• Monday, July 24, 2017

Sri Lankan Cuisine: 101
By , Cooling Your Jets Contributor
January 11, 2012

As part of the ancient spice route, it only makes sense that Sri Lankan cuisine is complex in flavor and execution. Influenced by Asia and India, dishes are often the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, rich and light. As far as cooking Sri Lankan food: Much like the spice route itself, we suggest you start at the beginning and master the fundamentals. Once you learn how to perfectly steam basmati rice or balance a shrimp curry, you’ll be on your way to mastering the cuisine as a whole. Consider this issue of Cooling Your Jets, Sri Lankan Cuisine: 101. 

Tuna Spring Roll

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb steamed tuna, deboned and flaked

1 carrot, grated
1 small Spanish onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Coconut milk
20  spring roll wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Culinary influences from Asia have lead to the spring roll’s presence on many Sri Lankan menus. They can be filled with everything from pork to vegetables and are often sweetened with coconut milk.

Serves 10

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Place the tuna, carrot, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper into a large mixing bowl and combine with a fork. Add just enough coconut milk so the mixture binds tightly. Place about one teaspoon of the filling into the center of each spring roll wrapper. Tuck the sides in and roll up similar to a burrito. Seal the edges by dabbing them with water.

In a deep skillet, heat oil to 350°F. Add 4–6 rolls at a time, turning them gently so they are golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with yogurt sauce (recipe below).

Dal Vade (Lentil Fritters)

Ingredients

1 cup lentils

3 cups water

5 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Lentils are used often in Sri Lankan cuisine. Their earthy flavor and creamy texture make them ideal for soups, sides and crispy fritters called dhal vade.

Serves 4–6

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Bring the water to a boil and add the lentils and two cloves of garlic. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Take about half of the cooked lentils and puree them in a food processor with cooked garlic, and 3 remaining raw cloves, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add the puréed mixture back into the whole lentils and stir in cilantro and bread crumbs. The mixture should be slightly moist, but firm. If it’s too dry add a little water; if it’s too wet add more bread crumbs. Take about 2–3 tablespoons of the mixture and form into flat discs, about 1/2-inch thick.

In a large frying pan heat oil over medium high heat. Add the fritters and sear on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with yogurt sauce (recipe below).

Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

1 pint Greek-style yogurt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons turmeric

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Directions

With much of the cuisine having spicy undertones, it’s nice to cool things down with a yogurt sauce. This version pairs perfectly with our lentil fritters and spring rolls, but also goes well when stirred into curries.

Serves 6

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Mulligatawny

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 can coconut milk

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

Lime juice to taste

Basmati rice or Pol Roti

Directions

While the name may sound complex, this creamy soup is easy to make. Made with red lentils and Indian-inspired spices, it’s traditionally served with rice and a wedge of lime. 

Serves 6

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

In a large stock pot heat oil over medium high. Add onions and cook until just golden. Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add in spices (garam masala, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cayenne) and allow to bloom in the onion mixture for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lentils and coat with oil and spices. Add chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until lentils are very tender, about 25 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and puree soup in batches. Return to pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in shredded chicken and coconut milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For service, place a mound of basmati rice in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the mulligatawny over it. Serve with lime wedges.

Devilled Chicken

Ingredients

1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

2 green chilies, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon dried chilies, coarsely ground

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 can crushed tomatoes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Lemon juice

Directions

As the name implies, this traditional Sri Lankan stir-fry is fiery thanks to two types of chilies. If you’re not a fan of chicken you can always swap it out for cubed pork, beef, or even shrimp.

Serves 6

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium and add chicken. Brown chicken on all sides and remove from pan. Add onions and chilies to same pan (add additional oil if necessary) and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for an additional minute. Stir in turmeric, ground chilies, and curry powder. Cook spices for about 1 minute. Add in tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chicken back into the sauce and continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and add fresh lemon juice to taste. Serve with pol roti. 

Basmati Rice

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small Spanish onion, chopped

1 cup long grain basmati rice

1 3/4 cups water

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

In Sri Lankan cuisine, rice is paired with just about everything and there definitely is an art of cooking the perfect bowl. Measurements need to be exact and the second the rice is fluffy and tender the heat needs to be cut off.

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

In a small, but deep, skillet, heat oil over medium and add onion. Cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and coat all of the grains with the oil. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until rice is tender, about 10 minutes

Pol Roti

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup shredded Coconut

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

4 small onions, chopped finely

2 green chilies, deseeded and minced

1 cup water

1 tablespoon butter

Directions

This coconut flat bread is a popular accompaniment to many Sri Lankan dishes. It’s often served at breakfast but is also the perfect vehicle for scooping up mouthfuls of curry.

Serves 6

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, coconut, salt, onion, and chilies. Add in the water and grease your hands with the butter to avoid the dough sticking to your palms. Begin to knead the dough. It should come together to form a ball and not be too sticky. You can adjust the consistency by adding more flour if it’s too sticky or more water if it’s too dry. Divide the dough into 6 equal sized balls. Flour your board and rolling pin and roll each ball into a round roti about 1/4-inch thick. Heat a flat griddle pan over medium heat and add the roti. Cook each side until golden brown. Serve hot with desired curry.

 

Coconut Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

1/2 cup shredded coconut

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoon baking powder

6 eggs, separated

1 cup super fine sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup coconut oil, melted

1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 lb unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioners' sugar

Directions

In a word, Sir Lankan desserts are complicated. From wattalapan (a steamed coconut pudding) to kavun (a sweet oil cake), you might need to be a four-star pastry chef to tackle these dishes at home. This simple coconut cake is a good way to get the sweet flavors of the many desserts without all the hard work.

Serves 8–12

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.

Soak the shredded coconut in the coconut milk while you begin to prepare the rest of the cake. Sift the flower and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Set aside. Place the yolks in a separate mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and melted coconut oil. Whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk/flakes mixture to the yolks and combine. Slowly add the flour mixture into the yolk and beat until well-combined. Place the egg white in a large mixing bowl and whip, using an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, making sure not to “flatten” the peaks. Pour even amounts of the batter into each cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool before icing. When the cakes have cooled, place one round on a cake dish and spread with frosting. Place the other round on top and frost the entire cake. Sprinkle with shredded coconut.

For icing: Mix together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract using a paddle attachment. Slowly add in the sugar.

Shrimp Curry

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 can coconut milk

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

Lime juice to taste

Basmati rice or Pol Roti

 

Directions

Ah, curry. With so many variations, it’s hard to nail down a “traditional” version. In the end it should be a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and totally delicious.

Serves 6

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

In a deep skillet heat oil over medium high. Add onion and saute until lightly brown. Add in garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in sugar, curry, paprika and salt. Add in coconut milk and water. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque. Add lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with a scoop of basmati rice or pol roti.

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