Vou Williams: Fresh from the ocean and seared with local goodness

Thursday July 23, 2020 Written by Vou Williams, Bite Time Published in Art
Vou Williams: Fresh from the ocean and  seared with local goodness

RECIPE: As a kid growing up on Rarotonga, I never ate tuna. We were more into bread, eggs, and corned beef. That’s all mum and dad could afford.

It was only as teenagers that we started eating it – usually as raw fish, or sashimi.

At first I didn’t like the idea of eating raw fish. But I learned to love sashimi with sweet soy sauce.

Now, my kids love raw fish! But they like pan-fried fish too.

I think sometimes, people here don’t realise how good tuna can be when it’s seared just right.

People who know, they come into my café Bite Time and they ask to have their tuna rare, not well-done.

You don’t want your tuna well-done. To dry it out like that is a national tragedy!

Tuna has never been cheaper than this year – which is good for fish-lovers, but bad news for people like my father-in-law, Junior Ioapa, who’s a fisherman.

The retail price for yellowfin tuna dropped down to $12 a kilo at the low point of the Covid shutdown. Today, we were selling it at Bite Time for $15 a kilo – and that sold out fast.

Compare that with New Zealand – they’re paying up to $50/kg for sashimi bluefin tuna.

So we’re very lucky. And with many restaurants and resorts closed, the fisheremen need out local support.

Everyone seem to be on the healthy living nowadays – my family and I are eating healthy. This seared tuna recipe is cheap, healthy and fancy dish and also very easy to make.

All the ingredients are local. My co-worker Jay brought in some cucumbers and cherry tomatoes that he’s grown, so I thought they’d be great with the tuna off the boat.

All of us here in Cook Islands have access to good, fresh, affordable produce – and the tune here caught by local fishermen is the best in the world.

It’s nothing like the frozen fish off the big overseas freezer ships that go out for three months at a time. It comes in fresh or chilled. Straight off the boat, into the kitchen, and onto the plate. There’s nothing better!

Seared tuna with cucumber salad and taro chips


250g tuna
½ cucumber
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1 chilli (oporo)
cherry tomatoes
1 whole egg
½ cup black sesame seeds
1 lemon
½ cooked taro (optional)
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1½ Tbsp sweet chilli
1 clove garlic


Before we start have a pot of water on the stove for boiled water. Firstly we will start with the pickled cucumber, use peeler to peel cucumber nice and thin, then in a separate bowl add your vinegar, sugar and chilli then mix together, then add cucumber to your mix, wrap it or cover it then put in the fridge for 2 hours.

Water should be boiling, add your egg making sure to cook it for 4 minutes if you want it runny. Otherwise 6 minutes for hard boiled egg.

Grab another small bowl for your sweet soy sauce, chop the garlic fine then mix all oyster sauce, sweet chilli and garlic together.

Now grab your sesame seeds in another bowl, grab your lemon and a grater for some lemon zest. Grate half the lemon and mix together with the sesame seeds.

Get your pan on to the stove to cook your cherry tomatoes and season, once ready put your tomatoes in a separate plate and add more oil to the same pan to fry your taro fries. Cut the the taro in any shape you want and this is optional, you can fry them or not, up to you.

Now get your tuna season it with salt and pepper then coat it with sesame seed mix.

Your Fish should be ready to cook, turn your stove on high heat or grill, then put your pan on the stove for two minutes then add your cooking oil and carefully put your fish on the pan. Cook your fish for a minute and a half on each side then off the pan and let it rest for five minutes.

That's the only complicated part of this dish. Now grab the rest of your ingredients and plate yourself a fancy dish like mine. Enjoy

Leave a comment