Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan plate

Sri Lankan food has always been one of those experiences where I could never quite put my finger on the flavours and aromas. Until a dear friend shared her secrets with me. Seems that this cuisine owes a lot of it’s lingering sweetness and complexity to coconuts. Coconut milk, grated coconut flesh and jaggery (made from palm sugar). As well as the refreshing use of vegetables and spices.

I hope you enjoy these recipes:

Beetroot Curry


A popular vegetable curry, one of the many colourful dishes at a Sri Lankan meal

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes


1 bunch Beetroot
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
½ onion chopped fine
2 green chillies (slit in the middle)
¼ teaspoon chilli powder (Babas)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup water
1 ¼ teaspoon salt


1. Wash the beetroot. Peel and cut the beetroot into small thick matchsticks and set aside.

2. Heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves, and chopped onions and the green chillies and stir. Lower the temperature and add the chilli powder and stir quickly, so that the chilli does not get burnt.

3. Add the beetroot pieces and stir well and then add the salt. Add the water, cover the pan with a lid and cook the beetroot for about 10 minutes.

4. Once the beetroot is cooked add the milk and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir well and take the pan off the stove and serve onto a dish.

Varai_ fried greens

VARAI: Fried Greens

This recipe can be made using a variety of greens; silverbeet; collard greens, kale, cabbage and even leeks.

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


Colander, knife, chopping board, medium saucepan with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, serving platter


1 bunch fresh silverbeet, collard greens or kale (about 250 grams chopped)

1 leek, washed well and thinly sliced

¾ cup water

1 teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup red onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 dried red chillies, broken into 2 pieces


1. Wash greens thoroughly and remove any tough stems

2. Finely chop the leaves and the leek

3. Add the chopped greens, water, salt, chilli powder to a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes

4. Add coconut, mix well and cook a further minute or two

5. Set aside

6. Add oil to frypan, when oil is hot; add the onion and the garlic. Fry till golden

7. Add the cooked greens to the fry pan and mix well.

8. Serve as part of a meal with rice.

Sri Lankan Dhal w_ Pandan Leaf

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


1 cup red lentils

1 onion, chopped fine

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 red dried chilies

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves

½ cup coconut milk

2 pandan leaves*, cut into 10cm lengths


1. Soak lentils in water for an hour.

2. Wash + drain a few times until water is clear.

3. Put in pan + cover with water.

4. Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and pandan leaves + boil medium heat, until they just open up.

5. Add coconut milk + salt. Turn off heat and set aside.

6. Heat oil in frypan, add curry leaf + onion + garlic and fry for a while.

7. Add turmeric, mustard seed + dried chillies. Fry until onions golden.

8. Add this mix into lentil curry, bring to boil.

Serve with rice and vegetable curry.

* find pandan leaves at the Asian grocery store, sometimes they are in the freezer. Unfortunately you cannot substitute pandan flavouring. Sorry!

image from:


In Sri Lanka these side dishes are known as Sambol and are served fresh with rice.

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


1 cup chopped watercress

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste


1. Mix chopped watercress and shredded carrot and add chopped onion

2. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice

Serve with rice.



1 bowl, 1 microplane grater or coconut shaver

1/2 a fresh coconut
½ red onion finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lime, juice
1 teaspoon chilli powder

1. Crack the coconut in half and pour the juice into a glass.
(Reserve the juice for flavouring a curry or salad dressing)

2. Shave or grate the coconut into your bowl.
3. Make sure your red onion is finely diced and add it to
the coconut.
4. Add the chilli powder.
5. Add the juice of 1 of the limes into the bowl.
6. Mix well. The sambol should be moist and reddish (from the chilli powder).
7. Add another half-limes worth of juice.
8. Mix a little more.
9. Serve!

Pol Sambol could be served with every Lankan meal, it has a wonderful tangy taste.

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