Adapted from Yusra and Mohamed Ali Makim, this is a more or less dry curry, with only a little coconut milk added for sweetness and balance. The garnish, known as Maldive fish flakes or fish chips, is very firm dried and cured pieces of tuna, sold in jars and often ground into a powder. Much like finely chopped anchovies or a dash of fish sauce, this is used to add savory depth.
Lessons from a tropical island in the Indian Ocean where exuberantly spiced dishes have been influenced by centuries of colonization, migration, and commerce
- 3 tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 tsp. black mustard seeds
- 2 dozen curry leaves
- 2 green chiles, such as Thai style, stemmed and split lengthwise
- 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced (2 cups)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 4 1-inch pieces flat Sri Lankan cinnamon
- 3⁄4 lb. green beans (about 1 qt.), ends trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1⁄3 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- Finely ground Maldive fish flakes, or substitute bonito flakes, for garnish (optional)
In a wok or large pot, heat the oil over high heat until nearly smoking. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, chiles, and onion, and cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds begin to audibly pop and the curry leaves are fragrant, about 1 minute. Quickly stir in the salt, turmeric, and cinnamon, then add the beans and toss well to coat them with oil and spices. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently and adding a splash of water as necessary to keep the spices from burning, until the beans are bright green and firm-tender, 4–6 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, cumin, and coconut milk; let cook for 1–2 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and remove from the heat.
Transfer to a platter and garnish with the fish flakes if using.