Tuna Bora Bora & South Seas Coconut Sauce

From "The Infinite Feast: How to Host the Ones You Love—Recipes from the Big Easy . . . and Beyond" by Brian Theis, 2020 Click here for more on my new cookbook!

Tuna Bora Bora with South Seas Coconut Sauce

Makes 4 servings


4 high-quality fresh tuna steaks, about 3 pounds total weight

Marinade for Tuna

¼ cup sesame oil (Canola will do in a pinch)

Juice of 2 limes (or 3 if they’re small)

1 tablespoon red chili paste

2 cloves garlic minced fine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

In small bowl, whisk marinade ingredients together and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes before using.


¼ cup white and ¼ cup black sesame seeds (Combined in a large flat soup bowl or on a big plate)

¼ cup sesame oil for searing (canola will do in a pinch)


Heat oven to 275°F.

Salt and pepper both sides of steaks, press seasoning into flesh so it stays during marinade. To keep your salt and pepper dispensers away from fishy hands, add about ½ teaspoon salt and ½ tsp pepper for each steak in a small bowl in advance, and use your fingers to sprinkle on steaks as needed. Do not oversalt.

In large skillet (non-stick is best) heat 2 tablespoons oil on med-high till shimmering. Dip one steak in marinade, coating all sides, then dredge in sesame seeds to cover. Steak does not have to be entirely and perfectly covered, you will lose some of the seeds in the pan during cooking anyway.

Sear first steak in pan, about 2 minutes per side unless your steaks are thin in which case 1 minute each side. Using 2 forks to turn, sear all flat sides of the steak so no pink remains. Cook second steak. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, heat till shimmering, cook remaining two steaks.

Transfer four steaks to heat-safe pan, keep warm in oven while you make the sauce.

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South Seas Coconut Sauce


1 tablespoon sesame oil (canola will do in a pinch)

1 tablespoon red chili paste

1 clove garlic, minced fine

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or ground from a jar if you must)

1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk

Juice of 2 limes (or 3 if they’re small)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon cornstarch


In medium skillet, or pan you may have just cooked the fish in, heat oil. When oil is heated add the chili paste and let it cook for a minute. It may spatter a bit so give it room! Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes. Do not burn. Add the milk, lime juice, soy sauce and cornstarch. Simmer on medium-high heat about 7 or 8 minutes till milk mixture reduces a bit and the cornstarch thickens it up.

To serve: make a pool of the coconut sauce on the plate and rest tuna steak in it. You can also flip a molded scoop of sticky rice onto the plate, then pool the sauce, then add the tuna with some sugar snap peas beside it. Garnish with sliced scallions on the fish, and lime wedges on the side, if desired.

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