You might be wondering why I am suddenly giving a recipe of a Sri Lankan chicken curry. Normally I do Bengali recipes or baking recipes and not that I recently visited Sri Lanka to get inspired. As a cook, who also loves to experiment with flavours and try out new recipes, I am always on the lookout for something new to cook and normally, I don’t get to share those recipes on the website. Sometimes, a dish from various leftover dishes comes out so good but I don’t have an SEO friendly name for such a recipe to publish. However, this was one recipe which I thought I must share with my readers.

Sri Lankan Curry Powder is used to make Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

A few months back, my friend Sudarshana went to Sri Lanka for a holiday and she asked me what she could bring for me from there. I was instantly taken back to my time in Cardiff, where I had been to a house party of some Sri Lankan friends. They had cooked the most divine chicken curry and I remember asking them about the spices being used. They told me that it was made with a special blend of spices from Sri Lanka and they called it curry powder. I would often drop in to their place, just to get a taste of that aromatic curry. Finally now, I had the opportunity to try it once again. Sudarshana was kind enough to get a packet of raw curry powder.

I looked for recipes online and came across The Flavour Bender. She is a Sri Lankan and her Sri Lankan recipes are just too good. I cooked Sri Lankan chicken curry to perfection. The whiff of the spices, tender chicken pieces in a mildly spicy curry was almost bewitching. I was smitten by this dish and I knew that this Sri Lankan curry powder is going to be my best friend in the kitchen. So the next time, another friend Amrita went to Sri Lanka, I asked her to get more curry powder. Amrita was confused about the spices. She got me a packet of raw curry powder and a roasted curry powder. Now I was power packed with more blends and more recipes to try out, which eventually, I will share here.

Can you make the Sri Lankan curry powder at home?

Eventually, when I run out of this curry powder and do not have a friend to get some for me, I will make the blend on my own. Like most of our spice blends, the shop bought ones are inferior to the ones made at home. As per the packet, the curry powder is a blend of coriander seeds (60%), cumin seeds (20 %), fennel seeds (6 %), turmeric powder (5%), curry leaves, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, pandan leaves and lemongrass. Pandan leaves would be a rare find in Kolkata. So, if I make it at home, I will skip that part. For making the curry powder, I would also skip the lemon grass and curry leaves and add these ingredients while making the Sri Lankan chicken curry.

Roasted curry powder is used for making Sri Lankan chicken curry.

Having said that, I have made this recipe with the raw curry powder and the taste was flawless. I passed on some to Sudarshana, since she would have an instant recall from her holiday a week before. She too confirmed that the taste transported her back to her holiday in Sri Lanka.

The Flavour BENDER also says that the Sri Lankan chicken curry can be made two ways. One is the spicy version and the other is with coconut milk, mellowing it down. I preferred the second option since most of us at home cannot eat spicy food.

Finer points in making the Sri Lankan Chicken curry

Like every other curry, it tastes better with chicken on the bone than boneless chicken. I also did not have the exact kind of chillies for the dish. So, I used our regular red chilli powder for the spice and some Kashmiri red chilli powder for the colour. I also made the coconut milk version. From the pictures, it doesn’t look like a coconut curry. That’s because the curry was cooked till the oil separated and floated on top. Anindya’s eyes glistened when he saw the oil floating on the curry. Traditionally, coconut oil is the cooking medium, especially for this curry. We do not keep coconut oil at home. So I made it with regular vegetable oil.

Next time you travel to Sri Lanka, make it a point to buy some of that aromatic curry powder. If you try this recipe, do give us a feedback at the comment section here. You could also reach out to us at our social media handles: InstagramFacebook or any of our personal FacebookMadhushree and Anindya )and twitter profiles. Post a picture and tag us.

A final prayer

Lastly, I have to say that this recipe was ready with me for more than two months and for some reason or other, was unable to publish it. Sri Lanka has been on my aspirational travel places since 2003, when I had seen a list of most romantic places to visit in the world and some place in Sri Lanka had featured on it.  I am yet to go there. Recently, on Easter Sunday, there were terror bombings in churches and public places in Sri Lanka. There couldn’t be anything more shameful or worse than an attack in the name of religion. Perhaps, that would hamper tourism for sometime but I am sure, a beautiful country like Sri Lanka, with a rich cultural heritage as well as several scars, would spring right back into action.

As I write this, my heart reaches out to the families of those who have lost. May they have the strength to carry on.

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Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

A chicken curry with coconut milk and Sri Lankan curry powder which has a robust aroma and layers of flavour from the raw curry powder used.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Dish, Non Vegetarian
Cuisine: Pan Asian
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 kg chicken curry cut
  • 1 no medium onion
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 tbsp Ginger Paste
  • 8 nos curry leaves
  • 2 1/2 tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder see notes
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder see notes
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 no Green Chilli
  • 1 no large tomato or 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp Any vegetable oil see notes

Instructions

  • Finely chop the onion and in a kadhai or wok, heat the oil. Add chopped onions, ginger paste and garlic paste. Stir and cook on high flame for half a minute and then reduce the flame and continue stirring till the onions have softened.
  • Add the curry powder, red chilli powder, kashmiri red chilli powder, curry leaves, cinnamon and continue stirring. Sprinkle some water so that the spices don't stick to the bottom. Cook the spices till they start releasing oil from the sides. It takes about 3 - 4 minutes.
  • Add the chicken, chopped tomatoes, salt and 1 tsp sugar and mix everything thoroughly. Keep the heat high for a minute so that the chicken somewhat gets caramelised. Then reduce the flame to medium and continue cooking for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring and sprinkling water if necessary.
  • Add the coconut milk, half a cup of water and vinegar. Stir and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then reduce the flame, cover the pan with a lid and let the chicken cook.
  • Occasionally, remove the cover to check the chicken if its cooked or anything is sticking to the bottom. Give it a stir and cover and continue cooking till the chicken has become tender
  • Check the seasoning and add more salt if required. Add the extra sugar if you feel you need to balance out the spices more. Finally add a split green chilli and some more extra curry leaves for garnish.
  • Depending on how thick or thin you want the gravy, adjust the liquid. Let it continue to boil for a few minutes if you want a thick gravy.
  • Let the chicken sit for half hour, if you have the patience and then serve with steamed rice.

Notes

I As per the packet, the curry powder is a blend of coriander seeds (60%), cumin seeds (20 %), fennel seeds (6 %), turmeric powder (5%), curry leaves, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, pandan leaves and lemongrass. If you do not have access to Sri Lankan curry powder, you can also use Madras curry powder, which is not the same but quite similar or create the spice blend on your own. In that case, add the lemon grass and curry leaves to the gravy directly. Pandan leaf is quite difficult to source in most parts of the country, at least the places where I have stayed.
  1. I have used regular vegetable oil. You can cook it in coconut oil, which is the traditional way.
  2. Adjust the heat as per your taste bud and add or reduce green chillies and red chilli powder as per your taste.
  3. You can make this curry without the coconut milk as well.