Spicy Fish Stew & Beef smore & Spicy eggplant & Dhal stew

Written by zsn9


Seer or Spanish mackerel is arguably Sri Lanka’s tastiest fish. Certainly it is one of the most popular with visitors, many of whom are accustomed to seeing it served pan-fried. There are, however, many other ways to bring out its deli- cious flavours, such as in this delicate stew recipe. 

  •  700 g (1 1/2 lbs) fresh Spanish mackerel, kingfish or cod fillets Salt, to taste 
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  •  3 tablespoons oil 
  • 2 large onions,1 diced and 1 sliced into rings
  •  2 sprigs curry leaves 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 green finger-length chillies, finely sliced 
  • 4 cardamom pods, smashed in a mortar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  •  1 stalk lemongrass, tender inner part of bottom third only, finely sliced 
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  •  1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  •  Juice of 1 lemon  

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.

 Heat the oil until hot in a large frying pan and sear the fillets to firm the flesh, then set aside.

 Reheat the oil and add the diced onion (not the onion rings), curry leaves, garlic, green chillies, cardamom pods, fenugreek and lemongrass. Stir-fry over medium heat until fragrant.

 Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric, and stir-fry until the aromas are re- leased. Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the onion rings and fish fillets. Simmer until the fish fillets are tender, about 15 minutes, adding water if the mixture is too dry. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly and add the lemon juice to taste.

Beef smore

  A dish of Dutch origin. In Sri Lanka, beef smore is a real treat—a whole beef fil- let or loin which is slowly simmered in a spicy coconut milk gravy and then sliced and served in its own gravy. Eat with rice or breads of your choice

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar Salt and pepper, or to taste 
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil for stir-frying 2 sprigs curry leaves
  •  1 stalk lemongrass, tender inner part
  • of bottom third only, finely sliced
  •  1 onion, sliced
  •  1–2 green finger-length chillies,
  • deseeded and finely sliced
  •  1/2 teaspoon chilli powder 
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk

Pierce the beef all over with a fork or skewer and marinate in the vinegar, salt and pepper for 2 to 4 hours.

Heat the ghee or oil until very hot and sear the beef until lightly browned on all sides. This seals the meat and helps to retain the juices. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. 

To the same pan add the curry leaves, lemongrass, sliced onion and green chillies. Fry until half cooked, about 3 minutes. Add the chilli powder and mix well.

Return the beef to the pan and add the coconut milk. Stir well and simmer

until the coconut milk reduces into a thick gravy and the meat is done to your liking, about 25–35 minutes. Remove from the heat, slice the meat to the desired thickness and pour the gravy over the slices

Spicy eggplant 

The eggplants in Sri Lanka are tiny round pea eggplants, which may not be readily available elsewhere. Any other type of eggplant may be used, although the taste will be different.

  • 2 large Asian eggplants (about 500 g /1 lb total) 
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) oil 
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  •  5 cm (2 in) pandanus leaf *
  • 1 sprig curry leaves 
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  •  1/2 teaspoon sliced green finger-length chillies 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Maldive fish or dried prawns
  •  4 tablespoons coconut milk or water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
  •  Salt, to taste
  •  3 tablespoons lime juice

Wash the eggplants then crush them with a spoon if using tiny pea eggplants. If using other types of eggplant, cut it into small dice.

Fry in the hot oil until they lose their firmness. In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and stir-fry the onion, pandanus leaf, curry leaves, cinnamon and chillies for several minutes until the onion is golden brown.

Add the Maldive fish or dried prawns, coconut milk or water, chilli flakes and salt, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the fried eggplants and lime juice, and season to taste. Serve hot as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Dhal stew

250 g (1 1/4 cups) channa dhal or yellow split peas

 2 teaspoons oil 

1 medium onion, sliced 

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

 1 sprig curry leaves

 2–3 dried finger-length chillies, roughly chopped 

5 cm (2 in) pandanus leaf 

1 teaspoon mustard seeds, whole

 1 teaspoon curry powder

 1 teaspoon turmeric powder

 1 tablespoon Maldive fish or dried prawns

 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds 

5 cups (1.25 litres) thin coconut milk 

3/4 cup (200 ml) thick coconut milk

 1 teaspoon salt

Wash and soak the dhal in water for 30 minutes, then drain. 

Heat the oil in a pan and stir-fry the onion, garlic, curry leaves, chilli and pandanus leaf until the onions are soft. Add the mustard seeds and fry for a few seconds until the seeds pop.

Add the dhal, curry powder, turmeric powder, Maldive fish or dried prawns, fenugreek and thin coconut milk. Bring to a boil and simmer until the dhal is tender, about 25 minutes.

Add the thick coconut milk and salt.

Simmer for a few more minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and serve hot as an accompaniment to other dishes