Sesame Crusted Seared Tuna & Ponzu Sauce

This is a tale of my love/hate relationship with Chinatown.


  • Crowded sidewalks where people seem to find sheer enjoyment in blocking traffic by standing still, dead smack in the middle.
  • The language barriers like the time I asked the old Chinese man who was tending the produce section if the leafy vegetable in my hand were pea shoots, he stared at me blankly then laughed hysterically.
  • That when I ask the fish monger “What type of fish is that?” he replies curtly, “Can’t you tell?”.


  • Inexpensive produce where I can satisfy our shitake mushroom obsession for $3.50/lb.
  • Inordinate amount of exotic ingredients like shrimp anchovy paste and Szechuan peppercorns.
  • Inexpensive and fresh sushi grade tuna for $6.40/lb.


2 two-inch thick sushi grade tuna steaks
1 cup black sesame seeds
3/4 cup toasted sesamed seeds
3/4 cup wasabi sesame seeds (optional)
100% pure sesame oil
  1. In a shallow bowl large enough to fit the tuna steak, combine all three sesame seeds. Brush sesame oil on each tuna steak and coat all sides generously with the sesame seeds. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Use enough oil to coat the pan. When the oil is very hot (usually a little smoke will come out from the skillet), place the tuna on the skillet for about 30 seconds on each side. Use tongs to hold the tuna and sear all six sides. Place tuna on a plate and cool in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Serve with ponzu sauce and a side salad of pea sprouts topped with a citrus vinaigrette.
Ingredients (ponzu sauce):

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
3 Tbsp premium quality soy sauce
2 2-inch strips of dried kelp
chopped scallions for garnish
  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Ponzu sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

18 Responses to “Sesame Crusted Seared Tuna & Ponzu Sauce”

  • ravenouscouple Says:

    Dhale…your “hate” section had me laughing out loud–quite honestly, I miss that about NYC Chinatown now that I’m out here in LA. Didn’t mind pushed and elbowed by little old octagenerian ladies–one time even saw a fight nearly break out because one lady tried to slyly cut in line…sigh, none of that excitement here in the wide lane markets here.. gorgeous photos as always.

  • Lindsay Says:

    Beautiful. I have a full on “hate” relationship with Chinatown in San Francisco. It’s dirty, crowded, and obnoxious smelling. Some people however, are fascinated with it. I’d rather spend any day at the Ferry Building :-)

  • penny aka jeroxie Says:

    oh! wasabi sesame seeds! I hope to find these. Love the photos. YUM!

  • Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes Says:

    Wow! Love how you cooked your tuna! Looks so fresh and delicious! I love tuna, especially with Korean food like kimchi. I also love this version of tuna. I should definitely try this!

  • elizabeth @ The Manhattan [food] Project Says:

    PLEASE spill on where to go in Chinatown!! That’s on our list of places to go, and a guide would be extremely helpful. Especially if it means getting sushi-grade tuna at $6.50/lb.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Ravenous: The LA Chinatown is nothing like the one here in NYC for sure. It’s so much more fun to play “Frogger” with the old ladies on the sidewalk. I’m just afraid one of these days I may knock one of them over. Thanks so much :)

  • Dhale Says:

    @Lindsay: Surprisingly, I have not been to the SF Chinatown. So weird and not sure why I’ve missed it on all my visits. Despite the funky smell, overcrowded streets and obnoxious yelling in my ears, I have to admit I love going there. Just can’t beat the prices – anywhere else in Manhattan and you’ll pay an arm and a leg for Asian products.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Jeroxie: Thank you!!! I never even knew they existed until I stumbled upon them at the back of some tiny little Asian market in Chinatown. The taste isn’t that much of a difference but I love using them to add color to the presentation.

  • Dhale Says:

    @Sook: I’ve never tried tuna with Korean food before. I may just snag a jar of kimchee next time I’m in K-Town. And you should definitely try it out with ponzu sauce. Makes a nice, healthy meal or appetizer :)

  • Dhale Says:

    @Elizabeth: When I moved here last year, I was so lost in Chinatown and very intimidated. Luckily my bf’s colleague knows her way around and has pointed us in the right direction. Wish I could give you the names of the stores but I never look! I only know cross streets but hope it helps!

    For the tuna, I go to the open air fish joint on Canal and Baxter. There are actually two of them but I only go to the one that’s on Canal and closer to Baxter. I’ve been going there for a year now and this was my first time seeing tuna. I actually just got back from there today and I nabbed another piece. I’m always a little suspicious on the honesty of the fish mongers because I’m convinced they really don’t understand my questions so I found this site that really helped me to understand what “sushi grade” really means. When I’ve seen their tuna, it’s always been frozen and in the thawing process which, according to the website, is correct.

    For other cool market items like roasted duck, live fish and produce I go to a large market on Mott and Hester. Really not sure about the name of it but it’s on Mott and it’s huge inside. There’s also another one on Hester called Hong Kong Supermarket. Never been there but I’ve heard it’s comparable.

    Hope this stuff helps!

  • Tasty Trix Says:

    When I lived in NYC, I had a love/hate relationship with Chinatown also … but mostly I ended up on the love side. I really loved to go on a weekday when it wasn’t that crowded (relatively speaking) and just wander around … beautiful tuna photos! Yum yum.

  • Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    I need to visit Chinatown with you. I didn’t realize they had sushi grade tuna for such a steal of a price!

  • Joy Says:

    wow so beautiful! I have never heard of wasabi seeds!! How interesting — hahaha I love the lack of any type of mannerisms whenever I go back to China, I guess it is the same even in New York. This tuna looks so luxurious and I am a huge fan of Ponzu sauce!!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Tasty Trix: I’m with you! It’s hard not to love the variety of goodies you can find in Chinatown. I almost always go on a weekday too!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Christine: Yes! We need to go on a field trip to Chinatown. I always find something new whenever I go there. The fresh tuna isn’t always available though but when I come across it, I feel like I just discovered a pot of gold!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Joy: Oh the stuff I find in Chinatown. I always see so many random but cool ingredients. Sometimes I just grab them off the shelves without even knowing what it’s used for until I get home and google them :)

    Chinatown trips are always amusing because of these “mannerisms” or lack thereof. I can’t imagine what it’s like in China…

  • Malou@IMPROMPTU Says:

    i laughed when i read your comment about chinatown… that it’s always amusing because of these “mannerisms” or lack thereof… haha… that’s so true!
    btw, i just got over my initial disbelief that you mentioned my blog in one of your tweets… i’m so flattered that’s because it came from you (for real!) ok fine, we belong to a MAC (mutual admiration club-hehehe)
    now if only someone could walk me through on how to twitter… haha! im still not very TWITTER-ized!

  • Dhale Says:

    @Malou: It seems like all the Chinatowns across the nation have the same reputation!

    Love your blog and really enjoying the fact that you honor the filipino cuisine. Glad to have found it and very pleased to help promote it when I can! And I’m flattered that you’re flattered 😉 Thank you!!!

    I’m fairly new to Twitter myself and I’ve had to google how-tos like #FF and I can’t keep up with technology!

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