Island Ahi Ceviche - Poisson Cru
By now, finding a Poke Bowl stand or shop in Phoenix, and other major cities has become pretty ubiquitous. Add sushi rice, some fresh cucumbers, ginger and soy to a heaping scoop of minced tuna and you’ve got the inevitable Poke bowl However, not all island tuna bowls are created equal.
A couple years ago, while exploring the Island of Maui, I ended up in Paia Town; a bohemian little gem of a town… laid back, in traditional Hawaiian fashion, and super charming. If you’ve been to Maui and have traveled the Road to Hana you’ve most likely traveled through Paia Town on your way to Hana and if you are wise you’ll make your way back here just to stop in Paia for a day trip.
While wandering through the streets and on a search for the perfect afternoon island snack, I sought out a shave-ice store by the name of Tobi’s Shave Ice. Now, if shave ice is your thing go for it, but I was on a mission for something a little more savory; the Poke. Tobi’s poke is known to be fresh and has a earned a reputation for it. Let me tell you, my mind was officially blown at how fresh and delicious the poke was at this unassuming corner stop (not to mention, cheap!)
But I’m not here to talk about Tobi’s, nor am I advertising for them. Although, I must say this isn’t a bad little blurb for them either. Let me get right down to it. The Ceviche, peeps! I mean, this isn’t your traditional, South American style ceviche. This was different, it was the beach in a bowl, except less sandy. It was bathed in a lime and coconut marinade and fresh as hell. I had to know what else was in it. It couldn’t be as simple as mixing fresh ahi with coconut and lime could it?
As soon as I got home, I was determined to find out what this ceviche was, exactly. A random search of Hawaiian Ceviche doesn’t do the trick, folks. The ingredients are different and the flavor profile wasn’t quite the same. On my online research expedition I came up with one or two bloggers with their own versions but something was missing. I did, however, discover that this dish isn’t actually Hawaiian, per se, it’s Polynesian. Think Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti. This ceviche goes by the name of ‘Ota ika, or Poisson Cru in French, which literally translates to ‘raw fish’, and it’s addicting. Eat it as a meal, a snack, an appetizer… whatever you’d like. Just eat it.
So, since Phoenix has been as hot as the surface of the sun and apparently so has the rest of the world, why not give you my version of this fresh and delightful no-cook meal? You’ll instantly be transported to a far away Polynesian Island, toes burrowing in the sand and the island breeze sweeping across your cheek.
This recipe is no-fuss and comes together in about 15 minutes. Some fresh diced vegetables, quality tuna and the marinade are super simple. The ahi is lightly cooked in lime juice before it’s dressed in the coconut marinade but there is not much involved. Chop, mix, garnish and eat. That’s it. Really, that’s all it takes.
Step 1 - Preparing the Vegetables
This ceviche is not complicated and it doesn’t require a ton of ingredients. Just the basics here: Carrot, tomato, cucumber, and onion. The key is you want the dice very similar in size. I also recommend setting the tomatoes and cucumber dices on a paper towel so the excess moisture can drain and you won’t end up with a wet, soggy ceviche. Sounds crazy, right? I know ceviche is already in a liquid, but you don’t want the flavor watered down or the water from the tomatoes or cucumbers keeping the marinade from incorporating fully.
Step 2 - Cutting and “cooking” the ahi
There isn’t much involved when cutting tuna for poke style serving. Keep these tips in mind for success: buy quality, sushi grade tuna, (My favorite place in Phoenix is Chula, which I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about before. Yes, you can actually get fresh fish in the dessert now!), use a seriously sharp knife, because a dull knife is a dangerous knife, cut against the grain for a fresh, non-rubbery bite of fish.
I say “cook” the ahi because you aren’t actually cooking the fish. Marinating it briefly in lime juice means the acid in the citrus will cook the outside of the fish making the consistency perfect for this recipe.
Step 3 - Dress the ceviche mix
The marinade in this ceviche is so easy you could literally just mix lime juice, salt and coconut milk and be done. Of course, I like to dress it up a little more to bring out all the flavors in this dish. Using the scallion whites and greens separately add layered flavor and mixing in lime juice into the coconut marinade as well as “cooking” the ahi in lime juice also bring out the acidic brightness in the ceviche.
Are you ready to make ‘Ota Ika?
Recipe: Island Ahi Ceviche – ‘Ota ika/Poissonn Cru
Prep – 10 minutes Cook Time – 5 Min
8 oz Ahi - Sushi Grade Tuna, Diced
½ English cucumber - seeded and diced
6 oz cherry tomatoes – quartered
1 medium carrot, shredded or julienned
½ bunch scallions – sliced, whites and greens divided
¼ red onion – diced
1 lime – zested and juiced
2 Tbs cilantro, coarsely chopped
Optional: serrano pepper, seeded and diced
8 oz coconut milk
Sea salt to taste
White pepper to taste (black pepper is fine to use)
Garnish: black sesame seeds
Step 1 – Place all diced vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add cilantro and scallion whites reserving about a teaspoon of the chopped cilantro and all of the scallion greens. Set aside.
Step 2 – add the diced tuna and the juice of half a lime to the mixing bowl. Mix well and refrigerate about 5 minutes allowing the tuna to cook partially on the outside. (The tuna will appear opaque on the outside but still be pink on the inside).
Step 3 – mix coconut milk, juice of the other half of the lime and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Add half of the reserved scallion greens to the marinade and stir.
Step 4 – Pour the marinade mixture into the tuna bowl and combine thoroughly.
Step 5 – Plate in a bowl or shallow rimmed dish and garnish with lime zest, scallions and cilantro. Serve with taro chips, sushi rice or eat as is. Enjoy.