The Flavor of Memories
Eric Ripert at La Bernardin
When food lovers travel the world, bites from the places they visit prove favorite souvenirs. The flavors and smells transport you back to the moment you first tasted a memorable dish, and the novelty value is worth something too (scarcely anyone who’s been to Tokyo has returned home without a pack of green tea- or wasabi-flavored Kit-Kats). But what if you could bring back the actual flavors of the place you visited, to savor over and over and use in your own cooking?
When you’re one of the world’s best chefs, you can do exactly that. Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of NYC’s three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, has been traveling the world for his Emmy Award-winning TV show Avec Eric, visiting cultures known for their cuisine and getting inspired by the flavors he encounters. “I love to cook with spices,” he says. “They bring a lot of flavor intensity and depth to food.” To that end, he’s teamed with Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boîte, the world’s premier spice maker, to collaborate on custom spice blends (the Voyager Collection) emulating the flavors of some of his favorite global cuisines. “I have a fairly good knowledge of spices but Lior really is the expert when creating the different elements to create the perfect spice,” Ripert says. “It’s a really fun, creative, and collaborative process.”
The two recently released their third set of spices, inspired by Ripert’s recent travels to Australia, Korea, and Puerto Rico. “Oz” is a warm, floral blend of lemon myrtle, Tasmanian pepper, and coffee, perfect for marinades, rubs, and salad dressings. “Hanguk” replicates the flavors of Korean home cooking, blending chili flakes, seaweed, and seafood essence and works well as a finishing spice on a variety of dishes. And the “Sofrico” honors the classic sofrito base of Latin cooking, combining tomato notes, sweet peppers, and onion—ideal for soups, stews, or roasted meat or fish.
The spices each come with a recipe card… but we wanted something special. We asked Ripert to provide a recipe just for us (by which we mean, just for you), incorporating one of the blends. And here it is, a slight adaptation of a dish that just went onto the menu at Le Bernardin, combining the light touch with seafood for which Ripert is known with the Korean-inspired flavors of his Hanguk spice blend. Enjoy.
Seared Tuna with Soba Noodles and Hanguk Spice
4 4-oz. yellowfin tuna steaks
6 oz. good-quality soba noodles, fully cooked and chilled
4 scallions, washed and julienned
1 small piece of Daikon radish; washed, peeled, and julienned
2 cups (for frying) + 1 Tbsp. (for sautéing) canola oil
3 sheets kombu (1 for sauce, 2 for frying)
½ gallon water
2 oz. kezurikatsuo (the larger, thicker shavings of dried bonito)
2 oz. shaved (thin) bonito flakes
1 Tbsp. white soy sauce
2 Tbsp. ponzu sauce
Hanguk spice to taste
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
1. To make the sauce, heat up the water in a pot until almost boiling. Add 1 sheet of kombu and let it steep for 5 minutes. Add both types of bonito and let it sit for another 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and add the white soy and ponzu. Adjust with salt and more ponzu or soy sauce to taste. Let this cool down and put into the fridge to get cold.
2. Hydrate the two additional pieces of kombu in a little water. Slice into thin 1/8 inch strips. Bring the 2 cups of canola oil up to 325 degrees in a medium sized pot. Carefully drop the kombu into the oil and fry until most of the bubbling in the oil has subsided. Remove from the oil, and lay the kombu on a bed of paper towels to drain the oil. Season with salt and set it in a warm place, changing the paper towels as they become saturated with oil.
3. Place the soba noodles into a bowl. Take a little of the chilled sauce and pour into the bowl to marinate the noodles for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper and rub with the oil. Heat up a sauté pan until very hot. Place the tuna steaks in the pan and sear them for 10 to 15 seconds on each side and remove from the pan. The tuna should be very rare. Slice the tuna into ¼-inch slices.
5. Lay out four bowls. Arrange the marinated soba noodles in the bottom of each bowl. Garnish around the plate with the scallions and daikon. Nicely arrange the sliced tuna on top of the soba noodles, fanning out the slices. Place a few of the crispy pieces of kombu on top of the tuna. Pour enough sauce into the bowls to cover the bottom of the plates. Sprinkle the Hanguk spice around and on top of the dish. Serve immediately.