Balaya Fish Curry


Watching a tough-looking inmate in a torn, dirty singlet hack at a huge balaya fish (skipjack tuna) with a machete wasn’t exactly appetising, but this is a delicious recipe and I’m glad I tried it. It has a slight tanginess from the goroka, a sour dried fruit, and a decent kick from the chilli.


  • 4 pieces of goroka*
  • 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) boiled water
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) tuna steaks
  • 185 ml (6 fl oz/¾ cup) coconut cream*
  • 1 red onion*, sliced
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked
  • 1 thin green chilli*, halved lengthways
  • 8 cm ( inch) piece rampe (pandanus) leaf*, cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon unroasted chilli powder*
  • 1 teaspoon Manike’s thuna paha (or store-bought roasted curry powder)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut milk*


Soak the goroka in the boiled water for 30 minutes, then strain, reserving the soaking water. Remove the seeds from the goroka and discard them, then roughly chop. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the goroka into a paste, gradually adding a little of the reserved water. Wash the fish and cut into 3 cm (11/4 inch) cubes, then marinate in the goroka paste and remaining water while you prepare the next step.

In a clay pot or heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, bring the coconut cream to the boil. When the coconut cream releases its oil (a thick cream will float to the surface and form a ring around the edge of the pot), add the onion, curry leaves, chilli, rampe, chilli powder, thuna paha, pepper and salt. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the coconut milk and bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by about half. Add the marinated fish and simmer gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked. Serve with pol roti and rice.