Seared Ahi with Lilikoi Shrimp Salsa

Serves 4 as a main course

It seems a shame that the bright, vibrant, carmine color of raw tuna turns an indifferent brownish white when it’s cooked, but I like to make up for this by serving tuna rare in the center and with colorful accompaniments whenever possible. This delicious salsa is a good example. Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word the highly aromatic tropical passion fruit, whole flavor really sets the palate tingling. Here in the islands, the yellow-skinned passion fruit is more common than the purple variety, but you can use either one to equally good effect in this recipe. Serve this dish with rice, if desired.

Lilikoi Shrimp Salsa

  • 1 ripe passion fruit, halved
  • 4 ounces extra-large shrimp (about 4)
  • peeled, deveined, and diced
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced Maui or other sweet white onion
  • 1 large Roma tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallion (including green parts)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 4 (7 ounce) ahi tuna steaks
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the salsa, scoop the seeds and pulp from the passion fruit with a spoon and press it through a fine-mesh sleve. Reserve the juice (about 1 tablespoon) and discard the seeds and pulp. Put the shrimp in a small bowl and toss with the olive oil to coat. Set a dry stainless-steel sauté pan over high heat and, when hot, add the shrimp.  Sear, turning often, until evenly pink, about 1 minute. Transfer to a non-reactive bowl and add the reserved passion fruit juice, onion, tomato, scallion, cilantro, Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine, Cover and refrigerate.

Put the ahi on a plate, coat with the peanut oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes and, when hot, sear the ahi for about 30 seconds on each side for rare, or about 1 ½ minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Transfer the ahi to serving plates and spoon the salsa over the tuna, letting the juices from the salsa run onto the plates.