South Sea sunshine: Tuvaluan tuna curry

Next on our culinary tour of the Pacific Islands is Tuvalu, which lies halfway between Hawaii and Australia and is made up of three reef islands and six atolls. Its population is only about 10,000, so, unsurprisingly, there weren’t many Tuvaluan websites telling us what to cook!

Like most of these small island nations, Tuvaluan cuisine is centred around ingredients that are locally grown or hunted and therefore easy to acquire. Specifically, most dishes are based on the staples of coconut and fish. Imported ingredients (essentially the remainder of this recipe) are also necessary, however, as so little can actually grow in Tuvalu.

We rejected this recipe at first: we like tuna a lot, but we don’t like messing with it, and hiding it in a curry constituted messing with it. However, as mentioned earlier, our options were limited, which is how we found ourselves making tuna curry last weekend (thanks once again to Global Table Adventure for the recipe).

Tuna curry

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 birds eye chillies, chopped finely
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tin coconut milk
4 spring onions, sliced
1 smallish cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise and sliced
2-4 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
450g tuna steak, cubed

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Cook the onion over medium-high heat until softened (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and curry powder. Reduce heat to medium and cook until fragrant.
3. Stir in the coconut milk, green onion and cucumber, and season with soy sauce to taste.
4. Add the tuna and cook until it is done to your preference – keep turning it to make sure you don’t overcook it.
5. Serve with rice.
Serves 2 generously.

553a Tuna compressed

554a Tuna compressed

555a Tuna curry cooking compressed

556a Tuna curry compressed

Despite our initial misgivings, this is the first international dish we’ve made for a while that we’ve really enjoyed. It wasn’t too coconutty in flavour, so Ash was happy, and although we’d feared that the tuna might end up overdone, we watched it carefully enough that it was still lovely and flaky. The thought of cooked cucumber was strange at first too, but somehow it worked. So, all in all, a pleasant surprise.

That’s not to say that we wouldn’t tweak it a bit next time, though! Our two gripes with this dish were that the sauce was a bit runny and that given the cost of tuna, it was quite expensive to make, for such a simple dish (it was about £10 worth of tuna). In our heads, we could solve both of these problems by replacing the tuna with chicken. The chicken would take longer to cook, thus reducing the sauce, and it would obviously be cheaper. One to experiment with!

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