Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Serves 4

  • 1 cup of masoor dhal (red lentils)
  • 2–3 pearl onions, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Sri Lankan curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 small green chillies, sliced
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 4-inch piece of pandan leaf, torn
  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed (optional)
  • ½ stick of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of thin coconut milk (1 cup water plus 1 tablespoon of canned coconut milk)
  • 1¼ cup thick coconut milk (1¼ cups water plus 4 tablespoons canned coconut milk)

For the tempering

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 small pearl onion (or any other onions), sliced
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 dry chillies broken
  • A pinch of hing (asafetida) (optional)

Soak red lentils in a medium size saucepan for at least 15–20 minutes. Wash and drain. Add all the ingredients and the thin coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and then slow cook for about 8 minutes until the lentils are soft, but not soft enough to break. Make sure to stir the dhal at least once for even cooking. If it is drying out, add a little bit of water and keep cooking. Once dhal is soft, add the thick coconut milk. Bring the pot to a boil. Remove from heat and adjust the salt. In a separate pan, heat the coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds first and heat them until they pop. Add the onions and curry leaves. Add garlic once the onions are translucent. Add dry chillies and hing. Dry chillies tend to burn quickly. It needs only a few seconds to fry well. Fry until all the ingredients are brown and, then pour it over the lentil curry. Stir well. Serve hot.

Sri Lankan Curry Powder

Makes about 1½ cups

  • 1 cup coriander seeds
  • ¼ cup fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 8–10 curry leaves
  • 2-inch piece pandan leaf
  • 1-inch piece of a cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods

In medium high heat, dry roast each ingredient separately. Heat the ingredients enough to bring out the aroma of seeds, and set them aside to cool on a plate. Do not let it brown. Roast the curry leaves and the pandan leaf until they are completely dry. Make sure not to burn them. Once everything is cool enough, use a small coffee grinder to grind everything into a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar in a cool place. This basic curry powder can last for months.