The clock strikes noon, and the hunger pangs have just started to gnaw at an empty stomach. There is the option of popping open a can of flakey dolphin-safe tuna and dumping it along with a heaping spoonful of thick mayonnaise into the bowl. A quick chop of pickle, half an onion, and maybe a celery stick on a cutting board is sure to give the inevitable mixture some texture and bit of briny flavor. Lastly, smear that creamy, crunchy, concoction on a slice of soft bread with a lettuce leaf and a slice of ripe tomato (just so it’s well rounded) and top with another slice of bread. Behold the classic tuna salad sandwich, a sandwich that has sated lunchtime hunger for decades. This is what comes to mind when I hear the term “tuna salad”, but what I present to you is something completely different.
I wanted to make something that was reminiscent of the classic but twisted incorporate a completely different flavor profile. To do this I turned to the idea of the spicy tuna roll, a type of Americanize sushi that has tuna as its main ingredient, nori seaweed, a spicy mayo blend, and often includes carrot and cucumber. Sadly rice, being the main component of sushi, is left out of this inspired sandwich, but is swapped out for a sweet brioche bun that does a fine job as a substitute.
For the tuna, the canned kind is forgotten and replaced with tuna steaks. A mirin based marinade infuses the steaks with hints of sweet and savory that when cooked caramelize on the outside. Shredding it into large chunks allows the fish to blend with the “spicy” portion of this reconstruction; wasabi and mayonnaise mixed together to become creaminess full of heat.
Not wanting to change the texture of the filling, I included some quick marinated slices of cucumber and carrot. The sweet tang from more mirin and rice vinegar, soften these vegetables just enough to make them easy to crunch into when taking a bite of this sandwich.
For the last bit of sushi influence, I couldn’t forget the nori. Sheets of toasted seaweed are often found in sushi rolls. They lend a fresh sea salted flavor to the fishy rice rolls and do the same with this sandwich being stirred into the tuna filling as well as a garnish on top.
It sounds like a lot of work for a tuna salad sandwich, but I can attest to the fact that this is one of, if not the, best tuna sandwiches I’ve ever had and would suggest everyone give it a try!
Sushi Roll-inspired Tuna Salad Sandwich
- 1 pound tuna steaks de-boned
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 inch fresh ginger root peeled and grated
- Marinated Cucumber and Carrot
- 1 cucumber
- 1 carrot
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
- 1-2 sheets nori
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons wasabi paste
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 4 brioche buns
Place tuna steaks in a shallow dish. Whisk mirin, sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger together in a small bowl. Pour the marinade over the tuna steaks, turning them over in the liquid to get all sides coated. Cover and set aside for at least 10 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Trim both ends of the cucumber and carrot. Using a vegetable peeler, peel one side of the cucumber and discard that peel. Continue to peel the cucumber in thin strips until the seeds are reached. Turn the cucumber over and repeat the process until all the cucumber is in thin strips. Cut the cucumber strips in half.
Use the peeler to peel the entire outside of the carrot. Use the vegetable peeler to peel thin strips of the carrot also into ribbons. Cut the ribbons in half.
Put the peeled cucumber and carrot into a bowl and add in the rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, and black sesame seeds. Mix well and set aside.
Lay the nori on a cutting board and roll it up. Using clean kitchen scissors cut the nori into thin ribbons. Separate half of the ribbons and set them aside. Using a sharp knife, finely mince the other half of the nori into little pieces.
Place a non-stick pan on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the minced nori to the pan and allow it to toast, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Transfer the toasted nori to a small bowl.
Pour the sesame oil into the same non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Lay the marinated tuna in the hot pan, pouring the rest of the marinade in as well, and allow them to cook 5-7 minutes on each side, allowing each side to brown and the marinade to caramelize a bit.
Once the tuna is cooked through, transfer the steaks to a medium sized bowl. Using two forks, shred the cooked tuna into chunks.
