Houston has a sizable IndoPak community but I don’t usually meet people from Sri Lanka proper. I did earlier this week haphazardly in a grocery checkout line. I noticed she had only a few items in her basket – peas, cashews, one onion, one Serrano pepper and coconut milk. Surgically precise shopping, which I do myself. It looked like the makings of a curry so I asked. “Curry ingredients?”
‘SRI LANKAN curry ingredients!” She was emphatic about differentiating the country of origin, then I got a unprompted lesson on the differences between Indian curry and Sri Lankan curry. I had no way of knowing if what she was saying was correct but the idea of leaving out garlic and ginger from a curry base left me curious, so I reproduced her recipe from the horrible shorthand I managed to deposit on my phone while she was lecturing.
- 1 C Green Peas
- 1 C Cashews, raw and unsalted
- 1 Onlon, sliced
- 1 C Coconut milk, unsweetened
- 1/2 C Water
- 1 Hot pepper, sliced (I used Fresno Peppers)
- 2T Olive oil
- 1 T Sweet curry powder
- 1 t Mustard seeds
- 1 t Fenugreek powder
- 1/2 t Coriander
- 1/2 t Chili powder
- 1/2 t Salt
- 1/2 t Cayenne
- 1/4 t Tumeric
- 1 piece of Cinnamon
Put the peas and cashews in a large bowl, cover with water and let soak for 1-2 hours. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in large pan over medium high heat. Add onions and pepper, cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add mustard seeds and cook another minute. Add dry spices and stir continuously for another minute. Add water, reduce heat to low, stir to blend spices. Add coconut milk, peas and cashews, stir and let cook for about 10-15 minutes for flavours to blend.
Put the curry in a bowl and serve with rice. This time I used black currant rice which is trivial to make, just add handful of black currants to the mix when you’re making rice using your preferred method. Me, I use a rice cooker since I suck at rice making otherwise.
Tasting Post Mortem
First off, if you are hot pepper adverse, definitely leave out the fresh pepper or the cayenne pepper – or both – its hot! Secondly, I’m glad I made the black currant rice since the curry itself is heavy on the heat and the sweetness of the rice added balance. Also, the sweetness of the rice paired well with the peas, which I did not expect. Next time I might add a teaspoon or two of coconut sugar to the curry mixture. Otherwise I’m liking the nutty, earthy overtones to this version of curry. Frankly, I did not miss either the garlic or the ginger I typically use in Indian curries.