That’s not a whole tuna belly in the photo but about half of one. We bought a 1.8 kilogram tuna belly last Sunday and I cut it horizontally into two portions. We grilled the first half the usual way on Sunday evening and had it for dinner with sinigang ng ulo ng maya-maya, the recipe for which I will post next. This baked tuna belly was our dinner last Monday.
The original for this recipe, by Sandy Daza, uses a whole sole. I have tried it once, about ten years ago, for a luncheon party. I don’t know why I never tried it since–the recipe is pretty straightforward and the cooked dish is pretty good. Anyway, I was trying to decide how to cook the second half of the tuna belly last Monday evening when I remembered Sandy Daza’s recipe. In a nutshell, I half-cooked the belly in the oven wrapped in foil. Then, I opened the foil, made a vertical cut along the middle of the belly, not all the way through but only about half an inch deep, brushed the belly liberally with butter, filled the crevice with sauce and, finally, put it back into the oven, unwrapped, and baked it until done and the sauce slightly browned on top.
You will need a piece of tuna belly (I used only half of a 1.8 kilogram belly), butter, half a cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 c. of chunky tomato catsup, 1/4 c. of banana catsup, some salt, ground white pepper and about half a teaspoon of chopped parsley.
To make the sauce, mix together half the mayonnaise, tomato catsup, banana catsup, salt, ground white pepper and parsley.
To prepare the fish, rub some salt and ground pepper onto the meat then wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and bake in a 180oC oven for about ten minutes.
Take the fish out of the oven. Carefully unfold the foil and open the wrapping all the way. With a sharp knife, cut along the middle of the fish, from top to bottom. Make sure that the incision is no so deep that the tuna belly is cut in two halves. What you want is simply a crevice deep enough to hold the sauce. At this point, the fish should still be raw inside.
Get some butter and spread all over the fish, including the crevice. You don’t need to melt the butter before brushing it on the fish. The fish is hot enough at this point to melt the butter.
With a spoon, fill the crevice with the sauce. Actually, you overfill it then you smooth out the excess by spreading it a little towards the sides.
Without re-folding the foil, put the fish back into the oven and bake for another ten minutes or until the fish is fully cooked and the sauce slightly browned. At the this stage the edges of the fish will be slightly browned as well.
Tip: To facilitate the rest of the cooking, when you wrap the fish in aluminum foil, use a large piece of foil, place the fish at the center, gather the edges together and fold on top. Fold the sides as well. This way, when you take the fish out of the oven halfway through the cooking, you can open the wrapping without tearing the foil. Believe me, you want the foil intact so that you can lift the fish by holding the sides of the foil then transfer it to a serving platter. It’s not a good idea to use a spatula or turner to transfer the fish from the oven rack to the serving platter. The meat of the fish might break, the sauce may slide off… I mean, you want to serve the fish in its fully glory, right? So, take extra care when wrapping it. It will help tremendously.