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Mas Riha is a fish curry from Maldives, the small group of islands to the Southwest of the Indian subcontinent (it’s officially the smallest country in Asia). The dish is very representative of Maldivian cuisine, which is based on three main staples: fish, coconut, and starch.
While many people associate curries with hot, humid weather, I prefer them in the cold of winter; to me, the contrast of bitter cold weather and tropical food tends to embolden the curry’s flavors. This week is our first real glimpse of winter on the East Coast (there’s snow on the ground as I type this), so it seems like the perfect time to share this recipe. Fish curry is just about perfect, since it needs so little time to cook; you can easily throw together this entire delicious meal in less than 30 minutes.
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cardamom pods
1″ fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
10 curry leaves (1 tsp curry powder okay)
1 jalapeño or other green chile (serrano, etc), stem, seeds, and ribs removed, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 tsp each ground fennel, cumin, turmeric, black pepper
1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
1 cinnamon stick
salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
1 lb fresh tuna or other firm fish (mahi mahi, swordfish, etc), cut into cubes and lightly salted
Fresh curry leaves are usually available in your local Asian market, but if you don’t have any available, a teaspoon of your favorite curry powder is fine. You’ll want to add the powder when you add the rest of the spices (fennel, etc).
Skipjack or yellowfin (ahi) tuna are traditionally used in making this dish, but any firm fish will do. I used cod in my photos; our local fishmonger was selling some excess/leftover pieces at a discount, and they were easily cut into cubes for Mas Riha.
Lightly salt the fish and set it aside. In a large skillet, warm the coconut oil on medium heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cardamom, ginger, curry leaves, and chile pepper slices and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the onion slices and continue to sauté until the onion softens, about five minutes.
When the onion has softened, add the fennel, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper, and sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer everything to a small blender or food processor (I used my Magic Bullet) and blend into a smooth paste, adding water if needed. Discard the cardamom pods if they didn’t fully blend.
Return the skillet to the heat (again on medium heat) and add in the blended onion mixture. Stir in all but 1 tbsp of the coconut milk and add the cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to med/low and simmer until slightly darkened, about 5 minutes. Taste the curry and add salt if needed.
Gently add the fish pieces to the curry, and simmer without stirring until the fish is cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. The easiest way to tell if fish is done is to gently nudge it with a spoon; it’s ready when it slightly resists flaking. Spoon the curry into bowls and drizzle the extra 1 tbsp of coconut milk over it, then serve with rice or cauliflower rice.