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BrokeAss Gourmet

Smoked Tuna Salad

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My friend Evan told me about can-smoked tuna recently as we were discussing cool ways to apply fire to food. His friend David Ruderman, an Orthodox rabbi, showed him how to do it once, when he was visiting from Israel. David picked it up during his time in the military, where this trick originated. I have to admit, at first I was skeptical; the process involved packing a can of oil-packed tuna with a wad of toilet paper and setting it on fire. It sounded dangerous and kind of gross.

Still, I was intrigued. And now, having just done it, I can confirm that it’s actually quite easy, tasty, and really, really fun to make. Though the fire actually stays quite small and is surprisingly non-smelly, there’s something just awesome and rustic-feeling about setting up a “smoker” on your back deck.

And the results are just incredible. The smoking process gets rid of that fishy, tinny flavor, replacing it with a complex, smoky one, making it perfect for this smoked-whitefish-style salad preparation.

I happened to have some fresh bialies, which I toasted and served it on top of. It’d be good plain too, or heaped on top of some dressed greens.

Note: I highly recommend using very basic toilet paper or tissue. Don’t use anything with fragrance or lotions in it.


1 can olive-oil-packed tuna $2

unscented toilet paper or tissue, preferably organic

2 tablespoons finely minced onion 50 cents for a whole onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley $1 for a bunch

juice of half a lemon 50 cents for a whole lemon

1 hard-boiled egg, cooled and chopped $1.50 for 6 eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise pantry

salt and pepper to taste pantry

Total cost of ingredients: $5.50


Carefully open up the can of tuna without removing any of the oil. Discard the lid.

Place the tuna can in a large pot and bring it, with some toilet paper or tissue, outside. Keep a pitcher of water nearby, just in case.

Take about four squares of toilet paper (or the equivalent amount of tissue) and fold it up into a little stack. Press it into the tuna, allowing the edges to hang off the sides. The paper should soak up quite a bit of oil.

Carefully light a dry edge of the paper and watch it while it burns. The whole thing will catch fire and continue burning (using the oil as fuel). Stay nearby and keep an eye on it. It should keep burning for 10-15 minutes.

Eventually, the flame will go out, which means that the fish has finished smoking. Let the can sit for five minutes to cool down.

Use a fork to carefully remove the ashy paper (it should just peel off). Discard it and transfer the fish into a mixing bowl. Refrigerate for five to 10 minutes to cool it down.

Stir the cooled fish together with onion, parsley, lemon juice, egg, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Serve immediately or chill for up to 24 hours.

Serves two.

Gabi Moskowit

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