Just one week into my ten weeks of travels through Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity to go in the kitchen at Mango Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka to help prepare the New Year’s Eve dinner. The head cook showed me how to make a number of amazing vegetarian (vegan) Sri Lankan curries and dishes, including this one. I also learned how to make Pol Sambol for the first time, always awesome Beetroot Curry, fantastic Leek Curry, Dal Curry (of course), Green Bean “Bonchi” Curry, and Snake Gourd Curry (which can be made with any squash, such as Zucchini.) Continue reading
This is another one of my favorite, quick-and-easy Sri Lankan recipes. I tried many versions of this spicy chickpea curry dish all over Sri Lanka during my 10 week adventure all across and around the island.
You can serve it as a main dish, but technically it’s a short eat (the Sri Lankan term for snack or appetizer or small meal.) Like most short eats, it’s a common snack from street food vendors, but also appears on restaurant menus and is often available from many take-out places… and on buses as a cheap finger food snack – in it’s much drier variation.
Traditionally it’s not served in a curry sauce, but is made “dry”. (This is something I found a lot in India and Sri Lanka — also with dishes such as Vegetable Manchurian or Gobi 65, and such.) I like cooking Kadala Thel Dala all kinds of ways, but usually make it without a really runny, liquid-y curry. Limiting the amount of chopped tomatoes (and cutting larger pieces) as well as using enough grated coconut (to soak up liquid) gets the chickpea curry to desired consistency. Note that rinsing and draining your chickpeas very well before cooking will help, and adding a few minutes of stir-frying on high, while constantly stirring, will also get rid of excess liquid.
Like my Jackfruit Curry, this dish is very popular with all types of eaters, it can be made spicy or not spicy (great for kids!), and is an excellent introduction to Sri Lankan flavors. It’s another one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties, cooking classes, cooking shows. I make it at home pretty often, too.
In addition to being in my third vegan cookbook The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA, it’s been published in several vegan magazines in Germany. It’s such a simple and satisfying recipe. Also I love this photo! The little green hand-painted demon guy is on a decorative wooden thing I picked up at a shop in touristy – but gorgeous – Galle Fort, not too far from Unawatuna, and where we spent our last two weeks on the southwest coast in the beach village of Dalawella. Continue reading
Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry
This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes and recipes from my SRI LANKA vegan cookbook & ebook! I make it often at home, and have cooked it up for many dinner parties, cooking shows, and it’s regularly featured at the cooking classes I do, too. It’s really easy to make and it’s one of those dishes that’s a real crowd-pleaser, for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Strangely, Sri Lankan food is still not really that well-known in the world culinary scene — and the vegan scene, but it’s popularity and visibility has improved in the last few years. It’s kind of like jackfruit itself, which only recently has started to get really hyped and celebrated outside of Asia, where it has a long tradition and has been enjoyed for… well, practically forever! I suspect as Sri Lanka becomes more popular as a travel destination, more people will fall in love with the cuisine. Admittedly, I fell in love with Sri Lankan food about 10 years before my trip to Sri Lanka — there are some amazing Sri Lankan and South Indian eateries in Paris and Berlin that blew me away!
This Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry is made with coconut milk, and it’s really creamy and intense. Jackfruit, kind of like plain tofu or tempeh or soy chunks (TVP), takes on the flavors of the sauce and marinade. The texture and freshness are amazing, and I enjoy it much more than the soy and faux-meat variations. (Which all work in this curry mix, too, btw!) You can use all kinds of coconut milk, or even make your own. If I buy coconut milk, I always try to get organic coconut milk with no weird additives and preservatives. In Germany, my favorite coconut milk is from Dr Goerg. It’s super rich and creamy, and combined with a little hit of coconut blossom syrup in the curry, this dish gets crazy delicious!
The main thing to know about cooking with jackfruit outside of Asia is: It’s easy to find! It’s inexpensive and really nothing bizarre. Almost every Asian import grocery store I’ve been to in the US, Canada, Germany, France, England, Holland and other parts of Europe, whether big city or little town, has Green Jackfruit (unsweetened!) in a can… but the yellow jackfruit which is primarily for sweet dishes and desserts is also usable, if you rinse off the syrup and adjust the spices / salt accordingly. Green jackfruit is the unripened, slightly tougher, less sweet fruit.
