Grilled Asian-Style Tuna with Broccoli Slaw–Playing with a Favorite Patricia Wells Sauce in Colorado


I am a dyed-in-the-wool Patricia Wells fan. This ex-pat food writer and cooking  teacher extraordinaire is a favorite from waaaay back.  If you don’t know Patricia or her work, I borrowed the following from her website and I don’t think she’ll mind…

More About Patricia….

Patricia Wells is a journalist, author, and cooking school teacher who has lived in France since 1980. A former reporter for The New York Times, she was global restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune for more than 25 years. She  has written fourteen books, is a four-time James Beard Award winner, and has been honored by the French government for her contribution to French culture. She runs her cooking school, At Home with Patricia Wells, in both Paris and Provence, where she lives with her husband, Walter, retired executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.

I haven’t yet had the honor of studying with her in Paris or Provence (though I lust after the opportunity on a yearly basis), but it’s in the plan, on the bucket list, and alive in my prayers.  I HAVEN’T GIVEN UP!! DON’T RETIRE, PATRICIA!

There’s not a book of Patricia’s of which I’m not fond, though the famous standby BISTRO COOKING might be a tip-top favorite; it sits right on my kitchen shelf day and night.  If you have a deep-down desire to cook French food fueled by your last quick trip to Paris or from watching old Julia tv shows, you will enjoy dreaming, smiling, cooking, and eating this book–well, the food from it, anyway.  It’s easy to follow and pure entertainment to-wit. Don’t forget the wine.

One of Patricia’s more recent books is her SALAD AS A MEAL: HEALTHY MAIN DISH SALADS FOR EVERY SEASON, (HarperCollins, 2011) and as I’m really interested in salads (I just taught a “Salad as a Whole Meal” class downtown–see photo below), I dive into it every now and again for a fresh idea or just to enjoy its bright, telling photographs.  At the end of the book is a DRESSING AND SAUCES section that just might almost be the best reason to buy the book.  Vietnamese Dipping Sauce is a favorite, and over the last couple of years, it has morphed into a marinade for fish as well as a salad dressing for a perky broccoli or cabbage slaw.  A low bow and great thanks to one of my favorite authors for her constant inspiration and encouragement to dream.

One of my Whole Meal Salmon Salads

If you love grilled tuna and have a penchant for Asian food (particularly Vietnamese) flavors, this one’s for you.  Good quality tuna isn’t cheap, but it’s healthy, simple to cook, and there’s no waste.  You can use sushi-grade ahi here or the less-expensive and more readily available tuna steaks. You’ll be eating dinner very quickly.  If you don’t have all the herbs, you can still make this dish, but it’s a great reason to grow your own herbs year-round, if possible. You really do need at least the cilantro, which is quite inexpensive at the grocery store.   Try this:


This goes quickly. Set the table, open the wine, marinate the fish briefly, toss the store-bought slaw while the tuna bathes, and then, when all is ready, grill the tuna.  You need chopped fresh herbs for both the marinade/salad dressing, slaw, and for garnish, so read through the recipe first and chop all you need at once.* You’ll also need 2 limes; one-half for the marinade, one-half for the slaw, and the other cut in wedges for garnish.


1: Make the marinade/salad dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Vietnamese Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Juice of half a lime  (Use the other half in the slaw)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, etc)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup carrot julienne
  • 2 teaspoons each: minced fresh cilantro, basil, and green onion*
  • Pinch each of kosher salt and fresh finely-ground white pepper (can sub black)

Shake all ingredients together in a small jar with a tightly-fitted lid.  Set aside.  You’ll have enough to marinate the fish, toss with the slaw, and for each person to have a little dipping bowl at the table. If necessary, you can mix up a little extra; it’s good for a couple of days in the fridge leftover for a vegetable, shrimp, or chicken dip.

2: Marinate the tuna 

  • 2 6-8 ounce tuna fillets (I like the sushi-grade best, but steaks are great, too.)
  • 4 tablespoons marinade

Place the tuna fillets in a rimmed glass dish and pour 4 tablespoons of the marinade over evenly. Turn fish over in marinade. Set aside for a few minutes while you toss the slaw. (Refrigerate if this well be more than 10 minutes.)

3: Toss the slaw. Set the grill up for directing grilling; oil grates. Preheat grill to medium-high.  (If indoor grilling, do not oil grill pan.)

  • 3-4 cups purchased broccoli slaw (or your own favorite coleslaw mixture)
  • Neutral oil such as canola
  • Generous pinch each: Kosher salt, freshly-ground white (or black) pepper, crushed red pepper
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 3 tablespoons each chopped fresh cilantro, mint, and basil* (Reserve 1/3 for garnish on tuna at end.)
  • 4-6 tablespoons marinade/salad dressing — to taste

In a medium bowl, drizzle slaw with just a little oil and season well with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Squeeze a little lime over all.  Stir in cilantro, mint, and basil; drizzle with marinade/salad dressing 4 tablespoons marinade/salad dressing.

Mix very well; taste and adjust seasonings/add more dressing as needed, including lime.  Divide slaw between two rimmed plates and set aside while you grill the tuna. (Leftover slaw keeps a day tightly covered in the refrigerator.)

4. Grill the tuna, plate the meal, and serve hot or warm.

  • Reserved chopped cilantro, mint, and basil,* for garnish
  • Minced green onions or red onion, for garnish
  • Lime, cut into wedges, for garnish

Grill the marinated tuna fillets 2 or 3 minutes on each side; remove from heat and let rest 2 minutes.**(Discard  fish marinade from glass dish.)

Place a fillet on top of the slaw on each plate or shallow bowl and serve with the extra marinade in a small bowl at each place or in a pitcher for sharing.  Serve tuna hot or warm garnished with fresh herbs and minced green onions or red onion and another wedge of lime.

**This is for medium-rare to rare tuna; it will cook a bit more as it rests. If you like your fish medium-well (well-done fish will be like chewy over-cooked pork tenderloin), cook another minute or so.

Or check out Jamie’s tuna cooking youtube here.

WINE:  off-dry Riesling (German or Washington state)

DESSERT:  Fresh melon bites wrapped in Virginia ham


PRINTABLE RECIPE: Recipes-Fish-GRILLED ASIAN-style tuna and broccoli slaw

Sing a new song.  No fish fear here,


3 thoughts on “Grilled Asian-Style Tuna with Broccoli Slaw–Playing with a Favorite Patricia Wells Sauce in Colorado

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