Spicie Foodie Nancy Lopez-McHugh checks out the Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking cookbook.
By Nancy Lopez-McHugh
In a previous post I had the honor of sharing my interview with “Rice and Curry” cookbook author S.H. Fernando Jr. Today I want to share with you one of his recipes and my opinions on the cookbook.
I own a small collection of cookbooks, the majority of which only get used as reference. While I do enjoy flipping through and cooking from my cookbooks, very few get read cover to cover. Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking is one of the few I have read cover to cover. The cookbook’s byline says it all ” Sri Lankan Home Cooking”, that’s what this cookbook is all about. One of the things that immediately intrigued me about the cookbook is that the recipes all come from the author’s family. Recipes handed down, foods cooked every day by one large extended family in Sri Lanka. In my eyes that immediately equates excellent true and tried recipes.
I wasn’t patient enough to wait for a hard copy of Rice & Curry, instead I purchased the Kindle edition. I was instantly captivated with the vivid colors, stories, writing and recipes. Sri Lankan cuisine is one I know so little about, and of course one I’d never had the pleasure of tasting, I’m sure many of you can relate. As a matter of fact the author refers to this cuisine as “one of the last culinary secrets of our time” I would have to agree with him. So little is know about it and yet this complex cuisine has so much to offer. After reading and drooling over the recipes and stories in Rice & Curry I think Mr. Fernando makes a heck of an ambassador for Sri Lankan cooking.
There are so many delicious recipes that it was a challenge picking one to share and a few to photograph for you. The first recipe I tried was Roasted Curry Powder, of course I opted for grinding my own curry spices. The smells were incredible, everything about preparing curry spices is wonderful. Once the Roasted Curry Powder was made I began planning our dinner. The dinner menu would be Yellow Rice (Kaha Bath), which not only looks pretty but tasted fantastic. On the side I served Spiced Potatoes (Ala Thel Dala), again these also tasted incredible. The main dish was Pork Curry (Ooroomas Curry) and that is the recipe I will be sharing wit you today. (I also made a pineapple chutney which was delicious but I forgot to photograph.)
Ooroomas Curry (Sri Lankan Pork Curry)
Recipe courtesy of Hippocrene Books, please do not print nor publish without prior written consent.
The key to a good pork curry, according to the author’s Aunt Dora, is to cut the meat into thick chunks and leave all the fat on. “That is where the flavor is.” she says. Mr. Fernando adds, that the tamarind also adds a nice tangy note to the overall spiciness.
Makes 6 servings
1 tbsp tamarind pulp*
3 tbsp roasted curry powder (buy it here or make your own from the cookbook recipe)
2 lbs or 1 kl boneless pork
2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-inch or 5 cm piece ginger, ground
2-inch or 5 cm piece cinnamon stick
2-inch or 5 cm piece stalk lemongrass
2 green chilies, slice
1 sprig curry leaves
1.5 cups or 375 ml water
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 125 ml coconut milk
1 tbsp tomato paste
*You may use tamarind concentrate instead of pulp, in which case use only about 1/2 tsp as it is strong.
1. Soak tamarind in a little warm water, strain and remove seeds and fiber. Slightly toast curry powder in a pan for 2-3 minutes.
2. Wash and cut pork into 1-inch or 2.5cm cubes. Place in a bowl with curry powder, cayenne powder and tamarind and marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a pan. When hot fry onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, lemongrass, green chilies and curry leaves for a few minutes.
4. Add marinated pork and stir-fry until browned. Slosh a little water in marinade bowl to release the remaining spice mixture and pour into pan. Add remaining water and salt and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until pork is tender, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Add coconut milk and tomato paste and simmer, uncovered until gravy is thick, about 15-20 minutes.
To say that Rice & Curry is my current favorite cookbook is an understatement. There is so much to love about this cookbook, from the personal stories, Sri Lankan history, travel tips, spice tips and information, family recipes, to the sample menus suggestions for your Sri Lankan dinner party. The hard work and love that went into making Rice & Curry is evident in every page, it really is no wonder that it made The New York Time’s “Notable Cookbooks of 2011” list. Simply put this cookbook is one everyone should have on their digital or wooden bookshelf.
“Sri Lankan cooking is poised to make a dramatic splash on the culinary horizon.” S.H. Fernando Jr. , I couldn’t agree more.
Purchase your copy of Rice & Curry here
Nancy Lopez-McHugh is a food blogger, photographer and published author. Most recently she has published "Yummy Pics: A Food Blogger's Guide To Better Photos".