The word elumas means goat in Singhalese (or Sinhalese), yet we are talking about a curry of mutton (or lamb).
In any case, regardless of the meat that is used, this curry is excellent and the meat becomes particularly tender and tasty as it absorbs the delicious scent of the spices.
As you make it, you can quickly see how each curry is unique, as the spices and fresh or dried herbs that go into its preparation instantly develop complex and captivating perfumes.
Curry is often thought of as a mixture of toasted and then crushed spices, but it also defines small, sweet-smelling green leaves that grow only in southern India and Sri Lanka. These leaves are fried with spices early in the preparation, as are those of rampa (or pandan, pandanus), which are also native to Southeast Asia. These leaves are used to color and flavor dishes, and are sometimes called “vanilla of Asia”.
The use of these fresh herbs but also the use of lemongrass or lime juice at the end of the preparation are reminiscent of Thai cuisine.
As you read the list of ingredients, you might think that the elumas curry is particularly spicy but not at all. The nuances are numerous and they leave a deep and persistent aroma while eating and for long minutes after. Sensations that are sweet sometimes, acidic but also bitter, or even spicy, a real festival of flavors.
Lamb or mutton usually needs antioxidant ingredients to perfume it and to diminish the mildly gamy flavor it sometimes has. On the contrary, the different spices and herbs that go into the preparation of this dish make the meat very delicate and will be enough to reconcile people with this delicious meat. This dish is reminiscent of rendang, this beef recipe from Indonesia with intense flavors that has been voted favorite dish in the world by CNN Traveler readers.
We are fortunate to live in Paris where a large Sri Lankan community resides. Immersing ourselves in these ethnic markets is always an extraordinary experience that we adore. We usually go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and find the freshest produce. It’s also an opportunity to order a pol or veechu roti with a good tea.
It is always such a pleasure to share the generosity and hospitality of those tiny restaurants owners who are surprised but happy to answer all the questions you have about the use of a particular vegetable or a spice. These exchanges are often the occasion for laughter and friendly smiles because of the misunderstandings, but they leave you with beautiful memories and experiences. There, we also had the luxury of receiving expert advice on tea making!
For Sri Lankans, buying curry powder is often not an option, as a to of people prepare their own thuna paha themselves. However, we bought our Sinhalese curry powder. It differs a lot from the sweet powders that are usually found in supermarkets and whose taste does not come close to any of these more traditional blends. As they are generally sold in large boxes, we have enough to prepare curry dishes until the end of the year!
This cuisine has a magical and mystical character, we were particularly surprised to see how the perfumes evolve with the cooking stages. Very strong at the beginning, they will be attenuated before being exalted when finally adding the coconut cream. Observing how these many spices color the meat or the onions is a real show for our senses. You will quickly be projected to the other end of the world as enchanting and inspiring perfumes will fill your kitchen.
- 1½ lb deboned lamb shoulder
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cardamom pods
- 2 pandanus leaves (rampa)
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 stem lemongrass , thinly sliced
- 2 green hot peppers , split lengthwise and seeded
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 cup coconut cream
- ½ tablespoon bathapu thuna paha (spice blend also called Sinhalese curry)
- Juice of ½ lime
- 4 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1 (2-inch) piece ginger , peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon bathapu thuna paha (spice blend also called Sinhalese curry)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Wash the meat in cold water and drain.
- Place the meat in a large salad bowl, add all the ingredients for the marinade and mix by hand for a few minutes to incorporate all the spices.
- Marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil on low heat.
- Add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pandanus leaf, curry leaves, lemongrass and onions, and sauté until the onions turn golden.
- Add the marinated meat and mix well.
- Cover the meat with water and bring to a boil.
- Place the lid on the pot and cook over medium heat for about 1 hour, or until the water evaporates and the meat is cooked through and tender.
- Add the coconut cream, mix well and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce gets thick.
- Remove from heat, sprinkle with bathapu thuna paha (spice blend) and squeeze lime juice over.
- Stir and add salt to taste.