Timepass: Tiffin with tuna
With stratospheric fish prices, a healthy and delicious — but ethically uncomfortable — alternative is in the markets
First, the warning: This column is about a fish that you or I should perhaps not be eating.
I bought it for two reasons: At a time when ridiculous prices were being quoted for my other favourites (Rs 500 per kg for sole; Rs 400 for surmai, or kingfish), the tuna I found was selling at Rs 150 per kg.
Stocks of tuna across the world have been depleting at an alarming rate, thanks to rapacious overfishing. The tuna specie most endangered is the Atlantic bluefin, the fish most favoured in sushi. The bluefin — which is dogged fighter and can grow longer and broader than you and I — has been so targeted by industrial fishing ships to feed the growing worldwide appetite for sushi that ocean stocks are down by 75 per cent. The country most responsible for this calamitous decline is Japan, which takes about 80 per cent of the worldwide bluefin catch.
I have not joined the bluefin-tuna crime scene by waffling down tuna sushi, which is almost impossible to find in India. My connection with tuna in general has been limited to its canned variety.
So, I was astonished this week to find tuna at my fishmonger in Delhi’s INA Market. Tuna is not something I see very often, and it certainly isn’t a fish I’ve ever bought from a market in India.
Let me hastily clarify that this was no bluefin tuna. I’m guessing it was the blackfin tuna, which frequents the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Its numbers too have dwindled, as with all fish, but not as precipitously as its cousin the bluefin.
So, after reluctantly giving up on the sole and surmai, I turned my attention to the yellowfin. At Rs 150 per kg, the price seemed unbelievable (even black pomfret was Rs 280 per kg). Could this be true?
Well, I thought, let’s try it. So I selected what seemed like a reasonably sized 2-kg fish, firm and fresh: Blackfins don’t grow as big as their bluefin cousines. I had it cut into thick slices and with breathless anticipation rushed home.
Now, I do know that tuna is an especially healthy fish to eat. This must have a lot to do with the fact that it is one of the ocean’s strongest swimmers, migrating great distances and capable to speeds up to 48 kmph. Now, that is fast! All this builds muscle and fibre.
I’ve put away most of the tuna in my freezer, so please send me ideas on what to do. It’s a heavy fish and very filling, so it takes well to spices. While I was cleaning it, I couldn’t resist putting aside three steaks for my early lunch — or tiffin as we call it in the south.
You can read about my experiment below. I am happy to report it was delicious, eaten with rice, rajma and some Sindhi sai bhaji.
I am now officially a fan of tuna, but I will make sure I eat it only every once in a while.
Fresh, fried tuna
3 tuna steaks (tell your fishermonger you want pieces for frying; 1-inch thick steaks should do)
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
Method: Add all of the above to the steaks and marinate for at least an hour. In a non-stick pan, gently heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Increase heat. Fry steak on one side till golden brown, then flip to do the same for the other side. Reduce heat and ensure steaks are cooked through.