Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

S is for Sri Lankan cookbook recipes

With influences from south India, the food of Sri Lanka is laced with spices and there's plenty of coconut to go with it too

Rukmini Iyer
Friday 05 May 2017 17:12 BST
Prawn curry is packed with flavour and spice
Prawn curry is packed with flavour and spice

The 50 recipes, covering the basics of Sri Lankan cuisine, this is the latest in the A-Z alphabet cooking series. With chapters dedicated to learning about the cuisine, it starts with the important key ingredients needed – explaining what they are and where you're likely to find them. Start with medhu vadal (dahl fritters), then move on to Sri Lankan burgre, known as lamparis, and finish it all off with kiri toffee. There's also recipes for drinks, curries, snacks, bread and rice and serves as an excellent introduction to the cuisine.

Sri Lankan prawn curry

serves 4
prep 5min
cook 15 min 

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
5–6 curry leaves

½ stick lemongrass, bashed
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ Tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see page 35)
1 tsp salt
​200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup)
coconut milk
​225g (8oz) raw tiger prawns (shrimp), peeled
juice of 1 lime

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, then add the onion, garlic, chilli, curry leaves and lemongrass and stir-fry for 10 minutes until the onion is golden brown.

Add the turmeric, curry powder and salt, and stirfry for a further minute before adding the coconut milk. Stir well, then add the prawns. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes until the prawns are just cooked through.

Taste and season as needed with the lime juice and more salt. Serve with rice.

String hoppers (idiyappam)

serves 4
prep 15 min
cook 25 min

1 tsp salt
1 tsp coconut milk
​320g (11.oz/2. cups) rice flour
5–6 Tbsp grated fresh coconut boil

Bring 550ml (191/3fl oz/2. cups) water, the salt and coconut milk to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice flour and leave without stirring for 1 minute. stir Stir the flour and water together on a medium heat until the water is absorbed into the flour, then cover and leave to steam for 5 minutes.

Transfer the piece of rice dough into a sturdy plastic bag, wrap the bag in a tea towel and while still hot, knead for 5 minutes through the bag until you have a soft, smooth dough. Lay out a steamer basket, then place balls of dough into a string hopper press. Press out the noodles in a circular shape over the steamer basket in a single layer.

Sprinkle with grated coconut, then transfer to a steamer pan. Bring 5cm (2in) water to the boil in the pan, then place the steamer basket over the top, cover and steam for 5 minutes. Repeat until all the string hoppers are cooked. Serve with the kiri hodi (see page 99).

Note: You may wish to line the steamer basket with oiled baking parchment.

(Kim Lightbody) (im Lightbody)

Coconut sambol (pol sambol)

serves 6
prep 5 mins

½ onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp crushed dried red chilli
1 tsp Maldive fish or fish sauce
1 tsp salt
juice of . lime
​100g (3.oz/scant 1. cups) grated fresh coconut

Place the onion, chilli, Maldive fish or fish sauce, salt and lime juice in a blender, and blitz until you have a smooth paste. Mix the paste with the grated coconut until it is completely incorporated, then taste and season with more lime juice or salt as needed.

(Kim Lightbody (Kim Lightbody)

Jackfruit curry (polos curry)

serves 6
prep 10
cook 2 hrs 10 min

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
5cm (2in) ginger, peeled and finely minced
10 curry leaves
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 Tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder (see page 35)

½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 x 230-g (8-oz) cans jackfruit (drained weight 600g/1lb 5oz)
​400ml (13.fl oz/12/3 cups) coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat, then add the onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and chilli and stir-fry for 10 minutes until golden brown. Add the curry powder, turmeric and salt and stir-fry for a further minute before adding the tamarind paste. Mix well, then add the jackfruit and coconut milk and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover and cook for 2 hours, or until the jackfruit is completely soft and the sauce is rich and dark. Season to taste with salt, then serve with coconut rice (see page 117) or chapattis (see page 123).

Alphabet Cooking: S is for Sri Lankan, recipes by Rukmini Iyer, photography © Kim Lightbody (Quadrille, £12)

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in