What is kaju maluwa (cashew curry)?
Kaju maluwa (cashew nut curry) is a traditional Sri Lankan recipe that families have passed down through the generations and its flavor profile is similar to many other curries of the region.
Cashew curry is often served at weddings and other celebrations in Sri Lanka, as it can be cooked in large batches. It is served as a main meal, accompanied by white rice.
Cashew nut curry, or as it is called in Sri Lanka, kaju maluwa, is a mildly spiced vegan curry that is full of texture and crunch. The curry is cooked with coconut milk, to give it a creamy and sweet flavor, which balances the heat of the chilies. The cashew nuts soak up the flavor of the spices and add bite to the dish.
Where does cashew nut come from?
Unsurprisingly, the main ingredient in this Sri Lankan curry is cashew nuts. Cashew nuts are harvested from a tropical evergreen tree, which produces the cashew apple (a pear shaped fruit). Growing from the bottom of the cashew apple is another fruit, shaped like a kidney, and it is within this fruit that the cashew nut is formed. The cashew plant is native to northeastern Brazil.
As is the case with many Sri Lankan and South East Asian dishes, turmeric is a key ingredient in this curry. It is a spice with an earthy aroma and slightly bitter taste. Turmeric has been used in Asia for thousands of years, first as a dye, then in traditional medicine. It is often used in place of saffron in cooking as a cheaper alternative.
How to make kaju maluwa (cashew curry)
Coconut milk gives a subtle sweetness to the cashew nut curry and is a very popular ingredient in South Asian cooking. Coconut milk should not be confused with coconut water, which is the liquid found directly inside the coconut. Coconut milk comes from the liquid of grated coconut meat. It has a thicker consistency and looks milky in appearance. When purchasing coconut milk, always check the label to ensure you are not buying water with coconut extract in it. To get a creamy and sweet curry sauce you need to get the real thing.
The other spices that give this cashew nut curry its distinctive flavor are cumin, fennel and cardamom, all popular spices commonly used in South Asian cooking.
Cumin is the dried seed of an herb from the parsley family and originates form the Eastern Mediterranean. Cumin has a distinctive and warm aroma. Fennel is a highly aromatic herb that is indigenous to the Mediterranean. It has a liquorice like taste to it and is highly aromatic.
Cardamom is a spice indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and Nepal, and references to the spice being traded from Sri Lanka date back to the 12th century. Cardamom has a complex flavor to it, with hints of herb, citrus and mint.
Cashew nut curry is a relatively quick and easy dish make, just set enough time aside to soak the cashew nuts. By soaking the cashews, they are easier to digest as the enzymes are neutralized. Soaking them also makes them plump, and the texture is so much more favorable in the curry sauce. Cashew nut curry takes around thirty minutes to prepare and cook, so it’s a great option for a midweek meal. It can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days, so it is a great dish for meal prep.
- 8 oz. cashew nuts
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic
- 10 curry leaves
- 2 green hot peppers , chopped
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds , roasted , ground
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds , roasted , ground
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 4 pods cardamom
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ½ cup coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- Soak the cashew nuts in a bowl of water for at least 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
- In a pot, heat the ghee over high heat. Then, add the onion, garlic, curry leaves, hot peppers, and stir.
- After 5 minutes, add the cumin, fennel, turmeric, chilli powder, curry powder, cardamom and the cinnamon stick. Lower to medium heat and stir until spices are lightly roasted, about 2 minutes.
- Add the drained cashew nuts and stir.
- Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes.
- Add the coconut cream, bring to a boil and continue simmering for about 5 minutes. Season to taste.
- Serve hot with warm white rice.