Learning 'Sri Lankan Home Cooking' A Family Affair

Dec 29, 2011

A child of Sri Lankan immigrants, music journalist S.H. "Skiz" Fernando, Jr. grew up eating Sri Lankan food regularly. But he didn't master the art of the cuisine until he moved to his family's homeland and enlisted the expertise of his four aunts.

For one year, Fernando spent his mornings scouring local markets for the best spices and ingredients. He then cooked for hours, using old cookbooks and family recipes. His aunts critiqued the dishes until Fernando perfected them — meaning Fernando ended up making each recipe at least 20 times.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden talks with Fernando about one of the books we missed this year, the New York Times notable cookbook Rice and Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, and the challenge of adapting foreign dishes to American kitchens.


Chicken Curry (Kukul Mas)
From 'Rice And Curry' by S.H. Fernando, Jr.

This dish is a mainstay of Sri Lankan cuisine, and the first curry I learned to make. Like any curry, its flavor is greatly enhanced when marinated for a few hours in the refrigerator and cooked slowly at a medium temperature.

Makes 6 servings

1 whole fryer (or parts), chopped

3 tablespoons roasted curry powder

1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2-inch piece ginger, sliced

1 sprig curry leaves

2-inch stalk lemon grass

3 cardamoms

3 cloves

1-inch stick cinnamon

1 cup coconut milk

salt to taste

2 teaspoons tomato paste

Wash and clean chicken, removing most fat.

Place chicken in bowl with curry powder, cayenne, and vinegar. Mix well with hands and set aside for 30 minutes. NOTE: marinate the chicken overnight for optimum results.

In a large pot, heat oil. Once hot, add onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, lemon grass, cardamoms, cloves, and cinnamon. Fry until onions are golden brown.

Add chicken pieces one by one, stirring occasionally until chicken is browned.

Add a little water to the bowl that contained chicken and slosh around to catch any remaining marinade and add to pot.

Stir in coconut milk and salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and simmer for additional 10 minutes.

From Rice And Curry, by S.H. Fernando, Jr. Copyright 2011 by S.H. Fernando, Jr. Reprinted with permission.

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