Grandma’s Best Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

By Mark Wiens 47 Comments
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.



47 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Sue Makhanian

    2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing the chicken curry dish I wish also I had all the ingredients, I would love to make it. Sounds wonderful. I hear so much of the foods in Shri Landa are good for lowering blood pressure and type 2 diabetes .

  • Shirley

    6 months ago

    Pls do reply. I m from India. I am planning to make the same curry with my instincts.
    Didn’t she add tomatoes in the curry?

  • Devi

    12 months ago

    This looks super good! Wished you state the measurements wud love to try – looks vy authentic.

  • Alex

    1 year ago

    Hey Mark

    I Watch your youtube channel all the time love your clips. I love sri lankan food!! amazing tastes. Thanks for the recipe i will definitely have to try one day.

  • Cindy Blakeslee

    2 years ago

    I’d love to have the recipe. Did you write it down? Perhaps I missed something. Sounds fantastic!

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hi Cindy, unfortunately I didn’t think to get the recipe then, I was so happy eating that I didn’t even think to ask. But she really just had it all in her head and didn’t measure anything. If I can find a similar recipe though, I will let you know. Thanks!

  • Leo

    2 years ago

    After reading this article it has brought back nostalgic memories of MY Grandmas chicken curry recipe. Certainly I too have not ever tasted such a curry as that of my grandma and I am now 50 years of age. Sadly though none of my 2 sisters, me or my mother bothered to ever watch her close enough or get the recipe before she sadly passed away 20 years ago. It has inspired me to at least give it a shot with the info from this site and with what little information I already have. Thank You

  • Chanika Perera

    3 years ago

    Realy nice recipe.and thaxx for share with us……

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      You’re welcome Chanika, thank you for reading.

  • Surani

    4 years ago

    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 =)

  • Thushan Rajika

    4 years ago

    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.

  • Mel Suriyabandara

    5 years ago

    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!

    Mel

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      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!

  • Sas

    5 years ago

    Thank you Mark for posting this, very nicely done. remembered my grandma’s wonderful Sri lankan cooking..

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Sas, no problem, and thanks for reading. I bet your grandma’s is wonderful too!

  • Marsha

    5 years ago

    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)!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Marsha, great to hear you were in Sri Lanka and also enjoyed the food. Let me know how that pol sambol turns out!

  • Ashley Cooke

    5 years ago

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

  • David

    5 years ago

    I’m a foodie too! Know just how tasty it must have been. Had this delicious sort of curry in Goa each summer!

    http://david-desouza.blogspot.com/

  • Sudhindra

    5 years ago

    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!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Haha, thanks Sudhindra! Grannies recipe is always the best, no one can argue about that!

  • saman

    5 years ago

    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,

    regds

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Saman, not sure… I didn’t ask about msg, but I guess probably a lot of restaurants do use a bit.

  • saman

    5 years ago

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

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    5 years ago

    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!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      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!

  • Annie – FootTracker

    5 years ago

    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.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

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

  • sully86

    5 years ago

    mark: wow…

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thanks Sully!

      • sully86

        5 years ago

        mark: your welcome mark. but seriously that is what hot pot of curry. I bet it was playing in your mouth when you spoon it in.

  • saman

    5 years ago

    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

    Saman

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      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!

  • Sheel kant

    5 years ago

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

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      The combination of fresh ingredients and toasted spices was what truly made it fantastic, and also the clay pot over of the fire!

  • Shanil Samarakoon

    5 years ago

    Awesome post and as a Sri Lankan…I’d proud. Having eaten in many rural villages, I agree with you…nothing beats home-made curry! I think those claypots work a treat too!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you Shanil! Glad to hear that you also agree about Sri Lankan curry. Do you also cook Sri Lankan food? Those claypots are wonderful!

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    5 years ago

    What an amazing thing to watch AND eat!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thanks Stephanie, it was a fantastic experience.