Sasatay (Banda-Style Tuna Falafel)

  • Serves

    makes About 3 Dozen

Toasting the trassi (dried shrimp paste) in a parcel of foil over a burner gives it the deep smokiness essential to this dish's character.


  • Salt
  • ½ lb. boneless, skinless tuna, cut into 1" cubes
  • ½ lb. blanched whole almonds
  • 1 tsp. trassi (Indonesian dried shrimp paste)
  • 10 large mint leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 red thai chiles, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and finely ground in a spice grinder
  • 1 (1") piece fresh turmeric, peeled and coarsely chopped, or ½ tsp. dried ground
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Peanut oil


Step 1

Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add tuna and gently boil until cooked through, about 5 minutes; drain and reserve.

Step 2

Put almonds into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add tuna and pulse until well ground and combined with almonds. Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.

Step 3

Put shrimp paste in center of a 5" square piece of aluminum foil, fold edges over to form a package, and press down with the heel of your hand to flatten paste into a ¼" disk. Heat a gas burner to medium-low or an electric burner to medium-high and place the foil package directly on burner. Toast until paste begins to smoke, 1–2 minutes. Using tongs, turn over and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Remove from heat, unwrap disk, and set aside.

Step 4

Put shrimp paste, mint, garlic, chiles, shallots, lime juice, cumin, turmeric, and salt to taste into the food processor and pulse to a smooth paste. Transfer to bowl of tuna–almond mixture, add egg, and mix well. Form half of mixture into 1" balls and the other half into small triangles about 1½" on each side, using 1 tbsp. to make one ball or triangle.

Step 5

Pour oil into a heavy medium pot to a depth of 2" and heat over medium heat until temperature registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry falafel in batches until golden, about 1½ minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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