Seared Tuna with Sweet and Sour Onion Relish

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Appears in

A World in My Kitchen

A World in My Kitchen

By Peter Gordon

Published 2003

  • About

Tamarind is the seed pod from a beautiful tree in South East Asia and India. It has a sour, tongue-puckering taste and is extremely refreshing. You can find it in most Indian food shops. Make sure you choose line-caught tuna whenever possible. This also works really well made with mahi mahi or swordfish.


  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 × 180 g(6 oz) pieces tuna loin, about 2 ½ cm (1 in) thick
  • 80 ml(2 ½ fl oz) olive oil
  • 4 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 4 limes, zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar or caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
  • ½ cup coriander leaves
  • 8 large basil leaves


Lightly season the fish and brush with a little oil. Leave to rest at room temperature while you make the relish. Heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the onions on a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they begin to colour, add garlic and turn heat up to high. Stir continuously for a minute, then add lime zest and juice, sugar, tamarind paste and Thai fish sauce. Cook a further minute, then stir in coriander and basil leaves. Remove from heat.

Heat a griddle iron, skillet or heavy frying pan until really hot and smoking. Place tuna on and cook for only 45 seconds each side. The fish will be rare and moist inside. Remove to a plate and top with hot relish. Serve with crunchy steamed greens or a green salad.