Almost everything I ate in Sri Lanka was accompanied by a sambal, including a breakfast dish known as egg hoppers (a pancake with an egg broken into the middle while it cooks). Sambals provide a light, sharp contrast to the earthy flavours of the curries. Many are based on freshly grated coconut with coriander, lime and tomatoes stirred through.
This coconut-based version works well with both fish and vegetable curries – I ate it with a vegetable in Sri Lanka called gotu kola – young-leafed spinach is its closest substitute. It would not be so good with curries whose base consists of meat, which, to my mind, would be better with a plain, tomato-based sambal.
The grated flesh of 1 small, young coconut
2 red onions, very finely chopped
4 ripe tomatoes fairly roughly chopped
1 generous handful of spinach leaves, well washed and shredded
The juice of 2 limes
1 small green chilli, seeds left in and chopped
A good pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together really well. Set aside while you make the curry.