Tag Archives: MacLean Fraser

Thai Green Chicken Curry

During my travels cooking I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic Thai chefs both when in Malaysia and when working for a Thai resort in the Maldives. To me Thai cuisine is all about punchy vibrant flavours, which I love. You’ve got to have the right balance between salty (fish sauce), sour (lime juice), spicy (a good kick of chili) and sweet (sugar) to make sure you get an authentic taste, and if you’re not sure what that authentic taste is then what better excuse than to book a flight to Thailand!

Thai Green Curry
Serves 4
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Thai Green Curry Paste
1/2 stalk lemongrass
1 green chili
1/2 shallot
2 cloves garlic
8g galangal
1/4 cup coriander (leaves and stalks)
1/4 cup basil
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. shrimp paste
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. coconut cream
Thai Green Chicken Curry
400ml coconut cream
100g bamboo shoots
70g green curry paste
1tbs fish sauce
200g chicken thighs
½ tsp palm sugar
1/2tsp green chilli – seeds removed, fine chop
8 kaffir lime leaves
200ml water
1tbs basil – chopped
To serve
12 Basil leaves
4tsp Red chilli - sliced
For the Curry Paste
Roughly chop and blend all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until well combined.
For the Thai Green Curry
Simmer 1 cup of coconut cream and curry paste over moderate heat, stirring until it becomes fragrant and the oil starts to separate from the coconut cream.
Add the Chicken and cook over a moderate heat, stirring frequently until the chicken changes colour.
Add the remaining coconut cream and sufficient water to cover the chicken.
Add Lime Leaves and Bamboo Shoots.
Bring to the boil (stirring), reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is tender.
Stir in the fish sauce, sugar, green chilli and basil.
Simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Transfer to a serving bowl and scatter with the fresh Basil and Chilli slices.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/
 

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Rhubarb Frangipane tart w honey mascarpone and mulled wine syrup

rhubarb frangipane tart

Rhubarb Frangipane tart w honey mascarpone and mulled wine syrup
Serves 10
A nice wintery dessert although you can be creative and replace the rhubarb with any fruit that's in season such as plums, figs or quince.
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 45 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 45 min
Rhubarb
6 Rhubarb sticks
1C sugar
1C water
Sweet pastry
-see Chocolate Tart Recipe
Frangipane
120g butter
120g sugar
130g ground almonds
3 eggs
Zest of one lemon
Mulled wine syrup
375ml rhubarb poaching liquor
250ml red wine
1 vanilla pod
2 clove
1/2 orange zest
1 cinnamon quill
Honey mascarpone
300ml mascarpone
75g honey
For the rhubarb
Cut rhubarb into lengths. Make a stock syrup by gently heating the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Cook the rhubarb in the syrup in a low oven covered with tin foil until just under cooked. Remove from liquor. Reserve the poaching liquid for the mulled wine syrup.
For the Frangipane
Make the sweet pastry and blind bake (see chocolate tart recipe). Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the finely grated lemon zest and almonds. Place the rhubarb in the baked pastry case, top with frangipane mix and bake at 160 for 30-35mins turning once, until golden brown and cooked through.
For the mulled wine syrup
Combine all the ingredients together and simmer until reduced by ¾. Should be able to coat the back of a spoon but not “sticky”.
For the mascarpone
Combine together gently. Be careful not to over mix or it will split. You can adjust the sweetness as desired.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/

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Why do staff leave? (Or how to get the most out of your staff).

