World Famous Dark Tuna Curry Recipe #1

image of sri Lankan dark tuna curry

Sri Lankan Ambul Thiyal Curry

Sri Lankan and Hindu new year is precious and auspicious time for Sri Lankans. Special dishes are made for weeks ahead, in preparation for the day. Sri Lankan dark tuna curry or Ambul thiyal is one such dish that takes a prominent position in the lunch table. Yellowfin tuna, albacore tuna is common around the waters of Lanka and a lot more other species of fish.

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I am proud to say that my little Islanders are experts when it comes to making seafood dishes. Dark tuna curry is one such dish. The flavor for making this curry comes from curry powder carefully roasted and pounded together to make one thick creamy paste of black curry seasoning.

Sri Lankan new year spread

Warm Indian Ocean currents, and plankton rich waters makes Sri Lankan water a haven for array of saltwater fish and shellfish. A lot of tuna verifies as well as rays, sharks and crustaceans are common in Sri Lanka’s wet fish markets. Thus, there are many delicious fish curry options that we make fitting for any occasion. among them, Sri Lankan dark tuna curry recipe is especially suited to cook any tuna or mackerel or dark flesh fish with a strong fishy taste.

I love keeping a jar of premade dark roasted fish curry seasoning powder and paste in my freezer all the time. It makes making a Tuna curry or other fish curry so much easier and faster. Also, the flavor comes out great every time. Since I decided to make roasted black curry seasoning and posted it to my blog under the Sri Lankan Umami -2, I was dying to make some more of my favorite curry recipes into easy make seasoning blends. Goin along with that plan, I made and shared duck and poultry seasoning, red curry seasoning and yellow curry seasoning powders. Somehow writing a post for dark roasted fish curry powder got delayed day by day. Sometimes life happens and plans just go out the back door.

Why dark roasted tuna curry powder is a must have in your curry seasoning cupboard

Coming back to finding the ideal seasoning blend to cook seafood, let me talk a little about ideal flavors for blood fish. I always felt, cooking with any fatty fish, blood fish types are too much of a chance to take without correct seasonings. Especially while making a curry, finding the right flavors that blend well is important. Flavors of ginger, black pepper and especially Malabar tamarind do a decent job of cutting through the fishy smell and masking any off flavors or tastes in a curry. Best recipes around the world to cook fatty fish are dark tuna curry, Mackerel curry, South Indian fish fry, Thai fish recipes. They all use potent curry flavor combinations to flavor fish. It just helps to highlight buttery flavor of fish enameled with seasoning around it.

In Sri Lanka dark roasted red curry powder and dark roasted black tuna curry seasoning is often used to cook the Tuna curry, spicy mackerel curry and any small fish curries like sardines, anchovies or smelts. Black curry seasoning blend is my own little way of combining flavors from those recipes to a one single convenient curry blend.

Recipes that use dark tuna curry seasoning or black curry seasoning paste

Aromatic dark seasoning blend is used in many other curries than just Sri Lankan Ambul thiyal or tuna curry. For some reason this curry seasoning blend works wonderfully when cooking with pork chops, pork picnic shoulder or pork butt. It infuses amazing aroma and flavor from caramelized onions, ground malabar tamarind and dark roasted chili peppers.

Another recipe that uses black curry seasoning or dark roasted fish curry seasoning is going to be perfect for is bitter melon curry. Bitter melon curry is quite different from the tuna curry and has a different flavor profile. However, for some elusive reason, same dark roasted flavors from black curry seasoning masks bitterness of the bitter gourds and leaves a thick tart, spicy and aromatic sauce, which makes you want this curry increasingly.

How to clean and prep the fish for the tuna curry or Ambul Thiyal

Ambul thiyal isn’t just made with Tuna fish. Although this post is about tuna curry aka tuna ambul thiyal recipe, there are other fish varieties that can be made into a same curry. In festivities it is made with Tuna fish to take up the star position of the spread. Most of the times, it is made with yellowfin, skipjack, or albacore tuna. However, Swordfish, Rays, Sardines can also be made into similar dark thiyal curry in regular home meals. apart from than that crayfish, tilapia and crab curry use black curry seasoning in combination with other curry powders.

Sri Lankan tuna curry

Whenever using whole fish to make the curry it should be cleaned by first scraping the outer skin of any scales, trimming fins with kitchen scissors. Remove head and inners, and soak in water with teaspoon of turmeric, teaspoon of salt and juice from a lime along with lime peel. After 10 minutes of soak, rub and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry and cut into cubes.

Making dark roasted tuna curry seasoning

Making dark roasted curry powder for tuna curry is a labor of love. But not an unpleasant experience. Be prepared to stay near the wok, dry roasting spices, basking the aroma from roasting coconuts, white rice and so on. There are little culinary experiences as rich as this.

image of sri Lankan dark tuna curry

Sri Lankan tuna curry Ambul Thiyal

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Servings 8 Servings


  • 1 Clay Curry Pot


Black curry powder

  • 3 tbsp whole black pepper
  • 3 tbsp whole coriander
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp dry raw white rice
  • 2 tbsp scraped coconut
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds

Fish Curry Seasoning paste

  • 10 pieces malabar tamarind soaked for an hour
  • 4 inch ginger
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp toasted red pepper powder optional
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black curry powder

Ambul Thiyal curry / Dark tuna curry

  • 1 banana leaf wrap optional but highly recommended
  • 1 lb. cubed tuna stake
  • 2 tbsp Fish curry seasoning paste
  • ½ cup water


Making black curry powder

  • Toast coriander, cumin and curry leaves separately until fragrant and set aside to cool down. Toast them until golden and slightly dark on the edges and completely dry and fragrant.
    black curry seasoning
  • Toast Fenugreek seeds until golden brown. Set aside.
  • Toast fennel seeds until just warm and fragrant, for few seconds.
  • Roast dry rice until it turns milky white and aromatic.
  • Toast the scraped coconut on low heat until turns dark and fragrant.
  • Pound toasted coriander,fennel and cumin, until finely crushed. Add dry rice, black pepper and salt then keep pounding. Work in small batches. Finally transfer the pounded seasoning with fennel, rice and coconut and grind into a fine powder in food processor.
  • Add nutmeg and fenugreek seeds. Store in airtight container.

Making fish curry seasoning from black curry powder

  • Soak malabar tamarind until soft.
  • Add all the ingredients listed under the seasoning paste in the grinder / or nutri blender and grind to a fine paste.
    image of tuna curry

Making ambul thiyal Tuna curry

  • Mix 2 tablespoon of fish curry paste with water and coat the piece of fish with it.
  • Lay a banana leaf at the bottom of the clay pot and place the seasoned tuna cubes on it. Lay another peiece of banana leaf big enough to cover the cubes of fish.
  • Cover with the lid and cook on low heat until the tuna is just done.
  • Turn the cubes of fish gently with a fork as it cooks once or twice, to ensure every piece of fish has an even coating of spice mix around them.
  • Once  cooked through and water has evaporated, turn the heat off and leave on the stove to rest for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Remove banana leaves carefully.
  • Enjoy over milk rice or rice and curry meal
Keyword AmbulThiyal, sri lankan curry, Tuna curry


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