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Recipe by Tim Johnson, executive chef, Zenbu Sushi Bar and Restaurant

A lot of chefs don’t cook at home, but the nights I am home, I do actually like to cook. I have a wife and two girls, so we do simple things. We love to just grill, to go out and get the barbecue going. We bring our friends over with kids the same age as ours and get a bunch of people together for seafood. I love fish, obviously, but sometimes I like to get away and have a steak.

My kids really like steak, too, and I’m trying to get them more into fish. Grilled vegetables are great, and pastas are something I can always throw together for them. I’m half Japanese — my mother is Japanese — so I grew up with a lot of Asian food. The girls like duck soba, which are Japanese fried noodles. They come to visit me at the sushi bar, too. I do a dish at Zenbu — a miso-glazed lamb chop — which is one of their favorites. I put it on a bit of fried yam, which is like a french fry for them.

I’ve grown up with rice my whole life. I spent a lot of time in Japan as a kid and went back and forth between Japan and the States. Before I started school, I was in Japan a great deal, just hanging out with the grandparents. My grandmother was a great cook. You know everyone has a grandmother story of just hanging out in the kitchen. We did a lot of that. One of my favorite meals is a traditional Japanese breakfast of steamed rice and grilled fish, a little egg dish, and miso soup. It’s very standard, very traditional, very simple. But that’s kind of me, kind of simple. I think at one time I probably had rice for every meal. Plain steamed white rice is probably one of my favorite things to eat anything with, whether it’s tuna sashimi or meat or chicken. Often when I grab a bite for myself, it’s a bowl of rice with tuna sashimi with a little wasabi and soy sauce. There’s not too much complexity to that.

I have always stayed attached to Japanese culture. Being familiar with Japanese food and having Japanese friends, I started working in a Japanese restaurant as a server. I was offered the opportunity to learn sushi so I tried it out and got into it. I kept going along from there because I really enjoyed it. It’s been close to 20 years now in the sushi business. It’s been great.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

Poke Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

Salad:

  • 3/4 lbs. of fresh ahi (yellowfin tuna), cut into 1/4” cubes
  • 1/4 cup white onions (thinly sliced and rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup chuka seaweed salad (can be purchased at most supermarkets with a sushi section)
  • 1/4 cup dried wakame seaweed (can be purchased at Whole Foods or Asian specialty shops)
  • 1 tbsp. green onions (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbsp. white sesame seeds

HOW TO DO IT

To make the poke sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl (soy sauce through brown sugar), whisk together, and set aside. In a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients (ahi through sesame seeds). Drizzle the poke sauce over the salad. With a large spoon, gently mix ingredients (with a scooping motion in figure-eights — do not stir) from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Let ahi poke marinate in refrigerator for 15–20 minutes before serving.

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