For newbies to Sri Lankan cuisine; as you can see coconut is a prime ingredient in most of the Ceylonese dishes. We use coconut milk, scraped coconut, coconut water, coconut oil and several other portions and products of the tree. Truly, coconut is most definitely an invaluable treasure for the people in the tropics. Certainly, there is no other existing tree that can provide essential resources for us as much as it does. This is an all in one package given to the world by god knows who. Its uses are endless; it is a great source of food, a tremendous means of energy, provides numerous construction materials, has number of medicinal values and plenty more. In Sanskrit it is called ‘Kalpa Vriksha (or Kapvruka)’ meaning the tree that can fulfill ones’ all necessities. So now you know why Ceylonese use lot of coconut in their cooking, right? They just take maximum out of this precious gift of Mother Nature to nourish their lives.
Now back to real business. Frankly, coconut sambal must be the most popular Ceylonese condiment of all times. This simple but very delicious dish can be called as one of the few crests that represent the identity of Sri Lankan cuisine. This dish has a very long history that goes back in centuries. Earlier, people did not use red chilies, necessarily, to make this condiment. They always used the varieties that they could find within their surroundings. However, with the influence of Portuguese, Sri Lankans started to consume more dried red chilies and people started incorporate it coconut sambal.
Normally and traditionally, all the ingredients were pounded with a pestle and mortar or mixed with a grinding stone. Today, due to lack of time and resources people simply hand mix and make this sambal. Today, I am going to tell you guys what simple things that you need to keep on your mind when you hand mix in order to achieve its authentic taste. Hope you will find this useful.
2 ½ to 3 cups of scraped fresh coconut
1 medium sized regular onions or 6 – 8 small red onions (Rathu Lunu) – finely chopped
1 medium sized lime
2 – 3 tbsp of dried red chili flakes (Adjust according to your taste)
¼ of a tomato (Optional) – used only when mixed with hands or an electric mixer
¾ tsp of salt (Adjust according to your taste)
1 ½ tbsp of Maldives-fish (Umbalakada) flakes – Optional but highly recommended
First, add all the ingredients except Maldives-fish into a mixing bowl. Now, with your clean hands, combine all thoroughly in a squeezing like motion. This is the most important aspect. Remember, you should put more strength and effort to squeeze the ingredients in between your fist. Basically, milking like a motion. Most people mix these ingredients with just fingertips and they don’t realize that the final product is not even close to authentic coconut sambal. Normally, if you will do this right, you will start feeling a slight warmth to your inner surface fist that’s in contact with the squeezed ingredients. Then, after about 3 minutes following the rigorous mixing, bring in the Maldives-fish flakes and gently mix with your fingertips. This way you won’t get your hands hurt from the solid and stiff Maldives-fish flakes pieces. Finally, you can adjust salt, lime and red chilies according to your taste.
- If you are not a fan of hotter foods, don’t start with 2tbsp of chili flakes. Start with less and adjust to your taste through the cooking process.
- Add tomatoes only if you are hand mixing
- If you are using a pestle and a mortar, add a 1 clove of garlic as well
- Some use only tomatoes when mixing with hands. But I highly recommend using lime or both to make this dish
- Maldives fish flakes are optional but highly recommended
- If you are unable to find a fresh scraped coconut, you have this one option of using desiccated coconut. It surely won’t give the authentic taste but something is better than nothing, right?
- Let me tell you the steps to follow if you are using desiccated coconut. Additionally add ½ – ¾ a cup of water and follow the same steps. Then, under low to medium heat, stir roast the whole mixture until the excessive water evaporates and it’s been cooked. Anyways, make this method your last resort to make coconut sambal because I know that in some parts of the world it is really hard to get hold of a fresh coconut.