Seared Tuna with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Albacore caught via “pole and troll” in the north Pacific Ocean is currently certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Albacore has a tendency to dry out if overcooked, so watch it carefully. Grapeseed oil is recommended in this recipe because it has a high smoking point and a neutral taste. Chinese black vinegar, sometimes labeled as Chinkiang vinegar, is an essential ingredient in this dish. Steamed rice and sautéed greens go well with it as accompaniments.–Andrew Weil

LC Not Your Typical Sweet And Sour Sauce Note

Let’s be very clear about one thing. Though this recipe shares the name of a sauce that’s ubiquitous on Chinese menus—and oft insipid, gloppy, cloying, and all manner of other undesirable traits—it couldn’t be more different than all that. This sweet and sour sauce is, quite simply, sweet and sour and lovely. Nothing else. It draws on the flavors of just four ingredients—soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and Chinese black vinegar, which is well worth tracking down for use in this recipe alone. [Editor's Note: Many, many thanks to the kind and gracious older gentleman in New York City's Chinatown who, when he saw us looking at the various labels on different brands of black vinegar to suss out which were the real deal and which were just caramel coloring and sugar, pointed us to the perfect bottle. Thank you, my dear man.]

Seared Tuna with Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 20 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • For the sweet and sour sauce
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, mashed
  • For the tuna
  • Four 5- to 6-ounce pieces tuna loin, preferably albacore
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Directions

  • Make the sweet and sour sauce
  • 1. Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl.
  • Sear the tuna
  • 2. Remove the tuna from the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before you intend to cook and let it rest at room temperature.
  • 3. Using your hands, press the salt and pepper on all sides of the fish.
  • 4. In a large, preferably nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Place the tuna in the hot oil, 2 pieces at a time. Sear on each side to the desired doneness. (Tuna is arguably best when rare in the middle.) Transfer the cooked tuna to a platter. Cook the remaining 2 pieces, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.
  • 5. Slice the tuna into 1-inch pieces and transfer to individual plates. Whisk the sweet and sour sauce to recombine and dribble it over or around the tuna. Serve immediately.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Bette Fraser

Sep 10, 2013

A good piece of tuna rarely needs much in the way of improvement, but this little sauce does just that. Don’t be lulled into thinking this is your typical sweet and sour sauce, as this is so much more. Why aren’t the horrible sweet and sour sauces in Chinese restaurants like this, when this is so easy? The Chinese black vinegar is certainly worth the small price. I only used 2 tablespoons sugar (rather than 4), and I found the sauce amply sweet. I then proceeded to ladle it on everything on my plate: the tuna, the steamed rice, and the sautéed veggies, all with glowing results. Certainly this is my new fave sauce!

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Sep 10, 2013

A very simple and elegant meal. The tuna was just delicious with the great flavors of the dipping sauce. I divided the sauce into 2 bowls and kept one warm in the warming drawer and the other at room temperature. I definitely preferred the warm sauce as it did not further cool the tuna and I could eat a warm meal. The key in the sauce is to really mash the garlic into a pulp so it blends well with the liquid, making it very tasty. I served it with sautéed baby bok choy.

Testers Choice
Kristen Kennedy

Sep 10, 2013

This was simple, easy, and delicious. Once you hunt down the Chinese black vinegar the recipe is a snap. Buy the best quality tuna you can afford and cook it rare. I used ground Szechuan peppercorns and yellowfin tuna loin, as my store didn’t have albacore. I warmed the sauce gently to incorporate the sugar. We served this over pureed peas and it was stunning visually.

Testers Choice
M.K. Morgan

Sep 10, 2013

I am not a fan of sweet and sour sauce, so this seemed like a stretch for me, but I was pleasantly surprised. I found it impossible to find albacore tuna, so I used ahi tuna steaks from Trader Joe’s. I did have the black vinegar and the grapeseed oil on hand. I made the sauce and let it sit for a number of hours then strained it. The sauce was not too sweet and was perfect with the tuna, which I sliced a little thinner than directed.

Testers Choice
Ralph Knauth

Sep 10, 2013

Very nice recipe. The sauce is made very quickly and accompanies the tuna perfectly. I used olive oil to sear the tuna, and that worked just fine. A very pretty, nice summer dish for a hot day, with just a simple green salad on the side.

Testers Choice
Lindsy G.

Sep 10, 2013

This was a very simple but satisfying dish. I don’t often cook fish, and when I do I try to find sustainable species, so it was nice to have some guidance there. I could only find albacore tuna at Trader Joe’s in the form of ½ -pound frozen steaks. I could’ve also used more guidance on a suggested cooking time because, despite the warning, I definitely overdid it a bit (especially since it continued to cook as it rested).
I was able to find the Chinese black vinegar, and the sauce was flavorful enough as is, though I’d add some ginger or scallions next time.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail