Thursday, February 2, 2012

Toro, Poke and Ceviche

Last weekend I enjoyed a piece of a toro nigiri sushi. Toro is from the fatty belly of the bluefin tuna. I know, I know— eating any part of a bluefin tuna should get me 50 lashes with a wasabi root-- but it was an incredible taste experience.

I promise that’s the first and last time I’ll eat toro sushi or sashimi.

In my ordinary life, I’ve limited my appetite for raw fish to ahi, or yellowtail tuna, even though Greenpeace in 2010 red flagged the catch as unsustainably harvested. Yellowfin as sashimi is a ceremonial dish and an expensive indulgence in Hawaii at New Year’s meals but It’s also a more affordable, year-round treat prepared as poki, a raw dish prepared with cubed ahi, sweet onion, green onion, soy sauce and sesame oil. That’s the basic recipe but there are variations adding kukui nut, Hawaiian seaweeds, hot peppers and more.

(Last weekend’s San Francisco-style poke came with bits of chopped pineapple. Ugh.)

There’s no excuse for eating bluefin tuna, thank you, but I think I can assuage the shame of eating yellowtail which might be endangered, threatened or unsustainably harvested by eating cerviche, bits of fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice and spiced with chilli peppers, onion, salt, cilantro, and pepper. The amount of fish to the total volume of the dish is relatively modest and the fresh taste sensational.

I had my samplers of cerviche at Fresca, a Peruvian restaurant on Fillmore. I’ve might be tempted to try it at home but it sure was a lot more fun eating it in San Francisco.

--Mike Sato

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