Fresh Tuna Burgers with Ginger & Cilantro

I’ve been killing time this morning, watching Spongebob with my kiddos.  I’m pretty sure I like Spongebob just as much as they do — maybe even more.  What’s not to love about a happy little sponge from an underwater village called Bikini Bottom, who’s always cheerful and upbeat, loves his job, his boss, his eclectic group friends, and going jelly-fishing for fun?   Besides, the show is so well written, there’s always a little bit of mature humor thrown in for grown-ups like us to appreciate.

If you’re unfamiliar with the whole premise of the show, Spongebob works the grill at the Krusty Krab, where he takes great pride in his job as a fry cook, flipping burgers with his favorite spatula all day long.  A recurring theme throughout the series is the evil Plankton’s quest for the Krabby Patty secret formula, which of course, is never divulged.

Well, here’s what a Krabby Patty would taste like if I ran the Krusty Krab!

These burgers are made from the ahi tuna steaks that are on sale this week.  The recipe, which I originally saw a year ago in Fine Cooking, has spicy Thai flavors and a sweet and salty dipping sauce.  One note about the sauce:  it’s PUNGENT.  Truthfully, I didn’t like it at first, but it definitely grew on me.  Here’s a suggestion:  if you make the sauce and you think it’s too strong, put a little mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.  Add the dipping sauce by the tablespoon until you get the flavor and consistency that you like (for me it was about 3 tablespoons, plus a little extra chili garlic sauce).

Also, it’s pretty important that you use your tuna rather quickly after you buy it; I mean, don’t let it sit around in your fridge for days on end.  These burgers are best served medium-rare on the inside, so keep it fresh.  Trust me.  And don’t over cook them or they will be dry, and dry tuna is no good!  We had basmati rice and steamed asparagus, which were good sides.

By the way, do you think the residents of Bikini Bottom would balk at my tuna version of Krabby Patties?  It might present an ethical issue for them, now that I think about it…because, after all, most of the Krusty Krab’s customers are FISH…maybe I should re-think my ingredients.

In the meantime, enjoy!


Serves:  4

Source:  Fine Cooking Magazine, August/September 2008 issue, p.48.

For the Tuna Burgers:

  • 1 lb. fresh ahi tuna steaks
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 T. finely chopped scallion
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • 1 t. minced ginger
  • 1 t. chili garlic sauce (find this in the Asian aisle; I like the Lee Kum Kee brand)
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 2 T. cooking oil

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • ¼ c. fresh lime juice
  • 2 ½ T. sugar
  • 2 T. fish sauce
  • 1 ½ t. rice vinegar
  • Pinch of finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 t. chili garlic sauce

With a very sharp knife, chop the tuna in to ¼” dice.  Alternately, cut the tuna into chunks and pulse in a food processor until just chopped (about 4 quick pulses).  Don’t over-process.  Gently stir in the cilantro, scallion, mayonnaise, ginger, chili garlic sauce, ¾ t. salt, and ¼ t. black pepper.  Shape the tuna mixture into 4 equal 1”-thick patties.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Meanwhile, make the sauce:  combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors blend.

Heat the oil in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the tuna burgers until nicely browned on both sides but still pink in the center, 2-4 minutes total.  Serve with the Thai-Style Dipping Sauce.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | August 14th, 2009