Grandma’s Best Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Sri Lankan Food

Grinding Toasted Cumin Seeds

You’ll have to forgive me as I stumble through my confused thoughts and emotional words in this article.

The entire time I was utterly intoxicated by the aroma of Sri Lankan spices in the dark little sauna like cooking hut.

And it was the BEST chicken curry I’ve ever had in my life.

While traveling through Sri Lanka, I was invited by a local friend to his Mother’s home isolated in the rolling tea fields near the town of Pusselawa.

It all happened by chance, another random travel experience where I had little (ok…nothing) on my schedule and I agreed to spend a few days at his Mother’s home.

Grinding Sri Lankan Spices

Grinding Sri Lankan Spices

Sri Lankan curries are known to be difficult to perfect, mainly because no one writes down their recipes…but just relies on their instincts to create things that taste amazing.

After lightly toasting the cumin seeds, Grandma made swift work at grinding them into a fine powder – and that’s when the ecstasy of fragrance relaxed me like a dose of aromatherapy.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

All the Ingredients in the Pot

After the all-important cumin, Grandma threw in a bit of this and that: Sticks of cinnamon, pods of cardamon, yellow turmeric, coriander seeds, chili powder – and the list of spices probably continues from there…but I was in a daze.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

She also added a handful of other ingredients including garlic, red onions, a few sprigs of curry leaves and the perfume like pandanus leaves.

Toasted Shredded Coconut

Toasted Shredded Coconut

Every time I thought Grandma was finished adding ingredients to the chicken curry, she would surprise me with yet another.

With each extra ingredient there was nothing I could do but sigh in excitement, drool in my mouth, and use my simple mind to imagine the aroma in my mouth.

After shredding pure white fresh coconut, she toasted it on a skillet until it passed golden and turned to a dark bronze.

Sri Lankan Curry

Fresh Coconut Oil

From there, Grandma immediately scooped it onto the stone and started working her magic.

Within moments of stone grinding, the bronze coconut started getting oily and eventually turned into a blob of dark brown handmade coconut oil paste.

In to the clay pot with the chicken and spices it went.

Squeezing Fresh Coconut Milk

Squeezing Fresh Coconut Milk

Again, I thought it was over, I thought that there couldn’t possibly be another ingredient that could fit into this masterpiece of Sri Lankan cooking.

She fooled me again.

This time she took another bowl of freshly grated coconut, added a splash of water, and began to massage the white meat until if produced rich coconut milk.

Into the pot again.

Cooking Sri Lankan Curry over a Fire

Cooking Sri Lankan Curry over a Fire

Soon Grandma’s pot of Sri Lankan chicken curry was boiling furiously away, unleashing fumes that could tame a lion.

I assisted her by fueling the fire – about the only job I could do without messing up.

Cooking Sri Lankan Food

Sri Lankan Cooking

For Grandma’s chicken curry to taste its finest, it had to be cooked in a clay pot over a wood stoked fire.

And that’s exactly what we did.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Now I ate a lot of Sri Lankan food when I was in Sri Lanka, and I’ll admit that I’ve eaten my fair share of curries around this globe…but I’ll be certain to tell you that Grandma’s Sri Lankan chicken curry was the best curry I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Nothing compares to homemade cooking!

Sri Lankan Cuisine

Grandma’s Sri Lankan Curry

It was bronze in color, had the smell of heaven, and the entire contents of the bowl shimmered like a silver fishing lure.

I guarantee that if there would have been a fish hook in the curry, I would have been caught!

Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan Rice and Curry

Lastly, Grandma stir fried up the rice along with a few assorted vegetables – “the curry will taste so nice with fried rice,” she had mentioned.

And I believed her.

The experience was absolutely fantastic, Grandma’s company was priceless, and each spoon of her homemade Sri Lanka curry elevated me into a dreamy magical culinary paradise.