I had Jackfruit Curry in at least 10 different places in the 10 weeks I spent in Sri Lanka. Each restaurant and every family make it a bit different. I’ve also made lots of different variations on this one– sometimes sweeter, sometimes spicier, sometimes creamier, sometimes with other fun stuff like greens… or even pineapple! Continue reading
This recipe and story first appeared as a guest post on Scissors & Spice. Thanks again, Lynn!
Dum Aloo is one of many unsung heroes of Indian vegetarian cooking, with paneer, kofta, and mixed veg dishes usually stealing the spotlight. If you like potatoes and enjoy creamy, tomato-based curries, this delicious wonder will win you over. Soon you’ll be cooking it regularly and looking out for it on menus.
When I lived in Amravati, India, teaching Art and English for a year at a Cambridge International School, I quickly made friends with much of the neighborhood. From the first day, I was invited to family meals and constantly got amazing offers of home-cooked lunches. It was culinary heaven!
I learned so much about traditional Indian cooking (and a lot of Hindi) from the family of one of the local vegetable cart vendors who lived down the street. In the evenings, I’d often hear a knock at the door or get a short text message, and within minutes the kitchen was alive: full of cheery voices, sizzling sounds, amazing smells, and the incredible, vivid colors of spices and fresh vegetables.
This African Red Curry is a hybrid dish which takes a more typically Asian (particularly Thai and Indonesian) curry recipe and changes up a few key ingredients and spices. I love to make Thai curries of all kinds– yellow curry, green curry, red curry, and my personal favorite: Massaman curry, usually with potatoes, tofu, onion, and peanuts. Anytime I see it in my travels I have to try it, and am constantly amazed at how different countries and different cooks prepare it. Massaman curry is by origin a hybrid dish: a Thai recipe enhanced by the aromatic spices that Muslim traders brought to South East Asia in ages past.
When I lived in Boston’s Chinatown and later in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, I experimented often with store-bought curry pastes from the Asian supermarkets. This recipe goes for a more Do-It-Yourself approach, also altering the base ingredients to make a more world-fusion recipe. I enjoy making my own homemade sauces and curries and I encourage you to try the same. Anyone can buy prepared sauce and paste in a jar, but when you make an awesome curry from scratch and it works, it’s so satisfying!
If I had to locate the Africa in this African curry, I’d trace it back to Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. I had such an amazing, spicy coconut curry at this simple place in the old Muslim quarter of town. I remember how intrigued I was by the Asian influence and artifacts I saw on that first trip to Africa. I was continually surprised by great Indian food and Thai and other Asian restaurants in Nairobi and other cities in East Africa. Even on the other side of Africa, in Senegal and The Gambia, a good decade later, I also enjoyed excellent Asian, particularly Indian food. Just goes to show, people have been migrating, moving, and mixing world cuisines with amazing results for a long, long time.
This recipe for Eggplant Basil Thai Curry is based on one of my favorite dishes from the takeaway Thai counter at the family-style, super authentic, sometimes dicey Boston Chinatown Eatery. I hear it has since closed, but my artist friends and I used to hang out there all the time in the 90s when we were doing the art studio loft thing in Boston downtown, working in Fort Point’s emerging web design studios, and in the days I was running Gallery Insekt, an experimental not-for-profit artspace.
In my travels in Thailand I had many excellent similar dishes with basil and eggplant, mostly in bustling Bangkok back alleys and on the then mostly-undiscovered paradise Ko Chang island. The coconut spin is actually my doing, making this sort of a hybrid dish with more classic Thai coconut curries.
I’ve also experimented with more tomato and no coconut milk. This results in more of a stir-fry and less of a creamy coconut curry. See what works for you! If unfamiliar with salting eggplant prior to cooking, I suggest looking it up online or in any comprehensive cookbook discussing vegetable cookery. Cooks have debated endlessly on whether or not salting eggplant is necessary. I learned the trick ages ago from my mother and stand by it. Using Asian aubergine is a way around it – they naturally have a milder, less bitter flavor. If you don’t like eggplant, it can be replaced with squash or zucchini.
Bengan Bhartha is an incredible, spicy Indian eggplant puree. Similar to Middle Eastern baba ganoush, it’s traditionally eaten with flat bread. My North Indian pals would never dream of eating this dish with rice, but if you’re not a chapati master yet and want to enjoy it with some Basmati, I’m not going to call the Curry Cops.