is on the “near threatened” list. We eat AHI tuna no more than once a month. Though this says the Atlantic Yellowfin is sustainably harvested.

SHISHITO PEPPERS


Shishito Peppers are a Japanese pepper variety, quite popular and common in Japan and  just getting a bit known in the U.S. finally. But that might change soon, as they’re quite delicious — and especially now that you can find them so easily in your local TJ’s Produce Section, instead of having to look for them at a specialized Japanese grocery.

Shishito peppers are even a new “it” food you will see in upscale and trendy restaurants these days.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE PEPPERS – NOT SPICY -vs- SPICY!! 

As a rule Shishito Peppers aren’t spicy. That is until you get a Spicy one! The general saying about them is: “1 in 10 will be spicy”.  When you get a spicy one (my favorites) I would say they’re a bit less spicy than a jalapeño in level of kick. Meaning, yes it will be pretty spicy. So be warned, if you’re feeding them to your kid and grandma. If you bite into one and its spicy and you don’t like spicy, just put it to the side and the next one will in all likelihood be mild.

The usual way to make Shishito peppers are grill them in a pan over medium fire with a pinch of oil (sesame oil would be great) until they blister or get a tiny bit of char on one side, then turn them to the other side and do the same till cooked.

Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and they’re ready to serve. They can be a great little side dish, so they will go great with most anything you might serve as the Main. In Japan they are famous as a drinks snack served to go with beer or sake. You can also use them as an ingredient in foods, just as you would put in some green pepper.

LINKS

https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/shisito-pepper-recipes#charred-shishito-peppers-garlic-herb-oil

SHISHITO / WIKI

TJ’s sells a bag of them for $2.29 so they’re pretty affordable to try out…

We really love them in our house, and you might too. Give them a shot.

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Trader Joe’s Kimchi Fried Rice


 

TJ’s Kimchi Fried Rice

Disclaimer: I only tried this at the Sample Station. In fact I confess the Sample Station is the locus where I usually gravitate to almost immediately after I enter Trader Joe’s. I check out if they have something interesting to taste that day, and of course to grab myself a little cup of free coffee. Don’t you? Truly the Coffee Station is one of the best things about Trader Joe’s, isn’t it? Every supermarket should copy them; going shopping would be much more fun.


Kimchi Fried Rice is a fairly new item and TJ’s seemed to be promoting it quite a bit. Recently it was the product “on sample” 2 or 3 times that I had been to TJ’s of late. What I found funny was they had a sign next to the samples: Its said something like, “Warning: Spicy! Try at your own risk! If you can’t take spicy food, be careful!” Then I tasted it and my first thought was “Huh? This is spicy?”. Seriously to me it was about as spicy as baby food (I can take the heat). I started discussing this disconnect of the “WARNING” sign with the TJ employee who was in charge of the Sample Station at the time. He was of the same opinion – the Kimchi Fried Rice is not spicy at all! He cracked me up when he told me however how many people actually complained “Jeez this is so spicy” after they tasted the Kimchi Fried Rice on sample. So many that they put up the “warning, spicy” sign!

So here is what I thought after tasting the Kimchi Fried Rice. My wife is Korean-Japanese. So I knows me some Kimchi Fried Rice (the authentic Korean kind). I adore it. I can even cook a decent version myself. So if I compare that taste to this stuff, I just have to say this is a pretty bland, insipid version. The two times I tried it was soft and fairly mushy, plus it had barely any kimchi taste; To me, its flavor profile was just weak, which I attribute to an industrial production of such a “homey” dish. For one, truly Kimchi Fried Rice needs real garlic flavor, as well as Kimchi. This barely even had any garlic nor Kimchi flavor for me. The real thing is a fantastic dish, and this? Frankly to my tastes perhaps it would be suitable for babies (ok maybe Korean babies). Now having said that – Trader Joe’s does have a decent “ethnic” fried rice. TJ’s JAPANESE FRIED RICE is actually pretty good. In my years,  I’ve eaten tons of both Kimchi fried rice and Japanese fried rice and know what these should taste like, and I can cook decent versions of both.

So, sorry Trader Joe’s but in my opinion your KIMCHI FRIED RICE is a big miss!

If you try it, also try the JAPANESE FRIED RICE next time and see which you prefer. Pretty much same as TJ’s another new “Korean” addition, Trader Joe’s Kimchi, which I found such a poor product I actually “returned” it! Perhaps those who don’t live in a city where you can buy real kimchi sold at a Korean market, might think “so this is kimchi, tasty”.  Actually if you had real Kimchi you would know this stuff is not even close to being as tasty as a real Korean-made kimchi – for example this brand (Tobagi) of Napa cabbage kimchi I get at H-MART supermarket on 32nd Street (Manhattan’s Korea Town). If you A/B taste tested this prepared kimchi vs. the Trader Joe’s version? It would be almost a joke, its just no comparison! Anyone who’s been to a Korean restaurant will know the real taste of kimchi. At $1.99 (10 oz) you can try TJ’s version and see for yourself. Let me know what you think.

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Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean...

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean cuisine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)