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  1. Sheel kant says

    Cooking in Clay pot over food fire….and with so many ingredients ,i am sure it must have been fantastic…

  2. saman says

    Dear Mark

    Thanks you for telling the world that wonderful chicken curry story. Yes Still they do not have
    recipes it all in their blood and veins.I am looking forward to my summer holidays in 02 weeks and
    and be with my home village near Galle. We do make our fish curry same way. we use Tuna foe best taste.
    Hope you will try next time > Your next visit to Srilanka let me know I will arrange the fish curry and salt fish curry for you (not dried)local call Jaadi.

    Thanks again


    • says

      Thank you so much Saman!That Sri Lankan tuna curry you described sounds incredible – enjoy some for me on your visit. I will definitely let you know if I return to Sri Lanka, thanks again!

  3. says

    I actually have not seen curry made from scratch before (we always have some chemical pouch in Asia for a jump start). I am sure just watching her making it and smelling the food in the process must have been an amazing experience.

    • says

      Thanks Annie, those curry starter pouches are highly convenient! Watching the grandmother cook and master the spices and curry paste was really amazing.

  4. says

    This curry looks AMAZING! I have to admit, I’ve never had the good fortune to try Sri Lankan food, but despite that, the food is one of the things I am most excited to experience when I visit there!

    Also, what a cool experience. I think it’s so great when travelers get to experience the authentic way of life and meet and mingle with locals. I am 100% confident that the chicken curry you had there was better than anything you’d get at a restaurant!

    • says

      Thanks Steph! You’re right about getting the curry home-cooked, restaurants can’t compare to a locally cooked fresh motherly meal. Hope you get a chance to visit Sri Lankan soon, I know you’ll enjoy it!

  5. saman says

    Mark surely i will my wife is very good cook and iam sure she will love that chicken curry

  6. saman says

    Dear Mark

    I forget to tell you do you any msg to Hotel Rolex in Jaffna?

    i am planning going their and refresh my memories. I use to spend my school
    holidays their very nearer to the hospital road called Kandy road,


  7. Sudhindra says

    I have to be honest. I was a little hungry when I started reading this post but by the end of it, I was drooling. This must really have been a tasty curry. Anything that comes from the league of grannies has to be good and this one proves it!

  8. Ashley Cooke says

    I love that the recipe is performed in the old style. Some things cannot be replicated, even with the most stylish kitchen appliances.

  9. Marsha says

    Hi Mark – I’m in Toronto so I obviously can’t do it the “traditional way.” But I like adding the coconut to the mixture. Will try that tomorrow. Was in SL for 3.5 years on contract – just got back about 3 months ago. The food was great! My favourite is coconut sambol (orange one)!

  10. Mel Suriyabandara says

    Hey Mark,

    I’m a sri Lankan based in London and is a total food fanatic! Loving all things Sri Lankan, I often view your youtube clips of amazing food from your travels. The clips from your time in Sri Lanka, among all the others too, were great!!

    I’m really pleased that you’ve chosen this particular recipe to title “best curry in the world”, simply because it emphasises what you’ve beautifully put as “Sri Lankan curries are known to be difficult to perfect, mainly because no one writes down their recipes…but just relies on their instincts to create things that taste amazing.”

    I couldn’t have put it better myself. I wish you all the very best in your travels and keep up the great work!


    • says

      Hi Mel, thanks a lot for the comment, and I appreciate you watching and reading my blogs. I really enjoyed my visit to Sri Lanka and had so much wonderful food – the ingredients and the way grandmother made this curry was just amazing!

  11. Thushan Rajika says

    absolutely perfect way of saying a recipes. mouth watering article. ma favorite sentence of this article is ”I guarantee that if there would have been a fish hook in the curry, I would have been caught!” .. very smart (y) KEEP IT UP.

  12. Surani says

    I am a sri lankan and i had no idea about the use of fresh coconut to make coconut oil at home. Omg the curry looks absolutely divine. Love your work Mark =)


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