Friday, February 24, 2012

Roasted Curry Powder: Cooking like a Sri Lankan

Welcome to the first post in a series on Sri Lankan cooking. Sri Lankan cooking invariably depends for its authentic taste on a variety of curry powders and spices. Curry powders are commonly called "Thuna paha" which literally translates to "Three and five" meaning the eight kinds of spices that are used to make the spice mixtures. However, as is true for any culinary tradition, every housewife has her own special blend of the "Thuna paha" that is authentic to her home.

Badapu thuna paha means roasted curry powder, while just "thuna paha" means the raw kind. To  make the badapu thuna paha whole spices are roasted over a low flame in a shallow pan or a "thatchi"/wok. Then they are mixed and ground to a fine aromatic powder.

Badapu thunapaha is usually used in meat, poultry or fish dishes. But it can also be used in any vegetable dish accompanied by chillie  to give the dish a deeper colour and a more intense flavour and heat. Dishes to which badapu thunapaha are added are usually deeper and darker in colour than those to which unroasted thunapaha are added.

Ingredients to make badapu thunapaha

Makes: about 12 tablespoons

6 tablespoons of coriander seeds
3 tablespoons of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
5 cm or 2 inch piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cloves
8 cardamoms
10 dried curry leaves. ( If using fresh ones roast them in the pan first)
1 teaspoon chillie powder

How To

Dry fry or roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds separately over a low flame in a shallow pan until they give off an intense aroma and turns brown. This shouldn't take more than a minute and a half each. The more you roast, the richer the colour will be. Just make sure that the spices do not get burnt.

Dry fry or roast as above, the cloves, cardamoms and the cinnamon stick together, again for about a minute and a half. If using fresh curry leaves, dry fry them the same way until they turn brown. 

Mix everything together including the curry leaves and the chillie powder. 

Grind everything to a fine powder. Store in an airtight and non-transparent container. Will keep up to about 2 months. 

Next  in line:

Sri Lankan chicken curry using the curry powder we just made. 

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