Tuna crudo, kohlrabi pickle, mint and burnt garlic oil

Karen Martini is a chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper. @karen_martini

This is a beautiful entree that has starred at Hero ever since it was added to the menu. It is so satisfyingly simple. The mint and lime pearls are uplifting and play an important role alongside the texture of the kohlrabi pickle. There is a richness to the sashimi-grade tuna, which is embraced by the toasted garlic dressing.

I started thinking about this dish when I was reading about Korean ramen – ramyeon – that uses burnt garlic oil as a condiment. The garlic oil I came up with is an alternative to the crunchy garlic chili dressing that’s often bottled and used in Asian cooking.

The oil has rich, deep, toasty, nutty notes. Cooking the garlic, you don’t want to burn it until black – you want to take it through to a rich mahogany. It’s a fine line – you want to just touch the edge of bitterness.

The quality of the garlic is important, too – and I say this because it is an ingredient that is often taken for granted. Australian garlic is in season now and is stunning. When buying garlic, you are looking for well-cured, heavy, dry bulbs. They should have a papery skin.

If the bulb is not heavy in the hand, there is a good chance it’s mouldy. The flavour of the bulb as a whole will likely be ruined and the cloves permeated.

Wet garlic is also available. It is young and uncured, with bright purple colouring. This garlic is very mild in flavour and is suitable for stir-fries and salads.

The other key ingredient here – kohlrabi – is also in season. It has a wonderful flavour – somewhere between a radish and a cucumber – and is quite addictive once you get used to using it raw. If you can’t get it, you could use daikon.

I like to present this dish at the table and then stir it together in front of guests, like steak tartare.

The burnt garlic oil is so versatile you could use it to dress simple steamed fish, add it to broth with noodles, or add thyme or rosemary flowers and spoon it over seared eye fillet or Scotch fillet or T-bone.

It would also be a superb addition to a simple aglio e olio or pasta vongole, or drizzled over risotto bianco.


Serves 2

Time: 35 minutes preparation + cooking

  • 300g yellowfin tuna (use mid loin, chilled very well and diced into 5mm cubes with a very sharp knife)
  • flaked salt
  • castor sugar
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 80ml burnt garlic oil dressing (see recipe below)
  • 1 large purple shallot, finely diced
  • ½ kohlrabi, peeled and sliced on a mandolin in 2.5mm cubes
  • 14 mint leaves very finely shredded
  • 2 tbsp tiny capers
  • 2 tbsp pickled white cocktail onions, finely sliced
  • 3½ tbsp cooked black barley
  • 2 large finger limes, pearls pushed from the skin
  1. Spread the diced tuna on baking paper. Season with the salt and sugar and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  2. Season the kohlrabi with salt and sugar and cover in rice wine vinegar to quick pickle for 15 minutes.
  3. Spoon the garlic oil over the tuna. Combine the other ingredients in a bowl and stir gently, then add the tuna.
  4. Serve with salad leaves or toasted rye or crackers.

Burnt garlic oil 

  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced very finely like an onion
  • 120ml grape seed oil
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • thyme or rosemary flowers (optional)

Burnt garlic oil

  1. Cut the garlic in two-millimetre slices and add to a small pot with the grape seed oil. Bring the oil up to warm over a medium heat. Cook the garlic to a medium-dark brown (about eight minutes).
  2. Pull off the heat and tip the hot oil and garlic into a metal bowl to arrest the cooking process. Allow the garlic and oil to cool. As it cools, it will continue to deepen in colour.
  3. Add the cooled, crisp garlic and oil to a blender and blitz on high speed until the garlic dissolves in the oil.
  4. In a small pan, add the olive oil and the diced garlic and bring up the temperature to crisp up the garlic (medium heat). This should happen slowly. When the garlic is light-golden, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
  5. Stir the crisp garlic through the blitzed deep-brown oil mix and add a splash more fresh olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the thyme or rosemary flowers, if using.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 1, 2023 as "Crudo awakening".

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