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Happy New Year everyone !!!

The new year……somehow it always brings with it , a feeling of rejuvenation, hope, life ….a sense of promise !!!! I feel like I have a fresh start…..an opportunity to redo certain things, begin new things and all in all completely change myself if I want to !!!! Everyone makes something to begin the year…..since I am on a sugar free diet if you will, I went the other route and made something savoury. Once on a trip , with my uncle M , his wife L and my cousin S,to the mountains near Coimbatore In South India, we stopped for lunch at a friend’s house . Their parents were my uncle’s neighbours back in CBE. Set amidst the tea estate , the ambience was beautiful and we were served delicious food one course after the other. One of the dishes that still remains in my mind even after 14 years is a potato and green bean curry that she had made. I can still remember the tastes that exploded my tongue when I took the first bite of the curry. Spicy, a little heat, creamy coconut milk, a hint of sweetness….. all combining together to make a simple but delicious curry !!!

When I requested the recipe , she told me it was Srilankan in origin and called “ BONCHI CURRY “ . She told me she would write it down and give it to me the next time we met. We never met after that as I finished college and moved back to stay with my parents before getting married a year later !!! I have been searching for the recipe ever since. I had to do a lot of research to find it. There are not not many Srilankan restaurants here in the American South and when I went to Toronto to visit my sis S, I wanted to go to some stores ad see if I could find some books but never could find the time besides my sis lives quite aways from “Little Srilanka” as they call the area !!! Finally when I was going thru a book on Vegetarian recipes from around the world, by  Madhur Jaffrey,  I found the recipe !!!! Its , as I said earlier,  very simple to make. The original is made only with green beans but I followed Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe which included potatoes and lets face it that’s how I ate it the first time !!! I made some small modifications to the recipe purely for my convenience. I served it with rice and pickles .

BONCHI CURRY

2 medium Red Potatoes,cooked, peeled and diced

½ tsp Turmeric

2 tbsp Oil

10 Curry Leaves

1 cup finely chopped Shallots

2 Garlic Cloves , finely chopped

½ tbsp finely chopped Ginger

2 small Green Chillies, chopped

¾ pound Green Beans, trimmed and cut on a diagonal at ½ inch intervals

2-3 tsp Srilankan Curry Powder ( recipe follows)

1 cup Coconut Milk

1 ( 2 inch ) Cinnamon stick

1- 1 ½ tsp Salt

1 ½ tsp Sugar

2 tbsp Lime Juice

Put the green beans in a microwave proof bowl, add a tbsp of water and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Put the oil in a pan over medium heat and when its hot, add the curry leaves.

Then add the shallots, garlic, ginger and green chillies.

Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the turmeric and curry powder and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Now add the green beans, coconut milk, ½ cup water, cinnamon, salt , sugar and potatoes.

Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 5-6 minutes. The beans should be tender.

Add the lime juice and serve with rice, sambol and pickles.

SRILANKAN CURRY POWDER:

1 tbsp Coriander Seeds

½ tbsp Fennel Seeds

¾ Tbsp Cumin Seeds

½ tbsp Fenugreek Seeds

15- 20 Curry Leaves

½ tbsp Desiccated Coconut

¾ tsp Raw Rice

¼ tsp Mustard Seeds

Sauté the spices on low heat , in a dry pan for 15-20 minutes.

Cool and then grind in a spice grinder as finely as possible.

Yes, the curry was as good as I remembered it. I took one bite and was instantly transported to that time in the mountains. Food memories have great lasting power…that I have discovered !!! It has a complexity in taste mainly because of the many spices used. Though this particular dish is not very hot due to the fact only green chillies are used, Srilankan Cuisine is one of the hottest in the world. Its also known for its spices. Every dish has a multitude of spices used in it which contributes towards the complexity !! Though very similar to South Indian cuisines, it is also very different as a result of diverse cooking techniques brought in by the spice traders from around the world….. you have tamil influences, arab , british and dutch !!! Quite a melting pot !!!

It is very similar to Keralan cuisine in the use of coconut and coconut milk. Also in the use of rice for almost every meal. They also share similarities in other foods such as hoppers or idiappam ( as called in Kerala ), pittu ( or puttu in Kerala ) and so on. I have always wanted to visit Srilanka having heard that it is a beautiful country with hills filled with tea estates, lush beaches and many world heritage sites ……but it doesn’t seem like it is going to be anytime soon so until then I am going to transport myself there with the help of food!

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