Lent is a time to maximize fish and seafood offerings across your menu. It is also a time to enliven your culinary creativity. This article takes a quick look at the versatility of one ingredient—ahi tuna—and the many ways it can transform on-trend seafood items.
Using the best-quality ahi tuna is a smart menu tactic, as it provides operators the flexibility to showcase both high-dollar and value menu items utilizing the same ingredient. You can procure a side or fillets and then portion into cubes, slices or steaks, depending on your application:
- Cubes – poke, bowls, tacos, burritos, nachos, fries
- Thin slices – salad, tacos
- Thick steaks – sandwiches
Ahi takes so well to a wide variety of flavor and texture tricks:
- Raw tuna cubes + tamari + sesame oil + sriracha + honey
- Raw tuna slices + citrus yuzu + sweet eel sauce
- Seared tuna slices + coating of Sichuan peppercorn/cayenne/orange peel dust
- Seared tuna steak + coating of togarashi
What follows are six menu applications anchored by ahi tuna, intended as thought-starters and snapshots of on-trend inspirations to help spark your signature Lent menu creations.
1. Poke Nachos
Create a premium offering from a mainstream menu classic by topping crispy chips with chilled poke, fresh fruit and vegetables, crunchy toppings and bold sauce drizzles.
- Traditional tortilla chips or crispy wontons or taro/tortilla/plantain chip combo
- Toss tuna poke in either light sauces or creamy spiced sauces
- Edamame “guacamole” could be an upsell addition
2. Poke Tacos
Poke in a taco format delivers the unexpected, while grounded in the familiar. Menu the premium freshness cues of chilled ingredients or a chilled/hot combination.
- Pair tuna poke with tofu or raw marinated salmon, or tempura-battered seafood for a textural contrast
- Use crispy shells as a counter to soft poke—hard tortilla, tempura nori sheets or crisp lettuce leaves
- Start with a base of seaweed salad, dressed greens, bamboo rice or imitation crabmeat salad
3. Ahi Tuna Salad
This light yet bold salad, with amplified crunch, works in wonderful harmony with thin slices of seared ahi tuna. Be sure to tout wellness attributes during Lent.
- Season, sear, chill, slice and portion tuna in advance for speed of service
- Pair with pickled vegetable slaws, marinated chilled soba noodles or spicy greens mixed with a chiffonade of raw vegetables
- Think bright, fresh, enticing colors and textures
4. Poke Bowl
Deliver simple, clean flavors that let the high-quality ingredients shine. Poke bowls resonate with all the trend connections that consumers crave.
- Offer poke straight up or on a bed of rice, seaweed salad or spicy greens
- Incorporate layers of textures and flavors
- Great opportunity to allow guests to customize their own bowl
5. Tuna Burrito
Break from the expected norm of traditional burrito builds and showcase tuna here, offering premium upgrades to this humble handheld.
- Layer a soft flour tortilla with a creative spread, nori sheet, seasoned rice, fresh vegetables, fruit and/or herbs, sliced tuna or poke and a subtle crunch
- Try non-Asian flavor profiles paired with the tortilla/nori combination
- Pair with a signature dipping sauce, heightening the tuna burrito experience
6. Ahi Tuna Burger
It’s no surprise that burgers and sandwiches are huge menu drivers, but this is an area often overlooked for applications with ahi tuna. Tuna can elevate your sandwich offerings and satisfy guests looking for satiating Lent menu items.
- Fresh sprouts or micro greens are beautiful tuna burger toppers
- House-made pickled ginger red onion rings add punch to the overall build
- Go creamy and bold with spreads: miso mayo, kimchi aioli or mango gochujang