tuna salad sandwiches

4:17 AM Sian Mei Yeoh 2 Comments

it's been a while since i shared a recipe so thought this might be a good time to share a quick lunch option, where you can pick one of the two ways, whichever your heart desires.

whenever my parents go to the subway sandwich shop (it's not my fav but there aren't many sandwich shops in malaysia), my mom always opts for the tuna salad sandwich since it's her favorite. i've decided to whip up my own  rendition of tuna salad with fresh herbs and some other yummy ingredients to bring a normal, bland can of tuna to life. :)

the two things that make a good sandwich is the bread and the heart of the sandwich -- the filling in between the two breads. i bought a loaf of whole wheat bread, which is a healthier choice -- allowing the filling to shine and is soft enough to toast for a crispy crust but fluffy inside. 

i wanted to bread to have a textural difference and offer another flavor point in the sandwich flavor profile. i decided to rub a mixture of olive oil and butter and toast it in the oven at 350 F for 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted to golden brown. once it comes out the oven hot and toasty, rub a peeled garlic clove on the bread (almost like making garlic bread) to give it a light garlic-y flavor to it. 

i'd advise toasting the bread just before you are about to serve the sandwich so that it will taste like it's fresh from the oven, ready for consumption.

the second part :: the heart of the sandwich -- the tuna salad!

i managed two renditions of the tuna salad which i will be writing about -- you can take a pick between the two which might be your favorite. the tuna salad begins the same way, it's the herbs and the other ingredients that vary.

my tuna pick is chunky in olive oil because it contributes more flavor overall. the dressing consists of mayo, grainy mustard, black pepper and a dash of sweet paprika. skip the salt since the tuna is seasoned quite well.

tuna salads are not complete without a citrus aspect to it -- lemon zest is key and the fresh juice of half a lemon.

this is where the two versions vary.

version o1: pink lady apple, fresh sweet basil

i picked pink lady because of its slight tartness, sweetness and crispness it offers. fuji or braeburn (which to me taste akin to fuji apples) would work as well. golden delicious is a definite no because it tastes meal-y and lack that freshness the others have. i left the skin on, removed the core and cut them into cubes.

i added the apples early although it may turn brown. to overcome the oxidation of the apple issue, that is where the lemon juice comes in. the reason for adding the apples early with tuna mixture is to allow the flavors to meld together to give the tuna some natural sweetness without having to add sugar.

after chilling the tuna mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour, there is one more ingredient to be added -- julienned fresh sweet basil, which is best added before serving. it is important to use a very sharp knife so not to bruise the basil leaves.

to julienne, stack all the leaves together and then roll them together before slicing them to give you strips of unbruised basil :)

mix the basil with the rest of the chilled mixture and it's ready to be filled in between two toasted whole wheat bread. my choice of side vegetable were sliced cucumbers for the extra freshness and crunch :)

version o2 :: diced cucumbers and avocado.

this was actually my first tuna salad attempt. similar to the apple tuna salad, i added the cucumbers early to let the flavors blend together and the avocado was a tad later -- preferably just before serving. for the cucumbers, i removed the seeds because it would water down the tuna salad and the seed doesn't contribute to the tuna salad's texture or flavor.

to prepare the avocado, it is rather simple. make a cut around the avocado lengthwise to halve it since there is a huge pit right at the core of the fruit. twist the avocado to get two halves apart and then firmly strike the pit with the heel of a knife. once the knife lodges a few milimeters into the pit, twist the pit gently to dislodge and remove the pit.


easiest way to dice the avocado is to cut the fruit with a butter knife while still snugged in its "shell" and then scoop it out using a spoon.

avocados brown if exposed to the air for too long just like apples so citrus juice is best to keep its yellow green hue.

since i only used half the avocado in the tuna salad itself, i decided to slice the other half and used iceberg lettuce as garnish to make up the sandwich :)

verdict between the two tuna salads, my pick is definitely my tuna salad spin with the apple and basil. a few reasons why - the pink/red hue and the green of the basil makes a beautiful combination of colors for presentation purposes.

most importantly, what these two ingredients bring to the salad - different flavor notes with each bite - crispness and freshness from the sweet apple with subtle tartness and the basil has that floral herbaceous, almost bitter note worked as a distinct contrast to the apple. these two ingredients balances the richness and creaminess of dressing with the freshness of the lemon zest and juice. whispers of garlic are little surprises with each bite which was present but not overpowering and the crispy but fluffy loaf offered great textural difference.

while i rave about the former version, the latter counterpart was good but i felt it was lacking something. i loved the creaminess of the avocado which lends a butter-like quality to the sandwich but the cucumber didn't do much for the sandwich in this case. if you are a huge fan of avocado you could try out the second version and perhaps substitute the cucumber with apples :)

if you are interested in trying out, here is the recipe.

tuna salad sandwiches, two ways
inspired by my fascination of herbs and my mom's love for tuna salad

ingredients | tuna salad (basic recipe)
  • 1 can of chunky tuna in olive oil
  • 3 tbs mayonnaise (more or less based on your preference)
  • 1 tbs grainy mustard
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a dash of sweet paprika
  • a dash of freshly cracked black pepper
for the apple basil version
  • 1 medium pink lady apple (fuji and braeburn works too), cored and diced
  • a handful of fresh sweet basil,  leaves removed from the stem and julienned
for avocado cucumber version
  • half an avocado, cubed
  • half a medium cucumber, seeds removed and cubed
 for the sandwich half
  • loaf of your choice, i used whole wheat
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • a few pats of of butter (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic
directions |
  • to make the basic tuna salad, drain the tuna and leave it chunky
  • mix mayonnaise, grainy mustard, sweet paprika and cracked black pepper until evenly distributed
  • add the zest of one lemon. remember do not overzest past the yellow peel since the white parts leave a bitter after taste instead of the citrus-y goodness. add fresh juice from half a lemon to the tuna salad. 
version o1:: apple basil
  • the diced apple are added in the tuna salad and left to be chilled for at least 30 minutes. 
  • julienned fresh sweet basil completes the tuna salad and should be mixed just before serving.
version o2 :: avocado cucumber 
  • similar to version o1, add cucumber to the tuna salad to be chilled and cubed avocado just before serving. 
 for the bread
  • half the loaf of bread lengthwise 
  • spread some olive oil and butter on the bread
  • toast the bread in the oven at 325F for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown
  • once removed from the oven, rub a peeled clove of garlic on the buttered part of the bread
assembly of the sandwich
  • use any condiments according to your preference, assemble the sandwich together

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


ykristen said...

Wow, healthy and yummy at the same time, will definitely try this for lunch but i will add in cherry tomatoes in mine.

Sian Mei said...

@ykristen that is an excellent combination :) but lemme know what you think about it once you've tried!