If you type ‘Maldives national dish’ into Google (other search engines are available), you are presented with a one word response: Fish. Not terribly helpful. Reading a little more reveals that the favourite fish of the Maldivians is tuna, which was good news for us because we consider a beautiful, just-seared fillet of tuna to be a real treat. It’s something we don’t eat a lot, though, because it’s so expensive, so when we found out that a typically Maldivian way of preparing it is mas riha (curry), we were faced with a dilemma. Did we really want to spend premium prices on a premium product to then hide it in a spicy coconut sauce?
Luckily for us, the solution was literally placed right in front of us. When we were waiting in line at the fishmonger for the snapper for our Martiniquais dish, we noticed that they had one kilo bags of frozen tuna fillets for £8. They weren’t going to be any good for sashimi, but for a curry, we figured it was a pretty safe bet. And the gamble paid off!
Recipe from The Domestic Man.
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cardamom pods
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
10 curry leaves
1 green chilli, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 can coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
Salt to taste
450g fresh tuna, cut into good-sized cubes (roughly an inch) and lightly salted
Rice, to serve
1. In a large frying pan, warm the coconut oil on medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, cardamom, ginger, curry leaves and chilli and sauté until aromatic (about 30 seconds).
2. Add the onion slices and continue to sauté until the onion softens (about 5 minutes).
3. When the onion has softened, add the fennel, cumin, turmeric and black pepper, and sauté until aromatic (about 30 seconds).
4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer everything to a small food processor and blend into a smooth paste.
5. Return the pan to the heat and add in the curry paste. Stir in the coconut milk and add the cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to medium/low heat and simmer until slightly darkened (about 5 minutes).
6. Gently add the fish pieces and simmer without stirring until the fish is cooked through – you may need to gently turn it over halfway through.
7. Serve with rice.
We don’t like a main meal to have no vegetables in it, so we added some cauliflower along with the tuna (simply because that’s what we had in the fridge), but other than that, we followed the recipe exactly this time, and we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it! We’d been mildly concerned that the tuna might get lost in the sauce, and then of course there is Ash’s perpetual whinging about all things coconut, but both worries were unfounded. Because the sauce wasn’t too punchy, the large cubes of tuna were strong enough to stand up to it, but it was punchy enough to balance the creamy coconut, presenting like a Thai-style curry. Moreover, it was EASY – it took about half an hour to put together, and if you have a store of tuna in your freezer as we now do, all you need to do is pick up a can of coconut milk and add it some ingredients that (for us, at least) are store cupboard staples. Recommended!