Once considered too fishy and low class, tuna has rapidly climbed in importance in the seafood markets. But how did this once inexpensive fish, best known as a lunch box staple and a way to feed our troops during wartime, become a high-class offering? We are about to tell you.
It started in the late 19th-century. Most tuna consumed in America was imported in cans from France to serve our European guests at upscale East Coast restaurants. It was avoided by most locals until a small cannery in San Pedro Bay, California, figured out that the white meat of tuna has minimal flavor if you drain its oil and can the meat in olive or cottonseed oil. In 1907, the California Fish Company started to advertise it as a chicken replacement and distributed thousands of free recipe booklets showing how to use canned tuna in classic chicken dishes. It took a little while for the trend to catch on, but thanks to the American government being forced to rely on canned tuna to provide protein sources during World War I, our returning troops were hooked, and they continued to eat tuna after returning home from the war.
Thanks to our soldiers’ newfound appreciation of tuna, tuna replaced salmon as America’s fish of choice by the 1940s. Fishing boats were required to travel further and further from shore to meet the new demand. The California Fish Company also had El Nino to thank. In 1903, a rapid weather change forced the sardines, which made the company famous, looking for other options. Albacore provided them with more than they ever hoped for.
They struggled with a new marketing challenge. The only people who knew what Albacore was were the West Coast sport fishermen. So they called it tuna and went all in. It worked. So much so that it famously fooled Jessica Simpson on a reality TV show. Scientists decided several years later that albacore is tuna as their luck would have it. But there was still a long history of disdain to overcome, but the “chicken replacement” approach took hold, and since it was cheaper, easier to store, and tasted more the like the sauces you cooked it in than fish, the concerns fell away, and tuna became the fish of choice in the U.S. and many places around the world. Today, American consumes twice as much tuna as salmon.
As mentioned before, tuna tastes more like what it is cooked in than has its own flavor, so how do you explain its flavor. It is easiest to describe it by the method used to prepare the dish. For example, seared tuna taste like young and tender beef. It is oilier and juicier, but it has a creamy, buttery, salty, savory flavor without the pungent fishy smell.
At Pawley’s Raw Bar, we feature tuna on our menu in several ways. You can find it on the appetizer menu as Smoked Tuna Dip (our house-made smoked tuna dip served cold with crispy tortilla chips), and Smoked Tuna Nachos (served in two different sizes this appetizer features crispy tortilla chips topped with smoked tuna, blended Monterey jack, tomatoes, jalapenos, scallions and drizzled with creamy she-crab soup.
More commonly, you will see Seared Tuna added to either our House Salad or our Caesar Salad. The House Salad features a bed of fresh greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, hickory-smoked bacon, and chopped egg. The Caesar Salad boasts a bed of romaine lettuce tossed with tangy Caesar dressing, topped with parmesan cheese and garlic croutons.
The Fresh Catch option is the number one choice of tuna at Pawley’s Raw Bar. You can choose how you want it cooked, either grilled or blackened, and then we serve it with your two favorite Pawley’s Raw Bar sides.
What was once a typical lunch box item is now a sought-after option at every fish house and market. Pawley’s Raw Bar is proud to have tuna on the menu for our guests. We are pleased to serve it to you in multiple ways, and we look forward to having you join us soon.
If this blog has piqued your interest and you wish to look at the other items featured on our menu, check us out online at www.pawleysrawbar.com.
You can also check out our sister restaurants by visiting www.divinedininggroup.com