For both the fish marinade and the sesame wasabi cream, prepared wasabi from a tube makes life easy. It’s available at the sushi counter of most large supermarkets. Wasabi paste usually contains some oil and salt. If using powdered wasabi (found in the Asian section), mix it with water to a paste consistency; it’s more pungent than paste, so start with less than the recipes indicate.
The sesame wasabi cream also calls for tahini — toasted sesame seeds pureed with salt. Look for tahini (sesame seed paste) in Middle Eastern stores or the peanut butter sections of large supermarkets. It’s great to have on hand; try it stirred into a vinaigrette for a creamy dressing with no cream added, or puree it with chickpeas for delicious homemade hummus.
True, satisfying tacos feature inventive fillings, but the wrapper matters too. In Chicago, the local tortillerías deliver fresh tortillas daily; they taste best used the same day. Flour tortillas keep a bit longer and suit these tacos beautifully. Be vigilante when you shop, and select those made without preservatives. I like the organic corn and wheat tortillas from La Tortilla Factory; they’re sold in the refrigerated case.
My favorite wrapper for the taco recipes here turns out to be naan bread sold in the bread aisle or the freezer case. Use one 4-ounce bread per serving. Whether you choose tortillas or naan, be sure to heat the wrappers over a gas flame, grill or in a heated cast-iron to soften, warm and lightly toast before filling.
I like to serve a quick, richly flavored corn soup, made from frozen sweet corn and canned coconut milk, alongside fish tacos. Be sure to use coconut milk intended for culinary purposes, such as the cartons by SO Delicious or tinned coconut milk for Thai cooking. I also like Native Forests organic coconut cream; simply dilute the 5.4-ounce can with 1 cup water. The soup makes a light entree with the addition of grilled shrimp and grilled green onions or zucchini.
Chilled Sapporo or Kirin beer pairs perfectly with these tacos. My son says these are the best tacos ever — high praise indeed in our world.
Tuna Tacos With Sesame Wasabi Cream
Prep: 30 minutes
Marinate: 30 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 3 to 4 servings
Fine shreds of napa cabbage can stand in for the daikon. Or use red radish and slice it paper thin.
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sweet mirin or light agave syrup
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
1/2 tsp. prepared wasabi paste
14 to 16 oz. fresh or thawed tuna (or salmon) fillets, about 1 inch thick
4-inch chunk fresh daikon radish, peeled
Vegetable oil for high-heat cooking
3 or 4 naan breads (or 6 to 8 small flour tortillas)
Sesame wasabi mayo, see recipe
Lemony cherry tomato and avocado salsa, see recipe
Chopped fresh cilantro
Mix soy sauce, mirin, ginger and wasabi in a small bowl. Put tuna into a plastic food bag. Add half of the marinade; close bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate covered, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the daikon into long very fine shreds. (I use a julienne peeler.) Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Shortly before serving, remove tuna from marinade and oil it lightly. Heat a well-seasoned grill pan or nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles vigorously. Add the tuna in a single uncrowded layer; sear one side without turning, 2 minutes. Carefully loosen the tuna from the pan; flip it over. Immediately slide the pan into the hot oven to finish cooking, about 3 minutes for medium rare. Transfer tuna from pan to a cutting board. Let rest while you heat the naan or tortillas.
One at a time, pass the naan or tortillas over a gas flame to heat through and toast lightly. (Alternatively, heat them in a very dry hot skillet, turning until supple and golden.)
Slice tuna into 1/8-inch-thick pieces. To build the tacos, spread one side of the naan or tortillas generously with the sesame mayo. Top with a portion of the tuna, then a generous spoonful of the salsa and a mound of daikon. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Lemony Cherry Tomato and Avocado Salsa
Prep: 15 minutes
Makes: about 2 cups
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups
3 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 to 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe medium avocado, halved, pitted, flesh diced
Mix lemon juice and zest, salt and sugar in a small bowl until salt is dissolved. Stir in tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Gently mix in avocado. Serve at room temperature. (Salsa can be refrigerated covered for up to several hours, but let it come to room temperature before serving.)
Sesame Wasabi Cream
Prep: 5 minutes
Makes: about 1/2 cup
Leftovers make a terrific sandwich spread — especially with roast turkey or thin slices of roast pork.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. tahini paste
1 1/2 tsp. prepared wasabi paste
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
1 to 2 Tbsp. half-and-half or milk
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl adding half-and-half to achieve a mixture with the consistency of ketchup. Use at room temperature. (Refrigerate covered up to 1 week.)
Sweet Corn Chowder With Popcorn and Red Chili
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: about 5 cups
The addition of diced, grilled shrimp and grilled green onions or zucchini tastes great here.
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen super sweet corn kernels, thawed
2 cups organic chicken broth
11 to 14 oz. unsweetened culinary coconut milk
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt to taste
About 2 cups popped popcorn
Sriracha hot sauce
Put corn, broth, coconut milk, shallot, garlic and ginger into a medium saucepan. Heat to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, over very low heat, 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Puree smooth with immersion blender (or work in batches in a blender and then return to the saucepan). Season with salt. Serve in small bowls topped with popcorn and a swirl of Sriracha.