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Aug 1, 2010 01:06 PM

*August 2010 COTM - COMPLETE ASIAN: Sri Lanka

Our cookbook for August is The Complete Asian Cookbook, by Charmaine Solomon.

Please use this thread to discuss recipes from the chapter SRI LANKA

There are a variety of editions and publishers of The Complete Asian Cookbook, although it appears that the recipes for the most part are unchanged between them. Please mention the edition you are using along with the page number when you report on recipes.

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. OK, so first of all it was Sri Lanka Day here in LA yesterday (tween daughter: "That's random"). Instead of going to the festival, however, I went on a field trip to a Sri Lankan grocery store out in the wilds of Tarzana (thanks, LA 'Hounds --- I knew you'd steer me right). So fun -- teeny place in a strip mall filled with every kind of Sri Lankan ingredient you could possibly need. They were very helpful, although somewhat perplexed by me. I walked out with four packed bags of spices and ingredients, as well as odd snack foods, sweets and sodas -- quite a lovely Saturday afternoon field trip. And they apparently do online orders --

    Which is all a long way of winding up to last night's dinner...

    Siyambala Malu Curry (Fish Curry with Tamarind), p127, 2005 edition
    Calls for firm fish steaks or fillets, I used Ahi. Cut into "serving pieces" then soak tamarind pulp in hot water, dissolve pulp and strain. At that point I felt like the resulting tamarind liquid was a little anemic and I chopped up my strained tamarind bits and threw them in as well (although my tamarind was marked seedless and that's part of what was intended to be strained out). Mix tamarind liquid with curry powder (I bought pre-made, but it was the dark roasted Ceylon variety), salt, turmeric, chile powder (I bashed up some Sri Lankan crushed red chile flakes in the m&p) and marinate fish in it for 20 minutes. Then saute curry leaves and fenugreek seeds briefly, add onion and garlic and cook until golden. Then add fish and marinade, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and cook for 10 more minutes. I added some more water while it was cooking, as it seemed not to be producing quite the intended amount of sauce.

    Resulting dish was delicious served over jasmine rice, with shredded cabbage (report to follow), pappadam and purchased coconut sambal and lime pickle (although the prefab purchased ingredients didn't go over as well -- the sambal was too salty and the lime pickle was quite strong and probably better combined with other ingredients as in the Lime and Date Chutney). Very similar to Indian dish on p38 -- don't know if I got the Sri Lankan-ness of it vs. similar Indian dishes I've had. Husband was quite happy, calling it "restaurant worthy" (slight exaggeration there I think), and voted for it as a keeper.

    I like the simple instructions and -- for an Asian cooking novice like myself -- the recipes feel very approachable and the results authentic.

    10 Replies
    1. re: mebby

      Congratulations on Sri Lanka day! It sounds like an interesting dish - I had overlooked it. Seems like a long time to cook the fish - how was the consistency of it?

      Thanks for a great report.

      1. re: LulusMom

        I was worried about overcooking as well, but my ahi pieces were quite thick and I cut them fairly large. But I probably didn't go a full 10 minutes uncovered -- at that point I figured a subjective "until done" was in order.

        1. re: mebby

          So they were still tender? I basically like my ahi just about rare, so I'd like to know, because you made it sound very appealing.

          1. re: LulusMom

            LLM, this recipe doesn't lend itself to that kind of quick sear -- it's more of a quick braise. But I think you could definitely sub in a different fish -- the ahi was just the best option I had in the moment. And it was tender, but you could easily cut down the time a little based on preference and type of fish. Also, the first 10 min I definitely had the heat on quite low and it had been marinating in the fridge, so it was a slow and gentle start on the cooking.

            1. re: mebby

              Thanks for the reply Mebby. Maybe I should experiment with another fish. It *does* sound tasty.

              1. re: LulusMom

                I suspect you would be happier with another fish as well, just because then you won't be distracted it not being what you are used to/prefer with ahi. I really don't eat that much ahi generally and so found it less offputting. I do think it requires a fish with some oomph though -- it would really overwhelm a more subtle variety.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Those both sound like good choices to me (although I am by no means an expert on fish)

        1. re: Rubee

          That store was so inspiring. I love a great ethnic grocery -- it's like a cheap vacation. Yes, I spent $50 in there and now have a lifetime supply of Sri Lankan spices and other odds and ends, but quite an affordable price for a quick trip to the other side of the world!

      2. Gova Mallung (Shredded Cabbage), p146, 2005 edition
        Accompaniment to fish curry above. Cabbage is shredded, washed and drained, then put into saucepan and onion, green chile, turmeric, black pepper, black mustard, salt and Maldive fish are added, then pot is covered and cooked until cabbage is tender. then dessicated coconut is added (don't know if it's just me but "dessicated" is one of the least appetizing words I can think of) and stirred in until any liquid is absorbed by the coconut.

        Again, this was similar to Indian cabbage I've had (version on p75), but the Maldive fish gave it a slightly different quality. I'm guessing from the use of it in Sri Lankan cooking that it gives the same effect as anchovy in Mediterranean cuisine and fish sauce in Thai/Vietnamese. All in all, quite delicious with the fish curry and quite easy once I was done chopping and bashing up everything. Husband gave thumbs up to the whole meal.

        6 Replies
        1. re: mebby

          Oh! Sri Lanka day. I'm so envious. Since Solomon is from Sri Lanka, I really want to explore her Sri Lankan recipes. August is turning out to be rather nightmarish for me, but I intend to get to it eventually, for sure.

          Remind me again what Maldive fish is? Is that some kind of preserved ingredient?


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Maldive fish is dried tuna from the Maldive Islands. It is sold as small chips which need to be pulverized before use. You can substitute dried prawn powder or Japanese katsuobishi.

            This is from CS's glossary at the back of the book. not me showing off my culinary knowledge.

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I was really intrigued by the Sri Lankan recipes as well and the positively inspiring intro to that chapter. That and the Indonesian have been unexpectedly calling to me -- two cuisines I'm completely unfamiliar with.

              And Jane's descrip of the Maldive below is accurate -- it's rather like fishy wood chips in a can. Very odd stuff, but I'm very interested in how central it seems to be to Sri Lankan food.

              Here are a couple of blurry pix of Maldive fish chips:

              1. re: mebby

                Awesome pics! Very helpful. Thank you to you and Jane!


                1. re: mebby

                  Wow, wonder if I'll be able to find that around here ... Thanks for the pictures. Really helpful.

                  1. re: mebby

                    use the maldive fish to make delicious sri lankan sambols. i have linked a couple of recipes here in the recipe for sri lankan "black meat" curry.
                    PS -- is the recipe for "pork badun" in this cookbook? if so, try it, it is delicious.

              2. This may be posted in the wrong place, but.... any recommendations on where to order asian ingredients on line? I'm 3 hours from the nearest decent asian grocery :(

                1 Reply
                1. re: acecil

                  You could try Sri Lankan Delight - I've bought stuff from their physical store in Tarzana In Southern California - it looks like they have an online store as well: