Sometimes, you just need comfort food.  And you eat it in whatever unorthodox way you do, because you simply like it that way. I like kiri hodi and rice.  Just that.  just warm and impossible to eat with your hands neatly, but delicious.  Kiri hodi (coconut milk gravy) is utterly simple, but it requires tender loving care.  My sole warning to you is to NOT LET THIS GET TO A BOIL.

Which of course I have done.  Especially now that I have a demanding 18 month old girl.   So I will tell you, if it does get to a boil – immediately take it off the heat, add some extra coconut milk and pray that it hasn’t separated for good.  But it probably did. And you’ve probably ruined it.  It may taste 90% of the way it should, but the damage is irreparable.

Now that the warning is said: here is are the ingredients and the method.  The biggest, time consuming, pain in the rump part of this is making the coconut milk.  Since this is a coconut milk gravy, with only coconut milk and flavorings, you want your milk to be rich, creamy, and fresh. No cans, no reconstituted powder, or freeze dried stuff.


milk from one coconut

2 tbps fenugreek seeds

10-12 curry leaves

2 inch stick of cinnamon

salt to taste

1-2 green chilis, split down the middle.

2 -3 tsp of turmeric.


Hack your coconut into pieces.  My mother is now using a new Martha Stewart approved method and isn’t just breaking the coconut apart and grating it directly, (as I do, total atthamma style), but she puts the whole thing on the open flame, ’til it gets roasty toasty, and then breaks it in half, and apparently, the inside just falls away from the shell easily.  I’ve not done it myself.  This picture below is what she did for me today (I was on toddler duty during that moment).

Then you blend in your blender it with hot hot hot water, and squeeze out the coconut milk from the gratings.  Be careful if water is too hot – let it cool before squeezing!  Voila you have now made coconut milk.  You may have to puree the gratings twice if you think they’ve still got some goodness in them (taste them – if sawdusty, you’ve gotten all the good stuff out. if it tastes like coconut, give it another whizz in the blender).   The amount of water to add is hard to estimate, but pour in enough to cover the pieces and give you good whizzing action.

If you put the milk in a tall container you’ll see the thick milk separate from the thin.  Use the whole mix of it – I do – or use the creamy part only to make it ridiculously sinful, but do not use the watery bit alone.

Set that aside.

In a pan that is big enough to hold all your coconut milk, add some fenugreek, curry leaves, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, a sliced shallot, and one or two green chilis.  rather than sautee that in oil (which will then rise to the top of the kiri hodi), just sautee it in a 1/4 cup of water – just so the onion softens.  Then you add the coconut milk to it and gently, slowly, WITH TENDER LOVING CARE bring it to a simmer.  STIR CONSTANTLY.  And then taste to see if its salted to your liking.  And then add a squeeze of a quarter or half a lime, to your preference. After adding the lime, make sure to keep stirring constantly.  Or else it will curdle.  And that is ALL.

Typically served with stringhoppers, this is aromatic, subtle, and delicious.  You can add some boiled potatoes to it and it becomes alla hodi.  You can add boiled eggs to it and it becomes bithara hodi.  I love the floating spheres of turmeric tinted eggs in a comforting yellow sea, and ladling it on my stack of stringhoppers.

But today, I’m having it on rice.  With some pol sambol. 🙂


Sri Lankan recipes not only reflect the indigenous flora and fauna, but the waves of cultures that have crossed our island’s path. We have cokies from the Dutch, we have pittu from the Tamils, the best sweets are Muslim, and we have godamba roti from Singapore.

godamba roti, chicken curry, purripu, cabbage, and cucumber salad

godamba roti, chicken curry, purripu, cabbage, and cucumber salad

Godamba roti or murtaba as it is called in Singapore is part of our street food culture.   In small “hotels” along the streets – aka restaurants, they would serve kotthu rotti – which is sliced up godamba roti, tossed with egg, vegetables and meat  – all on a hot griddle and served right away. My sister and I went traveling all around Sri Lanka by ourselves one summer and our father told us not to eat food from street-side vendors or those hotels.  Of course, we ignored him and ate some of the best vadai, kotthu roti, fruit and ice cream that we ever had.  And our tummies were fine.  The only time we got sick was when we over ate passionfruit.  But what are you going to do?  Its passionfruit!

