Five days into Project Veggie, and I was in the mood for a burger. According to Claire’s rules, we are allowed to have fish once a week, so Thai Tuna Burgers fit the bill.
Like many people who go to college on a very small budget, I ate more than my fair share of canned tuna and Top Ramen. And like many of those people, I don’t often crave those foods these days. Tuna out of a can is great in a pinch, and my daughter loves it, but sometimes the smell just makes me queasy. It was quite a while after my college days that I had an actual piece of tuna in a restaurant for the first time. It came as a complete surprise that it didn’t taste anything like the tuna I was familiar with. This recipe uses the real stuff that you buy at the fish counter, not the stuff in the can. I haven’t tried substituting canned fish in this particular recipe, and frankly, they are so good using the fresh fish that I don’t want to.
I made these once for a group of people who came over for a BBQ. It was a somewhat odd mix of vegetarians (seafood eating vegetarians, obviously) and “meat and potatoes” types and I didn’t want to make multiples dishes. Instead I made a whole bunch of these, and they were gobbled up in short order by every single person. I don’t think most people even knew what was in them.
Last night I made a whole recipe (6 burgers) for the 3 of us, thinking I’d have leftovers for lunch, but no such luck. We all went back for a second burger and ate every bite. A simple & spicy cucumber salad was the perfect match for the burgers.
Thai Tuna Burgers
(adapted from Crazy Plates, by Janet & Greta Podleski)
1 1/2 pounds fresh tuna steaks
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or panko
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped red chile pepper (leave this out or use less if you don’t like spicy, they are hot!)
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup grated carrot
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 hamburger buns or rolls
lettuce, tomato, or whatever other burger toppings you like
Cut tuna steaks into large chunks and put in food processor. Pulse on and off until tuna is chopped into small pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the tuna into very small pieces with a sharp knife. Transfer to a large bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes (I admit to skipping this step more often than not, but it does help them set up a little firmer). Form mixture into 6 patties, about 1/2 inch thick. Grill, broil or cook in a large frying pan (my #1 choice) about 4 minutes per side. The burgers should be cooked all the way through, but do not overcook.
Spicy Cucumber Salad
1-2 English cucumbers (if you use regular cucumbers I recommend peeling & seeding), sliced
1 tbsp. finely chopped or sliced red chile pepper (the little ones that look like jalapenos)
1/4 cup finely chopped or sliced red onion
Salt & pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Combine all ingredients, except sesame seeds. Let it sit for awhile to let the flavors blend. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Leave out the peppers or use less if you don’t want it spicy. You can also substitute dried crushed red peppers for the chile if you don’t have one on hand.