March 29, 2016 — Family Food

Seared Tuna with Soba Noodle Salad

  • 1 hour
  • 2 PEOPLE
  • medium

‘Dad’s been experimenting with Japanese flavours for a while now – and has truly done this little tuna justice. But, Japanese food doesn’t have to be difficult, it only takes an hour, and you’ll be so proud with what you cooked up.’

'A classic family meal in the WDC household and a simply yummy Japanese dish...'

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What you need

See my notes above

300g-350g good quality tuna

200g-400g spinach

1 small mooli

150g – 200g soba noodles.

Toasted sesame seeds

2 spring onions



Sesame oil

Sesame dressing

Groundnut oil




Dad's Recipe Tales

A family favourite

There are some classic Japanese flavours here – but to get it right you’ll need to do some shopping…

Tuna: It should be good quality (but not sushi quality). Make sure you buy thick slices – at least 4 cm.

Seasame seeds: These should be the toasted Japanese type.

Sesame oil: Japanese is best.

Soba noodles: Buy good quality Japanese noodles with a high percentage of buckwheat.

Mooli or daikon: there is no alternative to this – so you’ll need a specialist grocer. Mooli are a large and long form of radish. The size may seem a problem, but in fact the length is an advantage – the aim is to get long julienne strands. Any left over will keep well in the fridge.

Julienne peeler (or mandolin – not recommended): I used to make beautifully thin and curly mooli salad on my mandolin. But I threw out my mandolin after cutting my finger. I will spare you the gory details – suffice to say I don’t miss it one bit. However, I have discovered a marvelous little tool; the julienne peeler (available from Lakeland). It’s safe as houses and nearly as effective as the mandolin. Although the vegetable shoe-strings it makes are more the army boot type than dress shoe, they make a perfectly good mooli salad.

Spinach: Make sure you buy spinach of fine quality, i.e. not ‘cooking’ or perpetual. I first discovered this spinach salad in a Japanese sit-down takeaway – the type that are ubiquitous throughout London. It was a revelation to eat cooked spinach as a cold salad! However, it only works with sesame dressing…

Sesame dressing: So good you’ll want to pour it over everything. I used to make this from scratch using Japanese sesame paste – I felt very proud of myself as it is quite a tricky thing make. However, not surprisingly for such a good dressing, it can now be bought ready made in Japanese grocers. NB: If you cannot find this try adding tahini and crushed sesame seeds to some of the soy dressing…

Soy dressing: You need to buy a good quality Japanese soy. The dressing is based on a Nobo recipe. It’s similar to ponzu dressing – soy and lemon and a bit of oil and sugar. Use groundnut oil if possible – it has a very light and neutral taste.


Shiso – or Perilla: This is worth seeking out. Shiso is from the mint family and although there are mint notes there is something else to the taste that is completely distinctive and is impossible to mimic. Only a small amount of this perfumed and heady herb will bring an authentic scent of the orient over your table.

Shichimi: Japanese chilli powder. I do have this in my cupboard, but did not use it. For a formal meal I would offer it on the table (as Wagamama do). But, if one is not careful this can end-up being used like salt and pepper or ketchup – put on everything without thinking. My instincts were that the tuna was so subtle that it would be overpowered by the shichimi.


How Dad Cooked It

The dish can be eaten with hot noodles and warm tuna or as a cold salad. It travels very well – make more than you need and take a portion into work in a Tupperware box.

  1. Prepare the tuna. Wash and dry the tuna. Coat lightly with groundnut oil and pepper. Then roll in sesame seeds so that every side is evenly and thickly coated.
  2. Prepare the mooli. Wash and peel part of the mooli. Use a julienne peeler to make sufficient strands for two portions. Place in a bowl of ice cold water.
  3. Cook the spinach. Was the spinach and drain well. Cook on a high heat in a large wok with lid without adding further water. Turn the spinach often and cook until evenly wilted and just cooked through. Drain and plunge briefly into a bowl of ice cold water. Drain again. Now remove the excess water from the spinach. You will need to work out the best way to do this – my Harumi Japanese recipe book says to squeeze it in your hands – but I used two strainers alternating which was on top of the other and pressing each time to remove water from under and over the spinach. You could use a colander using a bowl to press out the water. Whichever way you do it the key to the success of this recipe is to extract all the water.
  4. Cook the soba noodles. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the soba noodles until al dente. It’s best to stop what you are doing and concentrate on the noodles – they only take a few minutes. You need to ‘ride’ the dial on your cooker, adjusting the heat to keep the water at the boil but without boiling over. Keep testing the noodles until done. Then drain reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Cool the noodles briefly under running water, drain and put into a large bowl or pan with the reserved cooking liquid and drizzle over a teaspoon of sesame oil. Stir the noodles often to stop them sticking.
  5. Make the soy dressing. Start with a proportion of 40ml soy to 40ml groundnut oil. Add half a teaspoon of caster sugar and lemon to taste. It should taste like a dressing but have very noticeable soy and lemon notes.
  6. Cook the tuna. This process will depend on the thickness of the tuna and heat of your pan. Use a thick cast-iron skillet if possible without oil. Put the heat to high and wait for the pan to get smoking hot. Place the tuna in the pan and cook for 1 – 2 minutes per side and edge. The sesame seeds should brown but not burn. You can make an exploratory stab with a knife. The idea is not to make seared sushi – there is a subtle difference: what we are after is very rare tuna – almost raw in the middle turning pink toward the edges and then grey and toasted at the very edge. I wrap my tuna in foil and leave it for several minutes. This has the effect of gently cooking the tuna all the way through.
  7. Assemble the dish. Compress the spinach into a greased ramekin and turn out onto a plate. Drain, dry and twirl the mooli strands into a small nest and place on the plate. Drain the noodles and twirl into another nest and place on the plate. Cut the tuna into slices about 7mm thick and arrange on the plate. Serve with chopped spring onion or chives garnish (use some shisho if you have it). Put the soy dressing and sesame dressing in dipping dishes or small sauce boats and serve alongside the dish. For a crowd I normally serve each element in large serving bowls or dishes and let everybody help themselves.
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