Amanda & Merrill

Tuna Caldine

February  8, 2011

Tuna Caldine

- Merrill

Last week, my husband and I returned to snowy Brooklyn from a two-week adventure in East Africa. Our belated honeymoon had been a truly magical trip -- full of animal sightings, expansive landscapes, gorgeous sunsets, and for the most part, great food. We ate well throughout, but it wasn’t until we got to our last stop, the Kenyan beachfront paradise, Kiwayu Safari Village, that we were truly wowed by the food. 

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Every morning, a couple of the hotel workers would steer a little outboard into open water to pluck fresh seafood from the Indian Ocean, which was then cooked up for our lunch and dinner. In the five days that we were there, we had fresh crab, lobster, calamari, octopus, grouper, snapper, tuna, seaweed, dorade and oysters. And I'm probably forgetting a few other things.

Although food52 -- and home -- were more than 7000 miles away, I somehow had the presence of mind to ask the chef for a few of my favorite recipes. He gave me three, and I will publish them here, one at a time, over the next few weeks. While most of us don’t have the luxury of fish pulled from the ocean the very same day we're going to eat it, believe me when I say it is crucial to buy really fresh seafood for these recipes. It makes all the difference.

The first recipe is an Indian dish, a traditional Goan curry called a caldine. At the beach in Kenya, we had it with tuna, but it is often made with shrimp, which you can easily substitute here. All you need is some rice and a big salad, and you’ve got a great meal.

Tuna Caldine

Adapted from Kiwayu Safari Village

Serves 6

  • 3 tamarind pods
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Juice of one large lime
  • 1 1/2 pounds excellent quality tuna, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional, for garnish)
  • Rice, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, pour 3/4 cup boiling water over the tamarind pods and set aside to soak.

2. Combine the peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and grind until quite fine. Add the ground almonds and grind again briefly. Add the turmeric to the spice mixture and set aside.

3. Using a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, crush the (now soft) tamarind pods to release the pulp, stirring to combine with the water, which will turn cloudy and sort of pinkish-brown. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl and discard the pods. Set aside.

4. Heat the oil in a large, wide sauté pan over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, ginger and a large pinch of salt and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Stir in the spices and cook for another couple of minutes, until quite fragrant.

5. Add the coconut milk, chiles, 2/3 cup of the tamarind water, and the lime juice and simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt the tuna pieces lightly and add them to the pan, reducing the heat to low. Simmer until the tuna is just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, turning the pieces once halfway through so they cook evenly. Taste and add more salt if needed, and garnish with the cilantro. Serve with rice.


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salemao February 16, 2011
How interesting! Goan Cuisine (regional Indian) has the same dish made with fish or prawns.
Merrill S. February 16, 2011
Yes, this is originally a Goan recipe (see last paragraph above). In East Africa, seems they've adopted a lot of Indian dishes.
janet L. February 13, 2011
do you have your itinerary? I love to collect for future trips!
Sagegreen February 13, 2011
Welcome back! This recipe does look wonderful. Looking forward to the others. What a brilliant choice for your honeymoon! I have friends there right now on a sort of way belated honeymoon (five years after they married).
shayma February 10, 2011
oh merrill this is such a gorgeous dish- i grew up in Nairobi and the mention of this dish and your honeymoon took me back to my childhood- thank you so much. x
Merrill S. February 10, 2011
Thank you! We spent a couple nights in Nairobi on our trip.
WinnieAb February 10, 2011
OMG this looks amazing.
Merrill S. February 10, 2011
Thanks, Winnie!
msitter February 9, 2011
Hi. Looks like a great place and love the recipe. You mention rice and salad. Can you remember the full meal and were all the courses served at once?
Merrill S. February 10, 2011
The meal (lunch) started with a simple tomato and basil pasta, then we had the tuna with rice and a green salad. I can't remember dessert, but I think we were too full for it anyway!
mcs3000 February 9, 2011
Awesome, Merrill - welcome back! Can't wait to cook through this series.
Merrill S. February 10, 2011
dymnyno February 8, 2011
I love, love collecting recipes when I am traveling. Africa is on our list of places we are traveling to in the near future. So glad that you had a fantastic trip and thanks for sharing your souvenir!
Merrill S. February 10, 2011
So glad you're planning to go -- it's magical.
Kitchen B. February 8, 2011
Welcome back Merrill. What a great time you had - well deserved might I add. You were right in using peanut oil, in a lot of African countries peanuts are called groundnuts so the oil is...the same! I love the 'making your own tamarind juice'. Superb!
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
Thanks for letting me know about the peanut oil -- happy coincidence!
mrslarkin February 8, 2011
Looks yummy, Merrill! Where did you find tamarind pods? Last weekend at the Chinese grocery (where I can spend hours shopping btw) I picked up tamarind concentrate. Think I could use this? Also bought sweet tamarind in a red box which says "peel off ready to eat", which I felt compelled to buy. No idea what to do with this.
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
We got the pods at Whole Foods here in NYC! But I think concentrate would work too -- I'd mix a little with water -- it shouldn't be too strong or thick; you may need to eyeball it.
Sodium G. February 8, 2011
Amazing! I love that food was your souvenir! This looks melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I'll have to try soon!
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
Thanks! And it really doesn't need much salt.
Abra B. February 8, 2011
This sounds scrumptious. Do you think that tamarind paste in a block, or even concentrate, would make a reasonable substitute for the pods?
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
Yes, if you whisked a little of the paste into hot water, I think you'd get very similar results. Maybe start with a teaspoon?
Midge February 8, 2011
So glad you had fun and I can't wait to try this.
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
Thank you!
Going to test this out immediately. I love the idea of making authentic and pure foods, from less industrialized countries.
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
aargersi February 8, 2011
1) SO jealous of your African adventure - it is on our bucket list (more photos please!) 2) THANK YOU for bringing back recipes 3) this sounds fabulous!!!!
Merrill S. February 8, 2011
I'll definitely share some more photos in the weeks to come! Definitely make time to get to Africa -- it's amazing.