Why do people leave? Hospitality traditionally has a high level of staff turnover. Why is this? In part it is inherent in the job. Hospitality has a lower average wage then most professions, has longer working hours, is stressful and has hot and difficult working conditions.  If you can create loyalty by looking after your staff, motivate them and give them good job satisfaction you can minimize it.   It makes sense to hire the right people and try to hold onto them as long as you can. The hiring process costs money and training staff takes time and money.  The recruitment process can cost a lot of money and if you hire the wrong person it can end up costing your business big time, especially if you decide later on that they need to go. Identifying candidates who share the same core values as yourself and are going to work well within the culture of your business is of the utmost importance.   Why do people work? To get money…? Because they have to…? It is true that we all have bills to pay and we all have to work but a lot of people work because they want to. The trick is to finding out what it is that people want and how the needs of the individual and the business can combine for mutual benefit.   What motivates people? When I first stepped into a management position it was “my way or the highway”.  I have since learned that there is not one management style that works for everyone or will get the most out of every employee. Your management style needs to be flexible and change according to the situation and the people you are managing. There is a book called “The Human Side of Enterprise,” published in 1960 by Douglas McGregor. It takes the assumption that people inherently do not want to work and will avoid doing so at all times so one must maintain a system of control to force people to do that which they dislike or understand. So the solution to this is to impose rules and regulations to force people to work and to punish any deviation. But like Princess Leia says: “The more you tighten your gripTarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” To get the most out of your staff you need to find ways to make them WANT to work. You can’t play prison warden all of the time.  In my experience the best solutions are pro-active. Stop a problem before it becomes one by identifying the root cause. Problems at work and staff dissatisfaction are like a creeper. First the seed is sewn then it grows one shoot, then from that first shoot it begins to branch out, each new growing creating more branches. The stem becomes strong and the foundation of all the other branches and they start taking over other plants. People want to feel wanted, feel important, needed. If you can give someone a sense of worth and responsibility they will often rise to the challenge.   So, how do you get the most out of your staff? Being autocratic? Sometimes in a kitchen this is the only way forward but one needs to be flexible and there is a time and a place. When in service and the shit’s hitting the fan you need a strong leader who is going to make decisive decisions and lead from the front. During the battle of service is not the time for consultations. Overall the effects of this style of management is lack of motivation as staff aren’t involved in the decision making process. It promotes a lack of initiative because they are deterred from making independent decisions. Another likely result is lowered productivity because staff are dependent on the manager to make any decision for fear of being wrong. A management style that dissuades input from staff is ignoring a business’s most valuable resource: its employees.   It is important to have clearly defined rules and boundaries and to give people freedom to make decisions within these boundaries. But there has to be follow up and give good feedback. If you have your line in the sand which can’t be crossed, it often helps if people know WHYPeople have to be made accountable for not just things they do wrong but for the things they do right. Maybe this being recognized for doing tasks beyond and above the call of duty or even just doing everything perfect day in day out. Maybe even recognize people for giving it their 100% even if not perfect. What can be very frustrating and demoralizing is working extra hours, trying your best and not only not being recognized but still told off. This is very counter-productive.   Some people refuse to be managed or motivated. Maybe they never developed a good work ethic, are in the wrong job or have some other personal problem that stops them from performing at work. If you have to stand over someone and constantly bully them into doing their job then sometime it’s best for everyone to be honest and go your separate ways.

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Chocolate tart with blackberry compote & vanilla crème fraiche

With anything rich and creamy as this it is good to serve with something that acts as a foil and cuts through  the richness of the custard filling. Here I serve with blackberries and creme fraiche. Try and use the best quality chocolate and let it shine. I don’t use any sugar in the chocolate filling, I want to taste the chocolate, not sugar. Copy of A48W3492  

Chocolate Tart w blackberries and creme fraiche
Serves 10
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Prep Time
50 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
Prep Time
50 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 35 min
Sweet Pastry
125g Butter
125g Sugar
250g Flour
1 Egg
Flour for dusting
Melted butter
Blind baking rice
Eggwash
Chocolate Custard
600ml Cream
80ml milk
4 egg yolks
2 vanilla pod
480g chocolate
4 star anise
Vanilla Creme Fraiche
80g Creme Fraiche
1 Vanilla pod
Icing sugar to taste
Blackberry Compote
150g Sugar
100ml water
150g Blackberries
Sweet Pastry
Cream butter and sugar, add flour and egg, mix to combine.
Rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out pastry and chimise the tart tin with melted butter and flour.
Dock the pastry, line with baking paper filled with rice and blind bake at 140˚C until cooked.
Eggwash and return to the oven for 1 minute.
Cool.
Chocolate Custard
Scald the cream and milk with the split/scraped vanilla pod and star anise.
Whisk onto the egg yolks and then whisk in the chocolate.
Pass.
Pour custard into pastry case and cook at 140˚C until there is a slight wobble, about 20-35 minutes depending on your oven.
Vanilla Creme Fraiche
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod.
Mix the creme fraiche with the seeds and icing sugar to taste - not too sweet.
Blackberry Compote
Bring sugar and water to the boil, simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
Add blackberries to the pot and simmer for 2 minutes then remove from the heat.
MacLean Fraser http://macleanfraser.com/
     

