Delicious & Easy
Tempura Fried Nasturtium Tacos
That was my roommate’s reaction to this creation. And I test all my recipes on this guy. Dave hardly leaves his room and often won’t speak more than a few words a day. “Wow,” in Dave’s terminology, is as close you get to perfection.
Although the ingredients list can be a little intimidating, this dish is a banger. By far the most challenging part of the preparation—besides wanting to chow down on the poke immediately—are the tempura nasturtium taco shells.
Well, in my experience, the whole point of cooking is to get creative and then take a big honking bite into that beautiful work of art. Have you tried eating a painting? Well, I have. Not so good, unless it’s a figurative painting of poke, nasturtium tacos, and wildflowers. That’s one tasty Monet.
This recipe is a bigger cooking project, so preparing mise en place is highly recommended and here's a list of some other items to have within arms reach.
Cooking and Serving Utensils Ready
3 small bowls or containers
1 medium bowl or container
6 quart pot or deep fryer
2 measuring cups
Shallow sheet pan lined with paper towels or a cooling rack
4 stainless double W taco molds or holders
Small cake piping bag for wasabi mayo (if desired)
4 medium plates
High heat thermometer
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Tempura Fried Nasturtium Tacos
9 ounces sashimi-grade ahi tuna loin, trim into ½ inch cubes
1/4 cup nasturtium stems, finely minced
35–40 fresh cilantro leaves, picked from stem
1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup (3–4) green onion, tops only thinly sliced
1 whole shallot, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 avocado, cubed into 1/4 inch pieces (optional)
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt, fleur de sel, or other finishing salt
2 1/2 tablespoons Tamari (Japanese Soy Sauce)
2 tablespoons pure sesame oil
1/4 cup wasabi mayonnaise (recipe below or store bought)
2–3 dashes Schichimi Togarashi per taco (shaken on the taco after wasabi mayo)
1/2 cup Japanese mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoon tube wasabi (if using powder, mix to taste. Powder tends to be more pungent)
1 teaspoon minced horseradish
Nasturtium Flower Salad
1/2 English or Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced
2–3 radishes, thinly sliced (or use nasturtium shoots if desired, cut into 1/2 inch segments)
10–12 nasturtium flowers, washed
1/4 cup sushi seasoning vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt (Kosher or Fleur de Sel)
10–12 micro to small nasturtium greens
Nasturtium Leaf Tacos
10–12 medium to large (4–5 inches) nasturtium leaves
3 cups safflower or other neutral frying oil (2 inches in 6 quart pot)
1 cup tempura fry batter (I prefer brands that use potato and corn starch in the mix)
2/3 cup cold soda water
1 1/2 ounces or 1 shot extra cold vodka
Tempura Fried Nasturtium Tacos
Thoroughly and delicately wash all nasturtium greens, shoots, and flowers. Sort large and small greens and place separately on a plate in the refrigerator.
*This is a three-part recipe. Step 1 is the poke, salad, and mayo, while getting oil to temperature. Step two is the tempura nasturtium tacos. Step three is plating.
Make the Ahi Tuna Poke
First, cube the tuna. To do this, trim the loin of any large white tendon or impurity, then slice it so you have 2 halves. Then you slice those halves against the grain so now you have ½ inch strips. Then you slice those to make the cubes. Place the cubed tuna into a medium bowl and add all the other prepared ingredients, except avocado. Mix lightly to evenly coat but don’t over mix it. Taste and adjust the minced nasturtium based on preference. Nasturtium stems taste very similar to radishes and should be prominent but not overpowering. Adjust any other flavors to your liking, then add the cubed avocado and gently mixing again.
That’s it. Easy-peasy.
Make Wasabi Mayo
Mix the Japanese mayonnaise, wasabi, and horse radish in a small bowl until smooth, then taste. Spoon into a small piping bag and store in fridge until ready to use.
Alternatively, you can use store bought wasabi mayo, or use a spoon to spread on the taco when ready.
Make the Nasturtium Salad
Place thinly sliced radish and cucumber in a small bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let macerate for 10 minutes then, drain, rinse, and set aside.
Next, mix the 1/4 cup of sushi seasoning vinegar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, and a dash of salt.
Marinate in fridge while making the nasturtium tacos.
Make the Tempura Fried Nasturtium Tacos
Note: Tempura is one of those things, like sourdough bread or elementary math after you turn 30, that seems simple and yet is frustratingly hard to master. The trick is everything needs to be as cold as possible, stirred as little as possible—and vodka. All of these things inhibit gluten formation, and gluten is the enemy of a light and flaky tempura crust. So, keep nasturtium greens in the fridge or an ice bath until the last minute, chill everything, and put the alcohol in the freezer (if you don’t have a bottle there already). You can also use the fresh nasturtium greens as tacos but I highly recommend frying them. It makes the dish.
Set up a station on your stove so you have the batter, the oil in a pot, and the drying rack in that order.
Arrange 4 plates, each one with a taco holder, near your fry station.
Heat oil in a 6 quart pot to around 360°.
Minimally mix dry batter, ice cold soda water, egg, and vodka with chopsticks or a fork. Some lumps can still be present, it just needs be mostly uniform.
Gently place the first 4–5 inch nasturtium green in the tempura batter and keep flat. Submerge and flip. When batter sufficiently coats the green, lift, drain a little, and quickly place the green flat in the hot oil.
Fry for 15–20 seconds. The tempura should crisp up, some will bubble off, but hold firmly to most of the green. Then, using tongs, gently flip the green and let fry for another 10–15 seconds.
Once cooked, gently take that first fried pad and place on wire strainer or cloth. Then, batter the next one and start frying. Transfer the first fried and dried nasturtium green to a taco holder and it should be sufficiently drained but not dried so that it fits to the mold with a little gentle effort.
The first nasturtium should give you timing. Play a little until you have a good rhythm, then fry them all in the same fashion. Or, if you get frustrated or have no mold, the flat fried green is now a tostada! Perfecto!
Repeat this until you have 8 tacos or tostadas. If you break one, you have few extra. If you break all of them, well, at least you have nacho chips.
Plating Fried Nasturtium Tacos with Poke and Nasturtium Salad
After all the cooking is done and the 8 tacos are plated, fill all eight evenly with the prepared ahi poke.
Then, make a small cut the end of the cake piping tip and drizzle with wasabi mayo (or just use a spoon). Finish by sprinkling the Schichimi Togarashi over the mayo. Lay 3–4 slices of cucumbers and radish in an alternating fashion. Top with a dollop of wasabi mayo, then place nasturtium flowers on top of that mayo. Then, arrange 3–4 small nasturtium greens around that. Finally, drizzle with small amount of dressing from the cucumber mix. Garnish with the side salad, and a sliced Mexican lime if desired.
Alternately, you can just mix all these ingredients together in a bowl, and then pile them on a plate. Add the wasabi mayo in a drizzle on top. Or, not at all.
Take a bite and say “….wow.”