Grandma’s Best Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

By Mark Wiens 20 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.