Spicy, coconut inspiration from Sri Lanka

I found the spices and coconut that the Sri Lankan’s use in their curries such an inspiration, what an explosion of flavours and oriental smells!  Trust me this Sri Lankan Fish Curry recipe is one you would love, just as I did the first time I tasted it.

If you are keen to try a vegan version of it, just replace the fish with butternet or aubergine.

 

You will need:

3 tbs Coconut oil, or Ghee (Clarified butter), or Olive oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

2 sprigs Curry leaves

3 to 4 Cloves

6 to 8 Black peppercorns

1 stick cinnamon

In a pan, heat the oil then add the mustard seeds, once the mustard seeds start to pop add the cumin, fenugreek, curry leaves, cloves, peppercorn and the cinnamon stick.  Fry everything together for 1 minute.

Then add and fry: (Add a tbsp of extra oil if needed)

1 cup red onion

4 cloves of garlic chopped

1 tbsp chopped ginger

1 tsp red chili flakes (if you can find the Sri Lankan ones use them they are the best)

1 cup tomato

2 tbs grated coconut (optional)

Dry roast:

½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp chili powder

2 tsp coriander powder

½ turmeric powder

In a dry hot pan add these spices and roast for 30 seconds then add it into the onion mixture.

2 tsp tamarind paste

Dilute the tamarind paste in 2 tbsp of water

(Tamarind is a sticky, sour tasting fruit that grows in large brown pods on the tamarind tree, a common fruit tree in Asia and Mexico.)

1 cup coconut milk

Now add the diluted tamarind paste and the coconut milk to the fried onions and garlic etc.  Bring  to the boil.

800 gr hake or hamour fish cut into blocks.

And finally, add the fish to the coconut milk mixture and cook for about 5 minutes.  Make sure not to overcook the fish, it can easily become dry.

To serve, you can use Sri Lankan Hopper (pancake) or with milk rice.

Milk rice is 1½ cups rice cooked in 2 ½ cups water until cooked and then add 1½ cups coconut milk and salt to taste.  Cook for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Pour rice out into a 4 inch square bowl and let it cool down.  Cut into blocks and serve with the fish.

 

I tried the the hopper.  It is actually a breakfast thing in Sri Lanka, but I served my fish curry in the pancake basket and it was quite popular among my friends.

 

 

If you are as lucky as I am, you can buy the readymade dough in our local supermarket, Lulu Supermarket

People from India call it Appam and the Sri Lankans call it Hopper.

If you would like to make the hoppers click here for the recipe.

 

This is such an easy dish to prepare and will really tickle your taste buds.  A great way to entertain your friends the Sri Lankan way.  I hope you enjoy this dish as much I loved to make it and eat it!

 

A story about Trincomalee and feeding a nation

My husband and I recently visited Trincomalee, on the east side of Sri Lanka and absolutely adored it.

We started off in Colombo and did a very brave thing by hiring a car and drove through the beautiful countryside to Trincomalee.  This was a challenge with all the hooting, traffic and at a speed of 50 km per hour, sometimes it was funny and sometimes, well, not so funny.  The roads are in excellent condition but the traffic on the road, ‘oh my word…’

In Trincomalee, you will find one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. Trinco is the fifth largest natural harbor in the world.

The name, Trincomalee comes from Trikono/likoona (triangle) and malai (hill or rock in Tamil).

In earlier times, Trincomalee was called Gonaka.  The Greek cartographer, Psolemny, marked the harbor as Bokana on his map.  There is a fair amount of romance connected to this harbor.  Badda Kachachana, the Sakyan princess who was sent to Lanka to be the bride of King Panduvasdeva, also landed at Trincomalee, quite probably under much pomp and ceremony.

Then there are the colorful temples.  It seems that each street corner competes with its neighbor to host the most spectacular temple.

This particular temple is called, Pathirakali Amman– Pathirakali Ambal Kovil – or the Kali Kovil, Trincomalee is a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Bhadrakali.

    

There are always food in the temples, available to whoever in need. The food is presented in beautiful pots and the banana leaves will be used as a plate to serve the food on.

   

There are also the most adorable spotted deer roaming around the city. They were brought as pets in the early years of British rule and have survived and became part of everyday life.  The deer roam around Trincomalee and can also be seen at Fort Federick. They are undeniable part of this world.

  Well, this is a little history that I shared with you. Getting back to the harbor which I think is what this place is all about.   I fell in love with the fishing villages and the ongoing fishing of the people to feed the people.

 

Out on the beach you will find the most colorful boats as well as young and old gathering twice a day for the ritual of fishing.  Running fishing nets out to sea in huge C shaped figures has been developed to a fine art.

Using throwing nets in the shallow lagoons or close to the beach is very popular and the skill with which these nets are thrown to create a perfect circle dropping down onto the unsuspecting schools of fish, is a joy to watch. 

Manually hauling the long nets back to shore with almost hypnotic rhythm for a sometimes merger haul of only a few tiny fish seems like a lost cause, however, these committed fishermen are on the posts singing and pulling and singing and pulling, once the nets are in, the task of repairing any holes before the next catch keeps the men busy.

 

Once the nets come in and the fish are taken out, fish is sorted into baskets and then washed in the sea.

Now the bidding and selling of fish can start and is heard all over the beach.  The baskets are full of fish and the scales busily weigh the merchandise before the price is fixed and the sale concluded.  All the signs of fish being caught, sorted, washed and sold to feed the people.

  

The buyers will walk off with their fish talking and laughing happily being in a position to bring food home. A lot of the daily catch will go to the fish market where, another world of hustle and bustle happens.

  

Any left-over fish is cared for and dried so that nothing goes to waste.  The dried fish is sold in stores in town, the tea plantations, in Candy and all surroundings.  The dried fish is normally deep fried to a crispy delicacy which becomes part of the famous Sri Lankan curries.

  

After a hard day’s work some of the fisherman can be seen playing soccer, or volley ball on the beach while others come and take a rest right there on the beach.

 

‘After a hard day of fishing!’

What is there more to say about this beautiful fishing village and its people?

I was so inspired by Trincomalee and their fishing that I plan to share my take on a Sri Lankan fish curry recipe with you in my next article.  This is really a place to visit and get the feel of the local life and traditions in Sri Lanka.

 

For recipes click here.