Understanding the Art of Tataki
When you hear the term “tataki” referring to Japanese food – it has two meanings. The first is that it’s a verb, from the word ‘tataku’, meaning to pound or to hammer. However, it’s not the actual meat that’s being pounded. Instead, it’s ginger, which is ground or pound into a paste. The second, which is more used today, is that it’s a piece of beef or fish that is seared on the outside but left raw on the inside.
The tataki technique was said to have originated in the historic Tosa Province. It was developed by a 19th century rebel samurai, who applied the technique of grilling meat which he learnt from the Europeans residing in the city of Nagasaki.
The preferred fish to use for tataki is the bonito or skipjack tuna. However, ahi tuna and salmon have become more popular recently. Then the fish is marinated briefly in rice vinegar and thinly sliced for serving. The traditional presentation includes garnishes of finely sliced scallions and shredded ginger, with soy sauce for dipping. However, during the cooking, once the fish is flash-grilled, many chefs will submerge it to stop its cooking process. But because immersing the fish can wash away good fat and flavor, other chefs prefer to let the fish cool by fanning it, then thinly slicing it and presenting it to the guest.
When it comes to beef, a filet mignon or a sirloin strip is favored. To prepare beef tataki, firstly the sirloin steak is deboned. The combination of chopped scallions, ginger, lemon juice and soy sauce is drizzled over sticks of carrot, radish and sliced onion placed in a small bowl. Steak that was pre-seasoned with salt and some pepper is braised on both sides to obtain a medium-rare beef. After cooling slightly it is cut into thin slices and served with the prepared vegetables flavored with the sauce.
The art of tataki is achieved by quickly searing the meat over a grill that has high heat, giving crispiness to the skin but leaving the middle rare. When done correctly, the outside of the beef will be brown (while the fish should be white), and will have a pink or red middle.
Experiencing Tataki Art in Bellevue
To experience the art of tataki, try Flo’s New York Steak Tataki. It’s seared Omaha New York steak with shaved red onions, garlic chips, kaiware, wasabi crème fraiche and ponzu.