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Top 5 tips for food photography with the iPhone

scallopsEver made or seen a dish that looks amazing but none of the photos you took do it justice? Most of us don’t carry around or own expensive cameras but smart phones these days have quite decent cameras and can take good quality photos. Follow these simple tips to help make your food shots look as best as they can.

1 – Use your grid If you enable the grid on your camera it can help you be more precise when taking your photo. When taking a shot try to place a point of interest on one of the grid intersections to draw in the eye. 2 – Natural light Whenever you can make sure you use natural light. If you have a high quality SLR camera or some light set ups then it doesn’t matter. But if like most of us the only thing you have on hand is the camera from your smart phone then natural light will give you the best quality picture. 3 – Rule of thirds This is where the grid also comes in to play. Food photos look best if they have 1/3 negative space or background with 2/3 of the frame being the subject matter. The only time you would not apply this rule is if you are doing close up shots. 4 – Check your dish Shoot your dish quick. Sauces run, salads wilt, garnishs become soggy so make sure everything is ready to go before hand and take your pics when the food is at it’s best. If you are taking a pic of a salad or vegetables you can spray with water to give a fresh look. 5 – Choose your angle There are a few simple ways to frame your food picture that will look nice: -Centered, From above, Angled, Diagonal and Close-Up. For me all these work very well and my default go to if all other angles look strange is to shoot directly from above. Just ensure that if whatever you are shooting is square you rotate your camera so to avoid any parallel lines. See the gallery below for some examples!

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Khon Kaen Markets, Thailand

photo(7)Only ever having been to Bangkok before, Khon Kaen was somewhere I had never even heard of. I recently attended a 2 day conference at the Centara Khon Kaen Convention Center otherwise I would have probably never visited this city. Driving in from the airport I was a bit concerned but this is actually quite a vibrant city of about 1 million. I had one free day before flying back to work and reality, so thought what better way to spend it than checking out the photo(8)markets. These are amazing places, full of sights, smells and busy with people selling, buying and going about their daily business. There is something better about these places than anything you get back home. They’re just so interesting. Markets in western countries tend to be sterile (in both senses) and although when you look around the markets in Asia you can’t help but think about the hygiene, I have never once got food poisoning in all my time living, working and eating abroad. Ironically it’s only back in New Zealand that I have got sick where the food hygiene education is much better. Maybe photo(4)it’s because things here are cooked so fresh. Most things are live and I saw one person selecting a fish to take home; it was freshly killed on the spot with a swift blow of a cleaver to it’s head. The same applies when cooking. I didn’t get a chance to eat out properly on the street while here but as in Vietnam and many other places in Asia, when you order a fish, frog, eel, prawns or whatever you choose to have for your meal, it is taken out of the live tank and cooked in front of you. Now you can’t get much fresher, or better than that.

photo(3)photo(2)photo(9)

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The ebook is out!

Using clear step by step instructions and modern flavor combinations,

Taste and Season shows you how to make restaurant quality food at home.

With vibrant colour photography, Taste and Season has recipes spanning entrees, mains, desserts and basics. Try recipes like “Jerusalem artichoke soup with crispy pulled duck”, “Beef fillet and braised short rib with truffled potato puree and preserved lemon gremolata” and “Pistachio, polenta and olive oil torte with green apple sorbet”.

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Maldives and the environment

Rubbish being burned off into the atmosphere

Rubbish being burned off into the atmosphere

Stunning white beaches, pristine sands, crystal clear water… this is the view that I am sure the Tourism board wants you to see, and for the most part is true. However how rubbish is dealt with in the Maldives has shocked me. I am not an expert in the field of environment or waste management, but I have eyes and I also think I have good common sense and it doesn’t take a scientist to realise that if you keep polluting and don’t have a proper plan for dealing with your rubbish and put it into practice you are going to fuck the world.

