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CUSINE

Spread from Serendib

LAKSHMI SHANKARAN gives a selection of Sri Lankan dishes showing how integral the coconut is to the island's cuisine.


MUCH advertised today as a favoured tourist destination, Sri Lanka lies on the southern tip of India. Washed by gentle waves of the Indian Ocean, it is well known for its tea, rubber, spices and, of course, coconuts. The Sri Lankan does not under estimate the gastronomic potential of the coconut, especially in local cuisine defying health norms and throwing sensible advice of "good" and "bad" cholesterol to the winds.

Never does the day dawn without the sharp crack of a coconut in local homes. The flesh of the coconut is then busily scraped and used in different forms. Coconut milk or cream is extracted in varying strengths. There is the first extract or the thick creamy milk from the scraped coconut. The second extract or thin milk is used for the actual cooking of fish, meat or vegetables. The determined souls attempt the third extract.

As garnish to the mallung or curried greens, freshly scraped coconut is used. Creamy coconut milk is just poured from a jug over main dishes such as idiappam or appam without spices. Freshly scraped coconut tossed with onions, green chillies and a squeeze of lime called sambol forms the accoutrement served with rice and bread.

Tambili or the sweet water from the spliced green or bright orange fruit quenches thirst and fortifies the Lankan soul. Tropical fruits such as pineapple, passion fruit and wood apple are combined with coconut milk to create unforgettable mocktails. Coconut toddy and arrack are local beverages consumed to celebrate the joie de vivre by the islander.

And as a befitting ode to the coconut, celebrate with a special Sri Lankan lunch. The menu given serves four persons approximately


Yellow Rice

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups rice (pearly small grained variety of rice)
2 medium sized onions sliced
A sprig of curry leaves
8 pods cardamom
6 cloves
2 tablespoons of peppercorn
A stalk of lemon grass
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp raisins and cashews chopped and lightly browned in ghee
Ghee for seasoning
Salt to taste

Coconut milk as required to cook the rice (equal parts of first and second extract from one medium sized coconut)

Method

Heat ghee. Fry the onions till brown, add lemon grass and curry leaves. Add the washed rice and sauté for 2 - 3 minutes. Add coconut milk, turmeric powder, peppercorns, salt, cover and cook on low heat. When rice is almost cooked, add the cardamom and cloves. Garnish with raisins and cashew nuts.

* * *


Parippu (Dhal)

Ingredients

2 cups masoor dhal, washed
3 onions, thinly sliced
2 green chillies, julienned
2 dried red chillies
1 tsp curry powder
A sprig of curry leaves
An inch of cinnamon
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil
1/2 a cup of coconut milk, first extract
2 cups coconut milk, second extract

Method

In a pan, put the dhal, turmeric, onion, green chillies, curry leaves, cinnamon, curry powder and coconut milk (second extract) and cook on low flame. If necessary add extra water to cook the dhal. When it is soft and creamy, add coconut milk (first extract) and simmer. Splutter mustard seeds and dry chillies in oil and pour over cooked parippu.

* * *

Annasi curry (Pineapple curry)

Ingredients

1 medium sized ripe pineapple, skinned and diced
2 medium sized onions finely chopped
1 tsp mustard seeds dry ground
A pinch of turmeric powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp black pepper coarsely ground
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp fennel seeds roasted and powdered
A stalk of lemon grass
A sprig of curry leaves
Oil for cooking
Salt to taste

2 cups thick coconut milk (equal parts of first and second extract from half a coconut, medium sized)

Method

In a pan, fry half the onions, lemon grass and curry leaves. Add the rest of the ingredients except the fennel powder and let it simmer. Sprinkle the fennel powder when the annasi or pineapple is cooked and the curry is semi-dry.

* * *

Malu curry (fish curry)

Ingredients

1/2 kg seer fish or mullet, washed and cleaned
2 green chillies, slivered
A stalk of lemon grass
3 pods of garlic, crushed
One-inch piece cinnamon
2 medium sized onions, sliced
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp curry powder
Curry leaves
Salt to taste
From 1/2 a coconut:

1 cup coconut milk, first extract

1 cup coconut milk, second extract

Method

Cut fish into neat pieces. Add all ingredients except first extract of coconut milk and cook under medium flame. When the fish is cooked, add first extract of coconut milk

Simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken the gravy.

* * *


Polos Ambul (tender jak fruit curry)

Ingredients

1 medium sized unripe jak fruit

1 lime with juice extracted
1 tsp turmeric powder
5 medium sized small onions sliced
1 tbsp roasted curry powder
1 tbsp chillie powder
2 green chillis slivered
2-inch piece cinnamon
From I coconut:
3 cups coconut milk (second extract)
2 cups coconut milk (first extract)
For seasoning:
3 dried red chillis
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 small onions sliced
Curry leaves
Oil for cooking

A stalk of lemon grass

Method

Remove the thick outer green skin of the jak fruit, cut into long, thick and uniform pieces. Wash the pieces well in water into which the lime juice is added and drain. In a pan, add all the ingredients except the seasoning and cook over medium heat till the jak fruit is tender. For the seasoning, heat oil in another pan and splutter mustard seeds, add red chillies, onions, curry leaves, lemon grass and sauté till the onion turns brown. Add the cooked polos or jak fruit and let simmer till gravy thickens.

* * *

Date Chutney

Ingredients

1/4 kg dates deseeded and chopped
1/4 kg raisins deseeded and washed
1/4 kg sugar
An inch of ginger, finely ground
3 pods of garlic, finely ground
2 tablespoons chilli powder
1 tsp mustard seeds powdered
1 tsp powdered cinnamon and cloves
3/4th cups vinegar

Salt to taste

Method

In a pan, put sugar and vinegar and dissolve over low flame. When the sugar has melted, add all the ingredients, except raisins and salt. Stir the mixture over a low flame till it thickens. Add the raisins and salt and cook for about five minutes. Cool and store in a jar.

* * *

Sri Lankan Curry Powder

Ingredients

2 cups dried red chilies
1 tbsp peppercorns
3 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 inch piece of cinnamon

Method

Roast all ingredients except turmeric powder. Dry grind the above and add turmeric powder. Cool and store in airtight jar. Use as required in the recipes.

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