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. 🙂


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