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Nappies and other rubbish on the beach

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Floating rubbish sharing the water with the fish we eat

Although the Maldives is not a first world country one would still think it would be prudent to take care of the ocean since it is where the majority of the food comes from. Being a chef this is something that concerns me and I think about often. Fishing makes up a very large percentage of the economy and the water is also the draw card for the tourism industry (which makes up over half of the economy). There seems to be a total disregard for littering and a lack of caring. The majority of rubbish gets sent to Thila Fushi (aka rubbish island) where rubbish is piled on rubbish upon more rubbish stacked dangerously close to the water’s edge, and that rubbish that isn’t stacked up is burned releasing huge plumes of smoke into the atmosphere. Not all of it goes straight up but drifts; something I realised as the pungent smell assaulted my senses and burned the back of my throat as we sailed past in a ferry one day. I truly think a lot of it comes down to education. Nobody seems to care. Even the “out of sight, out of mind” approach doesn’t work if the problem has got so large that you can’t help but see it. I have seen a boat driver throw his rubbish out of the window into the sea without a care in the world and a woman in Male throw her empty drink container onto the ground after her small child had finished with it. Apparently ‘floating rubbish’ is an issue and with actions and attitudes like this it is not a surprise.

IMG_0080

Eventually some of the floating rubbish gets washed up

With most of the Maldives being under 3ft above sea level this country especially should be concerned about caring for the environment, global warming and rising sea levels. If for no other reason than self-preservation. I’m not sure what the answer is but if people aren’t educated and change their ways and start caring about their environment then maybe there won’t be too much left to care about sooner than we think.

IMG_1494

Rubbish dumped on the beach

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Maafushi Dining Guide

IMG_0085

Maafushi main street

 Having decided we needed a break from work and the little island we call home, we decided to take a trip for a few days and go stay at an inhabited island to also get a taste of the ‘real’ Maldives. About 90 minutes ferry ride from the capital Male, Maafushi is an inhabited island with a population of about 1,200. There are over 15 guest houses and boutique hotels on the island and seems to be a popular spot for a bit more of a ‘budget’ Maldives experience with average room prices from $25 to $150. IMG_0067Just for your information a normal price for a hotel room in a Maldives resort is in the 600-1,000$US a night range! Beaches are nice enough with the best spots on the left and far side of the island opposite the jetty (North East). The other side houses the prison and the beaches there are non existant and full of floating and beached rubbish. Quite shocking the amount of pollution and rubbish management in this country really, but that’s for another post…

IMG_1501I had a look on google for places to eat while on the island but couldn’t really find any decent information so decided to write this post. The island consists mostly of tourist shops selling wooden trinkets and souvenirs and guest houses or boutique hotels. There are also a couple of small stalls on the beach selling things like drinking coconuts for 3 times the price you pay in Male and a few mini mart type places selling basic groceries of the tinned IMG_1500variety and maybe a little bit of fruit. Self catering options don’t seem to really exist; the guest houses rely on the income from food revenue and even if you did have kitchen facilities the available food variety isn’t great and probably not to non-local tastes. I couldn’t find any take-away joints so dining at a guest house/hotel seems the only option. An average price for a main course should be between 45 and 75MVR which is between 3 and 5$US.

I have put together some information of all the places we went to during our stay so as to help any future visitors to the island avoid the tourist traps.