Anyhoo, godamba roti can also be wrapped around a savory filling – my favorite.  And it can be served plain, with some curries.  I remember getting it in Sri Lanka, with ladlefuls of steaming curry on top.  I like to serve mine on the side because I don’t want my roti to get soggy.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1 cup lukewarm water
½ cup oil

Mix together the flour, salt and the tablespoon of oil and rub together.  Then add all at once, the lukewarm water, and mix.  Knead for approximately 10 minutes.


Divide into equal-sized balls, and then cover with the ½ cup of oil (add more if necessary) and let rest for at least one hour.


Put a griddle on the heat – flat side up – or heat up the widest pan you have.

Take a little oil from the bowl and grease your cutting board (plastic or marble works best for this dough) and take one the balls and press it down flat, spreading the dough like you were smoothing a bedsheet out (thanks to Charmaine Solomon for the imagery).  Don’t worry about any holes or its shape.  We are not professional godamba roti men – who can spin it out like pizza dough into nearly translucent thinness.  Although I think I did pretty well towards the end.
img_4032img_4038Then transfer the roti carefully (this is hard, I admit) to your extremely hot pan, and cook for approx. 1 minute on each side – until golden brown spots appear.  You can set them aside as they are done, one on top of each other, and cover the whole thing with a lid.


Serve with curries and enjoy.  The godamba rotis also keep really well.  Just put it in a Ziploc and freeze or refrigerate it.  You can put it in the oven or in the microwave to heat up.

We’ve had a couple of crisp autumnal days already this August in NYC. Luckily, it is back to being hot and steamy, but for those few days, I started looking forward to all that autumn promises – especially applepicking. We have a tradition of heading to an orchard in upstate New York every fall. My mother packs a picnic that a mix of Sri Lankan shorteats such as cutlets, patties, kadala as well as artisanal cheeses, fruit, proscuitto, blueberry muffins, cake, and sandwiches. The heady aroma of the orchard, the crisp wine, the beautiful foliage, the delicious food, combined with family time makes for an amazing getaway.

One of the dishes my mother makes for whenever we’ve gone upstate for apple-picking or camping or to a lodge, is kadala. She uses dark chickpeas and tempers it with a mixture of mustard seeds, onions, chilies and then adds coconut. It is easy, it is delicious and it is healthy.

recipe after jump

I fought it. for 30 years I would not eat pollos, or jackfruit. The jackfruit is an amazing tree and fruit/vegetable. It grows super tall and strong, and the fruit just sprouts from the side of the tree. They grow to be huge, i mean watermelon huge, and they’re covered with prickly rind — almost like when you get goosebumps.

So the fruit is eaten as a vegetable for its first two stages of life – as a young fruit, it is pollos and it is tender, and meaty, with a light flavor. Then as it ages, it becomes cos, and when you cook it, it is much starchy and sticky – more like an extra glutinous potato. And when it is ripe, varaka, it is stinky, fruity, overripe in aroma, and only the hard core Sri Lankans eat it. This includes my mother. I used to always eat cos curry – so good, so unavailable in the US, so reminiscent of my grandmother’s house. But never pollos curry and never varaka. And then I turned 30, and decided to have a small piece…

I was an idiot, for so long! What was my problem?! I could have been eating pollos for decades, but I’m only now just getting into it and making up for lost time.

Who knows? Maybe one day I will eat varaka as well. (shudder).

Where to find pollos? Go to the Asian section of any grocery store. Look for the thai products. It is canned. You can get it fresh – if you try hard – and why suffer? I use canned. It is delicious. This is a one pot, throw it all in at once, easy cooking curry.

