One of Fahim’s cousin, knowing that I’m interested in cooking Sri Lankan food, gave me a Sri Lankan cookbook a year or so back. It’s called Ceylon Cookery by Chandra Dissanayake, M. Sc., Principal, School of Home Economics, Sri Lanka. I add that extra bit so you know her credentials. 🙂
Inside, printed at the front of the book, it also specifies that "The Translation of this Book is available in Sinhala. Sinhala Edition Rs.20.00". Random capitalization aside, it tells me that this cookbook probably sold for Rs. 20, or about US$0.20. Granted, it was published in December 1968, so prices were significantly lower then, but still.
It’s a useful cookbook with authentic Sri Lankan recipes – Hallelujah! And I’ve tried a number of recipes in this cookbook, and while I’m sometimes confused (what’s the volume of a bottle, anyway? and what’s sera, kum kum, or billing?), the recipes I’ve tried have turned out very well. We’re generally quite happy with how the dishes turn out. Experimentation pays off. 🙂
So, in search of a new-for-me okra dish, I consulted this cookbook, and this is the recipe I used. (recipe #223, page 255).
Ladies Fingers – Tempered
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 sprig of curry leaves
- 2 green chillies, sliced or minced
- 1/4 cup onions, chopped
- 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons red chilli pepper powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
- 1 tablespoon Maldive fish flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 500 grams okra, cut into 1" pieces
- 1/4 cup coconut milk, thick
- Heat oil in a pan until very hot, then add curry leaves, green chillies, and onions. Saute for a few minutes, then add the red chilli powder, turmeric, fenugreek, Maldive fish flakes, and salt and cook until onions are caramelized.
- Add the okra and toss for 5 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and only a thick gravy remains.
Virgin coconut oil, the stuff that’s solid below 27C and has a subtle coconut smell, is preferred as it adds a nice, subtle flavour to curries. If you can’t get it, use an unscented oil of your choosing. Yes, that means extra virgin olive oil is out – it has the completely wrong flavour for this. 🙂
If you can’t get curry leaves (available at many Asian shops and markets), omit. There is no substitute.
If you don’t have red chilli pepper powder, use cayenne or paprika. If you have a difficult time with spicy foods, go on the low end of the amount suggested or reduce even further. Alternately, substitute black pepper – it’ll have a different flavour, but won’t be as hot.
Maldive fish flakes ought to be available at Asian markets. Alternately, you can try dried shrimp or omit.
Fahim and I were both quite happy with how this okra curry turned out. Actually, Fahim downright loved it. I’ll definitely be making this again. 🙂