Day 1

Dinner: Kaani Beach Hotel (North West by the beach side main road)

kaani beach

Kaani Beach Hotel, nice rooms bad restaurant

The hotel itself is quite nice. We had a beach view room and the rooms were clean with a decent balcony. Staff were friendly but are in desperate need to training unfortunately. Despite my reservations of using the hotel’s restaurant we were tired and thought why not, it won’t be too bad..? Yeah wrong. Drinks order took 25mins to deliver some of the drinks and 35mins to deliver the rest (a coke?!). Was an hour wait for some fried chicken and chips and a minute steak with chips and salad. Also ordered a Shepherds pie. After all, we thought yeah we’ll order something nice and simple looking forward to a homely simple meal. This special dish beat my already lowered expectations. Apparently Shepherds pie consists of some mixed vegetables in a mystery white sauce topped with some glue like bread. BIZZARE. So strange I checked to make sure this was actually the Shepherds pie, apparently it is. I really wished I had taken a picture of this dish as it is actually the worst thing I have ever been served in a restaurant in my life. This was right after they tried to bring us another dish we hadn’t ordered. All this and there was 3 tables in the place with maybe 8 diners in total. Shocking. And at the end it was about 40$US which is at the upper end and quite expensive (about half a week’s wages in this country).

Day 2

Breakfast: Kaani beach hotel

Being the sucker for punishment that I am and having been unable to google anywhere else for breakfast the night before, decided to have our included breakfast at the hotel. Yet again I had low expectations, considerably lowered since our experiences of the night before but were still a little surprised. Juice from a powder sachet, corn flakes, cold lentil curry, warm room temp milk, baby corn in ketchup, grated coconut, chapati, and the highlight: chopped papaya. To be fair the coffee was nice and hot even if it was instant and they offered to cook us eggs. Which took about half an hour (yet again only about 3 tables in the place) and they managed to break and over cook the yolk yet under cook the white, even sous vide this is quite hard. Now if this was a $15 buck a night hostel then well that’s what you might expect but our bill for our room was about $110US a night so it would normally be safe to assume something half decent.

Lunch: Rehendi Restaurant (Next to Kaani Beach Hotel)

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Viet Cong Punji Stick Burger

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Rehendi Restaurant

This place was right next door to our hotel and I had hopes of maybe a half decent burger of some description. The food here was pretty average and priced also about average. Not a bad place. Although it took an age. This seems to be the common theme with places here, it took half an hour for a bottle of water. Now I have lived and worked in islands before and thought I had realistic expectations. But half an hour for a bottle of water when we are the only people in the place?? Come on…! When I went to enquire I was told “coming”. Now it’s a bottle of water, what’s coming? The water bottle delivery? Really not sure what was going on there. This place is also the home of what I call the “Viet Cong Burger”. The food arrived and was ok, the burger was about what I expected and came with fries and about 1tbspn of coleslaw. I thought, hey lets put the slaw in my burger, I open it up and see a submerged toothpick inside ready to impale my lip or mouth much like a booby trap back in ‘Nam! I counted myself lucky… I had flash backs of Tom Berenger in Platoon yelling at me to “Take the PAIN!!!”

Dinner: Venturo Restaurant (about half way along the main inland road)

IMG_1496Having gone for a bit of a wander during the day we found this place on the main drag. When we first walked in there were three guys playing cards which gave the impression we had walked into somewhere we shouldn’t have! A little bit like the Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter… But yes it was the restaurant and we were sat upstairs. We ordered a couple of pastas; macaroni and a bolognaise. Which turned out to be farfelle and fusili, both coming in a canned vegetarian tomato sauce. Not what I ordered but the pasta was actually cooked perfectly el dente and it was hot and came out in about 25mins, so very acceptable especially in the scheme of things! Down side here was that the food was more than twice the price of the other places we had been to with the exception of Kaani Beach Hotel.

Day 3

Breakfast: Kaani Beach Hotel

Back here again for breakfast… dear oh dear. Moderately better than before. Pretty much the same except instead of lentil curry and baby corn in ketchup there was sliced processed frankfurters in ketchup and baked beans. I was grateful for baked beans. We ordered eggs again. A solitary boiled egg, cold in the middle and a fried egg, this time so raw that it was possible to see through the top half into the bottom half. I asked for it to be quickly flipped over please. 20mins of waiting later fuck this I’m outa here.

