Ahi and Taro Salad
Raw ahi, taro root, macadamia nuts, and a spike of chili pepper water are molded into a colorful salad topped with two colors of tobiko, or caviar. A puree of cilantro and macadamia nut oil adds a piquant flavor note. The chili pepper water is a traditional Hawaiian condiment, and bottles of homemade chili pepper water are a staple on Hawaiian tables. At its most basic, chili pepper water consists of fresh chilies, rice vinegar, and garlic, bottled and aged for 2 to 3 weeks. This version shows its Asian influence with ginger. Chili pepper water can be purchased at markets in Hawaii and through mail order services from the island.
- Chili Pepper Water - (makes 3 cups)
- Boiling Water - 2-1/2 cups
- Cold Water - 3/4 cup
- Distilled White Vinegar - 2 tablespoons
- Garlic Clove - 1, minced
- Fresh Ginger - 1 tablespoon, chopped
- Hawaiian or Thai chilies - 14
- Taro root - 8 ounces, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Cilantro Puree
- Fresh Cilantro Leaves - 4 cups, packed
- Macadamia nut oil or walnut oil - 2 cups
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Sashimi-grade ahi tuna - 12 ounces, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Garlic Clove - 1, minced
- Maui or other sweet white onion - 1/2, minced
- Carrot - 1, chopped
- Beet - 1, peeled and cut into fine julienne
- Macadamia nuts - 1 cup, finely chopped
- Fresh Ginger - 2 teaspoons, minced
- Soy Sauce - 1 cup
- Asian sesame oil - 2 teaspoons
- Ogo (seaweed) - 1/4 cup, finely chopped
- Chili Pepper Water (above) - 4 teaspoons
- Macadamia nuts - 1/4 cup, diced, toasted
- White Sesame Seeds - 4 teaspoons, toasted
- Black Tobiko or salmon caviar - 1/2 cup
- Green Tobiko or other caviar - 1/2 cup
To make the chili pepper water: In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into hot sterilized bottles, cover, and refrigerate.
To cook the taro: Scrub the outside of the taro root with a brush. Put in a saucepan with enough boiling salted water to cover the taro. Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, or until tender. Remove the taro, drain, and let cool. With a sharp knife, remove the outer peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
To make the cilantro puree: In a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro and oil and puree. Stir in the salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the tobiko or salmon caviar. Toss and let sit for 15 minutes. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place four 4-inch ring molds on the prepared baking pan. Divide the salad among the molds and gently pack down to firm. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To serve: Lift the molds with a spatula and place on plates. Run the tip of a small sharp knife around the molds to loosen and lift off the rings. Pour one fourth of the puree around each salad mold. Top each salad with a teaspoon of each tobiko or caviar.