Gochujang tuna salad: the story of our love for Korean chili paste!

There’s something brewing in this house: a gochujang obsession! I’ve been a fan of this staple of Korean cuisine ever since I attended The Good Taste Series culinary competition last year, where I tasted gochujang BBQ bison tenderloin – and I’ve been nice enough to pass my obsession over to the other members of my household!

I’m not a big fan of spicy foods. However, when it comes to gochujang, it was simply love at first bite. I find its spiciness so sophisticated and rich, and its color so vibrant. Like a cave of hidden treasures, once you try gochujang-steeped dishes, flavors come to you in quick succession. The first impression is mild, but then you’re taken by surprise by an avalanche of perpetual spiciness, and your mouth tastes old foods reinvented pretty much single-handedly by this miraculous ingredient. I found so much inspiration in gochujang – and I think I have so much to learn. 🙂

The recipe below is the end result of a series of “gochujang experiments” I have conducted lately. I was looking for a way to “rejuvenate” our seafood dishes, and marinating the fish in gochujang was a big hit with my family. Since my husband had been asking for light dishes to take to work, I thought about using gochujang flavored tuna in a salad, and paired it with daikon radish and Korean chives for a traditional feel. Hopefully you can find these ingredients at your local Asian food stores. I got them at Assi Plaza, which is a famous ethnic shopping&dining spot in Chicagoland.

This dish is so easy to make! You start off by marinating the tuna. Make sure your tuna steaks are fresh and plump, and let them marinate in a bowl in the fridge for at least one hour. Ideally, you will marinate them overnight. We tried both “versions” (marinating for one hour and overnight) and the difference in the spiciness level was astounding. More is… well, more! 🙂

You will need a hot pan to sear the tuna. Don’t sear it for more than a couple of minutes on each side, though – this way the steaks will be cooked medium-rare and will have a soft and delicious pink center.

Thank you, gochujang, for the beautiful color of my tuna!

Once the tuna is cooked, take it out of the pan and place it on a plate. It’s time to quickly start putting the salad together.

I used plum tomatoes because they were fresher and cheaper than cherry tomatoes, but both varieties will work well in this recipe.

I really like the play of colors provided by the veggies:

Add the shredded tuna to the bowl and mix well.

Add the dressing, salt and pepper to taste, mix some more – and voilà: the salad is ready to be served!

This salad is light yet wholesome and satisfies in terms of flavors and textures equally. The tuna brings the dish to life by providing its spicy character, assertiveness and sophistication, while the miniature tomatoes give out a nice “pop” of unadulterated freshness. Moreover, I really like how the sunflower seeds complement the natural crunchiness of the lettuce and the daikon.

With dishes such as this one and with a new source of inspiration in the Korean cuisine, our obsession with gochujang continues – and long may it last 🙂

Print Recipe
Gochujang tuna salad
Instructions
  1. Place the tuna in a bowl.
  2. Add the gochujang, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Distribute these evenly over the tuna.
  3. Put the tuna in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour.
  4. After 1 hour, take the tuna out of the fridge and place it in a preheated and pre-oiled pan.
  5. Pan fry the tuna for 2 minutes on each side.
  6. Take the tuna out of the pan and put it on a plate.
  7. Place the red leaf lettuce in a salad bowl.
  8. Add the tomatoes, chopped daikon and sunflower seeds.
  9. Shred the pan-seared tuna with a fork. Add it to the salad.
  10. In a separate bowl make a dressing with extra virgin olive oil, chives, parsley and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add the dressing to the salad, and mix until the ingredients are well combined. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper, if necessary.
  12. Serve while the tuna is warm.
  13. Enjoy!

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