Lunch: Leisure Boutique Hotel (green building about half way between Kaani Beach and the Jetty)

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This was a place on the main beach side road. Really friendly staff and looked like it was a husband/wife running the place. Had a decent fried rice and fried noodle. They also do Shisha for 5$US. A bit on the pricey side being more than Venturo Restaurant but better quality and sitting outside in the garden eating was nice.IMG_0167

Dinner:White Shell Beach Inn (North side of the island, beach side)

IMG_1502Now I thought ok, there has to be somewhere half decent round here and spotted this place. For 100MVR (about 6.50$US) you could get a whole chicken and if we had of been staying longer I would have come back. We ordered the grilled chicken meal for two which came with a decent amount of coleslaw and rosshi (chapati) and at 150MVR was really good value and a very simple but really enjoyable meal. Was all out within about 25mins too which was great.  Yay!IMG_0173

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Male fish markets and sustainable fishing in the Maldives

IMG_1478Not being an early riser we arrived at the markets most likely after all the good stuff had since been sold. It was roughly lunchtime, the jetty being busy with local boats, tourists arriving and departing Male on day trips and the Coast Guard doing whatever it is the Coast Guard does.

The ferry crossing was rather pleasant if not a little hot but that is normal here. We had experienced some extreme weather the week before with some ferries cancelled due to the high seas. Being able to go from one place to another irrespective of the weather is something you take for granted not being from a sea faring nation.

IMG_0008“Smells like low tide…” ah yes, we must be nearing the fish markets! I always like visiting the local markets wherever I am working. It’s important to see what’s available and what the prices and quality is like. If you can get away with using local instead of imported and cutting down on the food miles then it is better do so for both the environment and the budget. I have to say that at first glance the fish markets were uninspiring at best. There was the inevitable smell, the sad looking dead octopus on the floor surrounded by flies and what I hope are the small sized rejects that didn’t get snapped up first thing in the morning. Mental note: get your arse out of bed earlier next time…!

IMG_0002Most of what was on offer was Tuna along with some smaller herring type fish, a couple of fish that I am more used to seeing in an aquarium or voiced by Ellen DeGeneres on a particular kid’s film and a type of anchovy like sprat. Tuna make up a significant proportion of the economy in the Maldives. Fish and coconuts are pretty much the only readily available resources here with fishing only being eclipsed in the economy by tourism about three decades ago. All the fishing in the Maldives is done by hand with either rods (modern or traditional) or hand lines; netting is forbidden. Which is really good news for the sustainability of the Tuna industry. At first I was shocked at the sizes of some of the Tuna on display having previously worked in the Cook Islands and seen the monsters hauled into the kitchen on wheel barrows. But it seems that a lot of what is caught are Skip Jack Tuna whose normal size is 1.5 to 5 kg, with an average 35cm fish coming in at about 3kg, although I am certain some of the fish I saw were suspect. IMG_0004Skipjack tuna are a smaller variety than the endangered Blue Fin tuna. The problem is that juvenile Yellow Fin and Big Eye tuna swim with adult Skip Jack. Much of the Skip Jack fishing around the world is done with purse seine vessels which use large nets and catch indiscriminately like those in finding Nemo. (I have a 3yr old daughter so know that film well…!) What this does means is that as much as 30% of a catch is of the less common Tuna variety caught and killed before they have reached breeding age thus creating a bit of a vicious cycle of diminishing numbers.

IMG_0034At the markets the quality of what was on offer was not the best. Although I’m sure it was fresh that day as there was no refrigeration it’s definitely not what I would exactly call sashimi grade. Tuna needs to be killed quickly and bled in order to produce a good quality product. This usually involves a spike to the brain. If death does not come quickly then the stress causes a build-up of lactic acid which results in a dull looking, greyish flesh instead of the nice bright colour we are used to. If the Tuna is not bled then you end up with an excessive blood line which is full of Mercury and not really fit to eat. That said, how Tuna is prepared locally here is very different from how you would serve it back home. Instead of sashimi, or lightly seared or grilled most of it ends up in a curry or a traditional Maldivan spicy Tuna soup whose name eludes me but is not really my cup of tea anyway. IMG_0006If you did so choose to take a fish home then you could do so cheaply for about $3US per kg and have it wet filleted on the spot by some very fast and talented filleters. Maybe they are looking for a job…?

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