Monday, 19 March 2012


This Sri Lankan Aromatic Rice is one of the best rice dishes I have ever made or tasted! Highly recommended! It is truly fragrant, and truly delicious. The stars of the dish are, I think, the coconut milk and the curry leaves. These two ingredients are also the stars of Sri Lankan cuisine. They are used in most dishes and contribute excellent flavours.

 A curry tree with its beautiful leaves.  The area around these trees must be really fragrant!  Will I ever visit? (picture from Wikipedia).

Curry leaves should not be confused with curry powder. Curry leaves grow on curry trees and are used as an ingredient in curries. Their flavour is unique and citrusy, a little bit reminiscent of limes. Some people say one can substitute bay leaves for them, but I don't think the tastes are even close.  

Curry leaves are available in Indian markets. Since I live in one of Philadelphia's western suburbs, I visit the nearby township of Upper Darby and buy my curry leaves at a very nice shop called "Indian Super Market and Grocery." It's located on Market Street, near the 69th Street Terminal. 

Let me digress for a minute: Below I have some pictures of historical 69th Street!

That's a newer pedestrian walkway bridge at 69th street, and behind it is the McClatchy building, built in 1926. This building is the cornerstone to a large open shopping area built around the same time; It was the first shopping area of its kind in the US.

A very fine example of art deco architecture: another view of the McClatchy building.  

The 69th street terminal when it was first constructed in 1908.  It was known as the gateway to Philadelphia's western suburbs, which saw a great surge in development after the terminal was built.  The Philadelphia El, or Elevated Railway, the interurbans, trolleys and streetcars all passed by here. The nearby shopping area was a convenient stop for those passengers changing trains. Today most all trolley routes are gone. Only two remain: 69th Street to Media, Pa, and 69th Street to Norristown, PA. The El also remains. Buses are abundant. The facade of the Terminal looks the same but the interior has been renovated. The trolley tracks seen in the foreground have been removed. 

If you don't live near an area where you can find an Indian supermarket, do an internet search. I found a nice site with very reasonable prices that will ship spices and curry leaves from Hawaii. 


2 cups white basmati rice
10 curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick, cut in half
5 cloves
1 onion chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
4 tablespoons avocado oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup of coconut milk
5 cups water 

a few cashews and some peas for decoration


Tear up some of the curry leaves. During cooking this will readily release their oils, allowing them to better perfume the rice. 

Place the rice in a strainer and wash it well. Allow it to drain for about 20 minutes so that it can dry. While the rice is draining prepare the mise en place. 

In a large pot heat the oil and add the curry leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves. Cook for about a minute until fragrant.

Add the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes. 

Add the rice, turmeric and cardamom.

Sauté for about 3-4 minutes until the rice turns opaque in colour. Stir frequently so that it does not burn but rather has a chance to become toasted. 

Add the water and coconut milk, bring to a boil, cover and lower the heat to simmer.

Cook until the liquid evaporates and the rice is soft. 

Near the end of cooking I added a few cashews, and later I added just a few peas 
for decoration.

You may need to adjust the amount of liquid that used. It all depends on the rice, I suppose. Taste it and make sure it's soft. You don't want a crunchy rice, so if it's still crunchy keep adding liquid. Also, make sure your heat is on medium. Not too high, not too low.

When done, fish out the cinnamon stick pieces and the cloves if you can find them. Or, you may decide to leave them in and to eat your way around them, because they look kind of pretty and decorative in the rice. 

This rice will serve about six hungry people. You can serve it just as is, or garnish it further with some cashew nuts, sautéed onions, and peas. In my case, I chose to serve it with a Vegetable and Cashew Curry.