In a small bowl stir the wasabi paste and mayonnaise together until smooth. Add it to the tuna along with the toasted diced nori and mix well to combine.
Cut the brioche buns in half and assemble the tuna sandwiches by laying a few slices of cucumber and carrot on the bottom half of the bun. Next, add the tuna salad, more carrot and cucumber slices, and some nori ribbons before topping with the other half of the brioche bun. Repeat with the rest of the tuna salad.
If tuna steaks are not available fresh, use frozen steaks, just put them in the refrigerator to thaw the night before.
Adjust the wasabi to taste. It is very mild with the mayonnaise and can easily be turned up on the heat by adding more!
STEP ONE – MARINATE TUNA STEAKS
Lay the tuna steaks in a shallow dish and whisk together the mirin, sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl.
Pour it over the steaks and turn them over in the marinade several times to be sure they are well coated with the marinade.
Cover the dish and let them sit at least 10 minutes to soak in the marinade. If letting them marinate longer than 10 minutes, put the dish in the refrigerator.
STEP TWO – PREPARE THE CUCUMBER AND CARROT
Lay the carrot and cucumber on a cutting board and trim both ends of each with a chef’s knife. Using a vegetable peeler, peel one side of the cucumber and discard the peel. Continue peeling the cucumber down to the seeds, making sure there is a thin dark green strip of skin on either side as you go. Once down to the seeds, turn the cucumber and repeat with the other side. Stack the cucumber strips and cut them in half widthwise. Peel the carrot in the same fashion to create thin ribbons of carrot. Cut them in half as well so they are about the same length as the cucumber.
STEP THREE – MARINATE THE CARROT AND CUCUMBER
Transfer the carrot and cucumber to a bowl and add in the rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, and seeds.
Mix well so that all the vegetables are coated and set the bowl to the side.
STEP FOUR – PREPARE THE NORI
Take the nori sheet and roll it up into a tube-like shape.
Using clean kitchen scissors cut the nori into very thin ribbons.
Take half of the ribbons and mince it finely with a chef’s knife. Put both into separate little bowls and set aside.
STEP FIVE – TOAST THE NORI
In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, toast the diced nori until the smell becomes stronger. Make sure to stir it frequently with a wooden spoon to keep it from burning. Transfer it to a small bowl.
STEP SIX – COOK THE TUNA
In the same non-stick pan over the same heat, pour in the sesame oil.
Once the oil is hot, lay the tuna steaks into the pan and pour the leftover marinade on top. Allow them to cook, browning on each side, about 10-15 minutes.
The rest of the marinade should become thick and a little bit gooey as it caramelizes.
STEP SEVEN – SHRED THE TUNA
Transfer the cooked tuna and any leftover marinade bits to a medium size bowl. Shred the tuna into big chunks with a couple of forks.
STEP EIGHT – MIX WASABI MAYONNAISE
Mix the wasabi paste and mayo together in a bowl. Taste and adjust as desired; more wasabi for a spicier mayo, more mayo for less heat.
STEP NINE – MIX THE TUNA SALAD
Add the wasabi mayo and the toasted nori to the bowl with the tuna and stir well to combine and evenly distribute the sauce and flakes throughout the tuna.
STEP TEN – ASSEMBLE THE SANDWICH
Cut the brioche buns in half with a serrated bread knife. Layer cucumber and carrot, tuna salad, more cucumber and carrot, and nori ribbons on top of the bottom half of the bread and top with the other half. Repeat with all the tuna salad and brioche buns.
Serve the sandwiches immediately.
This sushi-inspired tuna salad sandwich is a fun and delicious reconstruction of a tried and true recipe. It can be changed to incorporate other vegetables, possibly including pickled ginger or using sriracha instead of wasabi or in addition to! What is your favorite way to have tuna salad? Is it a sandwich, wrapped in lettuce, or a complete remake of the classic? Let us know!
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.