Wednesday 21 November 2018

Dhal Curry-sri lankan cuisine.

Dhal Curry

Travelling the world is a passion I hope I never tyre of. While many travel to see the place, my primary goal is to taste the place. On my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I had the pleasure of tasting so many curries. What pleased me most was the fact that there was an endless choice, all labelled as curry. This particular curry was simple and unusual. I have decided to recreate it to the best of my ability using my palate, eyes, and mind.

Dhal Curry, served with coconut sambol and pappodum

Serves 6-8  persons

2 cups mixed dar/ lentils
1/ 2 tsp turmeric
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 cups water
3 oz/ 50 gm butter

12 pieces kokum

For the Tarka
coconut cream like butter
2 shallots in rings  (onion)
3 fresh chillies, green and red
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 small stalks curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of palm sugar
2 tsp whole green fennel
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 inches pandan leaf
1/2 cup coconut water

Add a tsp of grated fresh ginger 

In a pan, cook the washed dal with the turmeric, salt, water and butter. 
This should take an hour. Avoid overcooking or turning into mush. 
Add the kokum for the last 15 minutes. This allows the dried kokum to rejuvenate and burst with its flavors. 
In a fry pan, heat the coconut oil and add the onions. Lightly saute` and continue to add all the other ingredients listed, in order, so it cooks well and does not burn. Loosen it with the coconut water and pour it over the cooked dar, stirring it in. 
The finished dish should be moist but not watery. 
Serve with either warm naan, Sri Lankan roti, paratha or pappadum.


Kokum is a dried fruit and is tart. For best results, it needs to be soaked in hot water for 15 minutes before adding To avoid this step, I like to add it to the boiling pot of lentils toward the end. 
The best substitutes for kokum are a tsp of tamarind pulp or the freshly squeezed juice of a lemon. The tamarind will make the colour darker and browner, while the  lemon juice will keep it bright golden yellow. 
Palm sugar is often substituted with jaggery, coconut sugar, brown sugar, or demerara. 
The pandan leaf is hard to touch and you need just a few pieces to add. It has an aroma of raw rice and is easily found in South Asian stores. 
If shallots are unavailable, use small yellow or white onions. Shallots are generally sweeter, while larger onions can be sharper. 
This dhal curry is served with a sambol made up of coconut or caramelised onion and a sweet and hot mango chutney.

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.

Photo Courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala

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