Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuna Puri wins 2nd place at the Tournament de Tuna!

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I travelled the world in my mind with ideas for a winning combination of flavors that would wow the judges during Saturday’s Tournament de Tuna.  I bounced from Portugal to Spain, Northern Africa to Greece, and I finally settled way out east in India! 

Featuring canned Portuguese tuna, Queen of the Coast was introducing its products to the USA.   The Queen herself made a graceful appearance.

Queen of the Coast

It was an intimate affair – six eager contestants butting into each other in the home kitchen as we plated our promising dishes.  From left to right:  Todd Romero, Chantal Duvall, yours truly, Joni Buck, and Holly Erickson watched Jenn Molholt win with her tasty Baked tuna fritter with spicy/tangy tomato relish and avocado.   It was crispy on the outside, perfectly tender on the inside and delicious! 


After much hype on Facebook,  the romantic and adventurous Raphael made his grand appearance, fresh off his seafaring boat.  He was very handsome, charming and gracious, even when Chantal planted a big red kiss!  His accent made my legs buckle…and it looked like he was enjoying my Tuna puri! 

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Pani puri is an Indian snack (chaat) found in street food carts.  A foodie friend, Jay recently introduced me to a great vegetarian restaurant in Houston called Shiv Sagar.  Their dosas are excellent and that’s where I spotted the delicate pani puri.   (Thanks Jay for steering me away from making dosas, oy!)    I picked the soft-spoken restaurant owner’s brain for information and ideas for pani puri and eventually bought a package.  They had potential -  small, hollow, crispy fried breads are the vessels for spiced vegetables and sauces.   In order to incorporate the canned tuna, I checked with my Indian connection and knowledgeable friend, Manjula.  

A vegetarian herself, Manjula described the various sauces I should use and assured me that tuna would fit right in.  Her mother’s own garam masala and a fair amount of chopped onions contributed greatly to the richness of the filling.   Willing taste-tester and an excellent cook herself, my neighbor Cheryl stated that the sweetness of the yoghurt sauce balanced the spiciness of the serrano chiles in the green sauce.  The sauces – one sweet, one sour, and one spicy; and a variety of crunchy and leafy garnishes created a complete flavor and textural sensation. 

This was my presentation.  A shot of Mango lassi completed the plate.

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Thanks to Karen, Dwight, Joan and Amber at Soundworks for hosting the fun-filled affair and giving us amateur cooks an opportunity to experiment and revel in each other’s company.  Judges Brandy Graesser of Hubbell and Hudson Viking Cooking School, food marketing wiz George Darsey, and Raphael himself made positive comments and I walked off with a fantastic prize – cooking lessons at the Viking Cooking School, perfect for someone who’s always willing to experiment in the kitchen! 

Yours truly, Jenn, Raphael, Holly and the Queen of the Coast

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Now to the recipe!  Start with paper-thin Pani Puri (these are made by Satyam Foods & Snacks, Inc.), and thin, crunchy sev, a vermicelli-like snack made with chick pea (gram) flour.

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Here’s the filling…simple ingredients deliciously seasoned with garam masala and black mustard seeds. 

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To make a hole for the filling, tap the top of one side of each puri with the back of a spoon, and then fill it with the tuna mixture.  Drizzle with Spicy green chutney, Dahi, pomegranate molasses and top with sev, chives, tomato and cilantro.  Pop the entire puri in your mouth for a blast of savory, sweet, sour and spicy heaven!

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Tuna Puri   Please note that this recipe looks more complicated than it is!  You can substitute store-bought Spicy Cilantro Chutney and the rest of the components are very simple to assemble.

One bag (7.4 oz) Pani Puri (small, fried and hollow Indian breads, available at all Indian grocers)

Tuna and Chick Pea filling

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely diced onion

1 – 2 teaspoons garam masala (a spice mixture available at all Indian grocers)

½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes, seeds removed

3 cans (6 oz/170g each) Queen of the Coast Tuna Salad with Chick Peas, or 5 oz canned tuna in oil plus 11 oz cooked chick peas

salt, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes until beginning to soften but not brown. Add garam masala and mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and sauté for 1 more minute. Add canned Tuna Salad with Chick Peas and stir gently until heated through. Season with salt, if necessary.

Spicy Cilantro Chutney ( substitute with store-bought chutney, if you wish)

3 green chiles such as serrano or jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

¾-inch piece peeled fresh ginger

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon oil

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar or jaggery (palm sugar)

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted

1 bunch cilantro (about 5 ounces) less about 6 stems- reserve for garnish

Place all ingredients except for the cilantro in a blender. Pulse until combined and finely chopped. Add cilantro and blend until smooth. Season with additional salt if necessary.

Dahi (sweetened yoghurt)

1 cup plain yoghurt

1 tablespoon sugar or jaggery (palm sugar)

½ teaspoon pomegranate molasses

pinch of salt

Whisk yoghurt, sugar, pomegranate and salt to blend. Adjust to taste.

For the garnish:

½ cup sev, a fried vermicelli-like snack made with gram (chick pea) flour (available at all Indian grocers)

pomegranate molasses or sweet tamarind chutney (available at all Indian grocers)

¼ cup finely sliced scallions or chives

½ cup chopped fresh tomato

leaves from about 6 stems cilantro (reserved from Spicy Cilantro Chutney), finely chopped

To assemble Pani Puri

Carefully make a hole on one side of each pani puri. Fill each one about ¾ to the top with warm Tuna and Chick Pea filling. Arrange pani puri on a serving platter. Drizzle with Spicy Cilantro Chutney, Dahi, and garnishes (sev, pomegranate molasses, scallions, tomato and chopped cilantro). Serve with a shot of Mango Lassi to cool the palate!


Mango lassi

2 cups plain yoghurt

2 mangoes, peeled and chopped, or 2 cups frozen mango cubes

¼ cup milk

toasted and ground pistachio nuts and a slice of fresh mango for decoration

Blend yoghurt, mangoes and milk in a blender. Pour into glasses and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Serve cold.

Mango lassi – refreshing and not too sweet!

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Click on the link for more pictures of the Tournament de Tuna

This post is my entry to the Magic Bullet To Go Giveaway, for which you can find details @ Fun and Food Cafe. You could win a Magic Bullet Food processor!  It’s easy!



  1. Dragana, what a great post!

    Thanks for the inspiration...

  2. What an innovative idea! thanks for sharing this with us:)

  3. Looks fantastic! Glad we could be of help in this competition.

  4. Thanks for incorporating our pani puri into your excellent recipe!

    Satyam Foods & Snacks, Inc.


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