Arugula Mallum

Arugula Mallum - stir-fried Sri Lankan greens & coconut

Sri Lankan Mallum (or Mallung) is a dish typically made with stir-fried greens (or cabbage) and grated coconut.

While traveling for 10 weeks in Sri Lanka, I was served and learned how to cook half a dozen varieties of Mallum. Many involved local leafy greens that were kind of a cross between kale and spinach, and often sort of like collard greens. When I got back to Germany, I experimented with recreating the leafy greens mallum, and found that arugula worked quite well. It’s especially great for using up arugula in the fridge that’s no longer fresh enough for a salad or is too bitter to be eaten raw. Kind of like cooking with spinach, when cooked, the arugula will get a lot smaller and you’ll end up with less that you expected!

This is the recipe that I used for my third travel-inspired vegan cookbook, The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKAI called it Rocket Greens Curry. Curry perhaps isn’t really the best word. Mallums are mallums, just like chutneys are chutneys, even if we might want to call it a sauce.

You can serve this dish as one of many with a Sri Lankan meal, or as a starter – kind of a warm salad.

I make it when I have lots of greens to use up, or if I’m serving dal curry, beetroot curry, and Jackfruit Curry, and rice. The four curries together are four different colors, which provides a stunning visual element to the meal. If I’m ambitious and make more dishes to go with the meal, I go for Deviled Chickpeas or Soymeats Curry. The play of different colors, shapes, textures, and unique flavors always impresses dinner guests.

This recipe works best with fresh grated coconut…

That said, quality dried (or desiccated) grated coconut can used, too, with excellent results. Soak the dried grated coconut in warm water, press out excess moisture, and take it from there. I like the addition of small plum or cherry tomatoes, as they bring a nice additional, lightly fruity flavor. If you use too much tomato, however, the dish will get wetter and saucier, and indeed be more of a curry. That said, you could even mix in some coconut milk or coconut cream for the last simmering stage, and get a very rich curry. There are no rules! Have fun and experiment.

If I don’t have ground mustard seed, and don’t feel like grounding up whole brown mustard seeds, sometimes I’ll just use them whole, and fry them for about a minute until they start to pop, then add the greens and other ingredients. The sour of the lime juice is gently complimented by the sweet of the agave syrup or sugar. I prefer coconut blossom sugar or palm sugar, and sometimes use jaggary from the Indian / Sri Lankan Asian spice shop.

A milder version of stir-fried greens and coconut can easily be made without the curry powder, pepper, and mustard seed. Another thing to vary is how finely chopped the greens are. Sometimes I’ll use the leaves whole, but usually I chop them fairly finely – especially helpful with thicker greens, like kale or hearty spinach.

Arugula Mallum

stir-fried greens & coconut

from The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA

serves 2 / time 20 min

  • 4 cups (125 g) fresh arugula greens finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (45 g) fresh coconut grated
    or 1/3 cup (30 g) dry grated coconut
  • 6–8 cherry tomatoes chopped
    or 1 medium (80 g) tomato chopped
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed ground
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder optional
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp agave syrup or sugar (preferably coconut / palm sugar or jaggary)
  • 1/4–1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. Heat oil in a large pan or pot on medium high heat.
  2. Add ground mustard seed, curry powder, black pepper. Stir in fresh chopped greens. Fry, stirring constantly, until greens start to shrink, 2–3 min.
  3. Add grated coconut, chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, agave syrup (or sugar), and salt. Mix well. Cook, partially covered, stirring regularly, 4–7 min. Do not overcook greens.
  4. Serve with rice or bread and other Sri Lankan curries or dishes.


Other Greens: Use fresh finely chopped spinach, chard, kale, or collard greens instead. Adjust cooking time as needed.

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