Try These Traditional Sri Lankan Curries At Home (Recipes Inside)

If you wish to savour authentic flavours of Sri Lankan curries at home, here are three delectable recipes for you.

Ashwin Rajagopalan  |  Updated: September 24, 2019 11:30 IST

Try These Traditional Sri Lankan Curries At Home (Recipes Inside)

The ingredients used in all these Sri Lankan curries are easily available in market.

  • Sri Lankan food translates comfort food
  • The ingredients used in Sri Lankan curries are easily available in market
  • Pair the curries with rice or Sri Lankan staples like hoppers

Colombo's sunsets might be legendary but I could sense a renewed optimism as I touched down in the Sri Lankan capital just after sunrise. Even before I checked into my room at the Movenpick Hotel Colombo, I headed straight to AYU, the hotel's all-day diner. I couldn't wait to dig into a hopper (appam), one of my favourite staples in Sri Lanka. I was greeted by more than steaming hot hoppers. Chef Meththa Ekanayake, the hotel's Executive Sous Chef and Sri Lankan cuisine expert had put together an exhaustive Sri Lankan food (meal) that included string hoppers (idiappam), pittu (Puttu in Kerala) and a range of flavourful curries. I'm a big fan of dals and lentil-based curries. That list also includes the Sri Lankan dal curry. There are very few curries that are so versatile - you will find this at breakfast, lunch and dinner tables in homes across the country. It works equally well with rice and Sri Lankan staples like hoppers and string hoppers. One of the distinctive elements in this dish is the coconut milk.

If you wish to savour authentic flavours of Sri Lankan dal curry at home, here is a recipe for you:

Sri Lankan Dal Curry (Serves 4)
Recipe Courtesy - Chef Meththa Ekanayake, Executive Sous Chef Movenpick Hotel Colombo


  • Red Dal (Masoor Dal): 200 gm
  • Sliced onions:  50 gm
  • Sliced Garlic cloves: 4 nos
  • Turmeric: 1/4 teaspoon 
  • Curry powder (or garam masala): 1 teaspoon 
  • Chili powder: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Curry leaves: a few
  • Cinnamon sticks: 1
  • Thick coconut milk: 1 cup
  • Water: 1/2 cup 

(For the tempering):

  • Sliced onions: 50 gm
  • Oil: 2 tablespoons 
  • Dried red chillies: 3
  • Curry leaves: a few
  • Mustard seeds: 1 teaspoon
  • Salt: to taste 


  • Wash the dal and place it in a medium-sized saucepan. Add all ingredients (under the curry ingredients), except the coconut milk. Boil on a medium flame.
  • Add the coconut milk once the lentils are cooked; bring it to boil again. Add the salt and keep aside.
  • Temper the rest of the ingredients (under the temper mix), adding the red chillies last.
  • Blend the tempered mixture with the cooked dal and serve. 

One of my discoveries during this recent trip to Colombo was the brinjal pahi (or pahie). It's  one of those rare dishes that combines a myriad flavour profiles from sweet to tangy to bitter. Just like some of the dishes in Goa, the use of vinegar sets this dish apart. It also works equally well with rice or other Sri Lankan or Indian staples like a dosa or even rotis.

(Also Read: Colombo's Best Restaurants: 5 Must-Try Places To Eat In Sri Lankan Capital)


Sri Lankan Dal Curry

Sri Lankan Brinjal Pahi (Serves 4)
Recipe Courtesy - Chef Meththa Ekanayake, Executive Sous Chef Movenpick Hotel Colombo


  • Brinjal: 500 gm
  • Onions: 50 gm
  • Ginger (finely ground): 50 gm
  • Mustard seeds: 10 gm
  • Vegetable oil: 500 ml
  • Green chillies: 30 gm
  • Sugar: 3 teaspoons
  • Coconut Vinegar: 100 ml (You could use regular vinegar but it tastes best with coconut vinegar)
  • Curry leaves: 1 sprig
  • Chilli powder: 2 tablespoons
  • Turmeric: 1 teaspoon
  • Curry powder (or garam masala): 2 teaspoons 
  • Pandan leaf (optional): 1 piece 


  • Wash and cut the brinjal into tiny cubes. Deep-fry till the brinjal turns golden brown.
  • Slit the ends of the chilies. Deep-fry chilies and onions for a few minutes and drain well.
  • Grind the ginger and garlic fine.
  • Heat a dessert spoon of oil until very hot. Add curry leaves; fry until crisp. Mix all ground ingredients with vinegar, sugar and add to oil. Cook until it reaches boiling point. 
  • Mix in the fried ingredients. Add salt. 
  • You can store this dish for a couple of days (in an air-tight container).

It's a humid day in Galle, one of Sri Lanka's most idyllic towns but that doesn't deter my enthusiasm. I've hopped two markets - Galle's fish market and compact, yet busy vegetable market with Nihal Senanayake. He's the Executive Chef of the Jetwing Lighthouse, one of Galle's most charming beachside resorts. He knows these markets like the back of his hand; he grew up in this historic town. Our conversation eventually drifted towards comfort food, simple home-style recipes. The kind of dishes a Chef might cook up on an off day. An hour later we were in his kitchen, cooking an earthy prawn curry.

(Also Read: Watalappan - Sri Lanka's Most Famous Dessert)


Sri Lankan Brinjal Pahi

Sri Lankan-Style Tempered King Prawns (Temparadu)/Serves 4
Recipe Courtesy - Nihal Senanayake, Executive Chef, Jetwing Lighthouse


  • King Prawns (Cleaned, Tail on): 8 nos 
  • Chilli Pieces: 1 teaspoon
  • Green Chillies: 4nos (Cut in to two lengthwise)
  • Mustard Seeds: 1/2 teaspoon                       
  • Cinnamon Sticks: 2g               
  • Curry Leaves: 2 sprigs                        
  • Pandan leaf (optional): 1/4 leaf             
  • Turmeric Powder: 1/2 teaspoon                        
  • Crushed pepper: 1/2 teaspoon 
  • Garlic (Sliced): 4 Cloves         
  • Sliced Onion: 1                       
  • Onion Rings (for garnish): 1
  • Tomatoes (small diced): 40gm                         
  • Coconut Oil: 1 tablespoon      
  • Thick Coconut Milk: 100ml                
  • Lime Juice: 2 teaspoons 
  • Salt: 3 gm        


  • Season the prawns with half amount of chilli pieces, black pepper, turmeric powder and salt. Keep a side for 20 minute to marinate.
  • Heat coconut oil in a pan and then add mustard seeds. Fry until they pop up and then add garlic, onion, curry leaves, pandan leaves, green chilli, tomato and cinnamon. Cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add the remaining chilli pieces, turmeric and crushed pepper.
  • Add prawns and cook by turning them with the mixture.  
  • Add thick coconut milk to keep moisture in the prawns. Season the dish with salt and lime juice.
  • Deep-fry the onion rings and green chillies and use them for the garnish.

Sri Lankan-Style Tempered King Prawns (Temparadu)

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The ingredients used in all the above-listed Sri Lankan curries are easily available in market. So just go ahead and make for yourself these delectable delights and enjoy a perfect comfort meal.

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About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.

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