Mal­di­vian Fish Rice

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Ac­tive: 1 hr. 15 min. • To­tal: 1 hr. 40 min. Adapted from Seema Ahmed, who moved from the Mal­dives to Colombo in Sri Lanka, this dish fea­tures large, ten­der pieces of tuna. Its name lit­er­ally trans­lates to “fish rice.” Tra­di­tion­ally, the co­conut milk–cooked, spicein­fused rice would be made ahead of time and packed up for beach pic­nics. Lo­cally, it’s served with a con­cen­trated fish paste condi­ment known as ri­haakuru, a byprod­uct of the re­gion’s tuna dry­ing prac­tices.

2½ cups bas­mati rice, rinsed well ⅓ cup un­re­fined co­conut oil 1 medium red onion (9 oz.), thinly sliced 10 gar­lic cloves, coarsely chopped 8 whole green car­damom pods 5 1-inch pieces pan­dan leaf 3 1-inch pieces flat cin­na­mon 2 fresh Thai chiles, stemmed and split

length­wise ¼ cup whole black pep­per­corns 1½ lb. tuna, cut into 1-inch chunks Kosher salt 1½ cups co­conut milk 1½ tsp. ground turmeric Store-bought ri­haakuru, co­conut sam­bol, or Mint Sam­bol (see this page for recipe), for serv­ing (op­tional)

1 In a medium bowl, soak the rice in enough cool wa­ter to cover for 30 min­utes. Drain well and set aside.

2 In a large pot with a lid, heat the co­conut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stir­ring reg­u­larly, un­til very soft and lightly browned, 15–20 min­utes. Stir in the gar­lic, car­damom, pan­dan, and cin­na­mon and cook un­til fra­grant, 2–3 min­utes. Stir in the chiles and pep­per­corns, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the spices turn glossy and aro­matic, 4–5 min­utes.

3 Sea­son the tuna lightly with kosher salt. Re­turn the heat on the pot to medium-high, and gently stir in the fish to coat with the onion mix­ture. Gently stir in the drained rice, sea­son gen­er­ously with salt, then add the co­conut milk, ½ cup wa­ter, and turmeric. Bring the mix­ture to a low boil, and cover the pot. Let cook for 5 min­utes, then check the mois­ture level and the done­ness of the rice, adding a splash more wa­ter and slightly de­creas­ing the heat if the rice is be­gin­ning to stick or smells caramelized. Cover and con­tinue to cook, check­ing the rice ev­ery 5 min­utes, un­til ten­der, 15–20 min­utes more. Re­move from the heat and let rest, cov­ered, for 3–5 min­utes.

4 Serve im­me­di­ately with the bot­tled ri­haakuru, co­conut sam­bol, or mint sam­bol if de­sired.

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