Pollos Curry

Pollos Curry

Recipe after the jump

My sister and I, as we cook Sri Lankan food on our own, realize that we have this typical combination — purripu, bean curry and chicken curry. Those three, so delicious, so comforting, are what we first starting making on our own. Perhaps because they are so easy to make. TRUST me. To be honest, though, the chicken curry was never the same color as my mom’s and I couldn’t figure it out, and then she said, oh, did you add tomato paste? and I said, NO, because you never told me to!! So now, that’s resolved.

But this is a post about bean curry. Like purripu, this is one pot cooking with hardly any prep. You know, as I write these posts, I realize how easy and available, Sri Lankan cooking really is. We don’t prep too much and typically, everything is thrown into a pot, and simmered and served. I admit, some ingredients may be exotic, but those ones aren’t crucial – they can be substituted or even omitted. The ingredients in this dish, for instance – you can use those yard long, dark green and wiry string beans that’s sometimes known as the chinese long bean, or you can use regular green beans, or even haricots verts. The picture below is using the long bean because I went to Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights and they had some lovely bunches.

recipe after the jump

I am not sure how to spell this– I’m doing it phonetically, but the words look funny, don’t they?

Anyway, Purripu, or dal, and rice is a comfort food for me. It is quick, healthy, and a complete meal. It is also served with other curries – I like purripu b/c it binds all the curries and rice together. And it is the first Sri Lankan dish that I ever cooked because it is so easy to make.



Recipe to follow

Oy. I finally started a blog, I finally get my act together and then my digital camera broke. It was all my fault. I dropped it when on vacation in Greece! On our second day! Luckily disposable cameras came to the rescue. I still don’t have a camera; I’m waiting to get an iphone. These shots are courtesy of my father’s camera (thank you appachchi!)

I thought I should inaugurate this site with the recipe for which it is named. Pol Sambol (coconut sambol) is a classic Sri Lankan dish, a big big favorite, combining the heat of chilies, the sweet delicateness of fresh ground coconut and the tartness of lime. Yum.


approx. 2 cups fresh ground coconut (see note below)

chili powder

lime juice



curry leaves (carapincha)

1 minced shallot

optional: maldive fish (umbalacuda)


In a bowl, combine your fresh grated coconut, and add enough chili powder and mix it with your hands or a spoon until it gets a nice bright orange color. This is meant to be a spicy dish, eaten to complement rice and curry or rotis, so it can take a lot of heat. But whatever; add as much as you are comfortable with. We even make white pol sambol or green pol sambol (with green chilies!) so there is no steadfast rule. If you want color, but not heat, use some paprika as well.

Mix in salt, pepper, curry leaves and minced shallot. Taste and make sure it has enough salt/heat. If you are using maldive fish, add it as well. Then add lime juice. its supposed to have a nice kick, like when you make guacamole — that acidity? same thing here. Use plenty.

Done! Finito! You can eat it as part of a meal – of rice, curry, or roti or hoppers (appa) [recipes for these things will follow] or, as my father does, you can eat it with nice bread, slathered with butter. the butter makes the pol sambol stick to the bread, and voila, a Sri Lankan snack. I do it too. And then I have a cup of tea.

NOTE: you can use dessicated coconut flakes – just reconstitute them with hot water. If they have frozen grated coconut, that’s cool, too. But fresh is best – since this is a fresh dish. do not be afraid of the coconut! I buy one that is heavy for its size, has liquid in it when I shake it, I poke its eyes and see if there is nice white coconut within. then I whack it with a hammer along its circumference until it splits in half and then pry out the white coconut flesh with a knife. Then I put it in the food processor until it becomes that nice grated consistency. I also have a coconut grater, but unless you find it in an south asian grocery store, the food processor method is a hit. its labor intensive, yes, but do it at once, keep extra in the freezer and you’re ready to go later on. I should post a video on this – its hilarious the way I open the coconuts. (its like cracking someone’s head open, so I often go “eee!” as I open them).