Taste Maldives, try Kulhi Mas Maldivian chilly tuna

If you want to taste the Maldives, you better not be a vegan. Maldivians love their tuna. It’s a staple at every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner. And that’s a good thing, because most of the 1,192 coral islands can not be cultivated. There are no cows on the Maldives. Even the eggs are imported.

Can you guess the only other home-grown protein source, apart from fish? Here’s a clue. Mas huni the traditional Maldivian breakfast it’s the perfect blend of the two non-imported proteins. It’s the coconut, of course. Grated coconut and tuna form the basis of many dishes and condiments here. Traditionally it would have been smoked tuna. But the modern Maldivian housewife, who generally works full time, tends to use the easy option. Canned tuna is also my lazy solution to getting enough protein.


Freshly Caught Tuna on Villingili Island

Fishermen unloading the day’s catch on Villingili Island, Male’


The good news is that I don’t have to feel guilty reaching for the canned tuna at my local shop. Yes, there is the issue of the empty can and its disposal, but tuna fishing in the Maldives is both environmentally friendly and sustainable. Because the fish are caught one by one, using pole and line rather than nets. That means no other marine life gets harmed in the process. It’s 100% dolphin friendly.


Fisherman cleaning freshly caught tuna


And it provides plenty of local employment. Pole and line fishing is labour intensive and it’s largely a family and community driven industry. Fishing is a way of life here in the Maldives, in fact it was the nation’s primary industry before tourism started in the 70s. Tuna remains the Maldives’ primary export product. It’s the large yellow fin tuna that gets get shipped to overseas markets. The fresh tuna consumed at home is the smaller skipjack.


Tuna Fish MaldivesOn Villingili, a satellite suburb of Male’ and my new island home away from home, I spend many a morning at the local harbour watching fishermen unload freshly caught tuna.

I admire their skill at filleting the fish. Returning home after work on the ferry, I am always tempted to buy a whole tuna from a fisherman selling from a bucket for around 120 Ruffhya a piece.

So last weekend, I finally did it. I ditched the can for the real thing. I got Lathifa’s recipe out and I made a traditional Kulhi Mas Maldivian chilli tuna. It’s super yummy and super simple. Here’s the recipe and instructions on how to make it.


Lathifa’s recipe for Kulhi Mas Maldivian chilly tuna


Making Maldivian Dhal

My cooking instructor Lathifa at work

Ingredients for Kulhi Mas Maldivian chilly tuna


500 gr fresh tuna, cut into cubes
4 gloves of garlic
1 inch ginger
1 red onion chopped into rings
1 heaped teaspoon of cumin powder
Red chilli powder to taste
Salt to taste
Half a cup of coconut milk
1 lime


Kulhi Mas



Heat the oil in a fry pan. Grate 4 cloves of garlic and 1 inch ginger straight into the fry pan. Cut onion into rings and add. Sizzle until translucent.




Add all other spices and the coconut milk. Add the tuna, squeeze the juice of one lime over it.

Cook covered for 5 minutes. Finish with a handful of curry leaves towards the end of cooking.


Diced Tuna for Kulhi Mas


Enjoy! Do you have a favourite tuna recipe?


Kerstin Pilz

Author at Travelpilz
I am Kerstin Pilz, PhD, recovering academic, travel blogger based in Mission Beach, Far North Queensland.
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