During this weird time we’re in, many of us will have to find ways to scratch the travel itch. Nothing can come close to the heady combination of sights, sounds, smells, encounters with locals of a different culture and finding seeds of the familiar among a sea of novelty. But we can visit national parks and cool museums… virtually. We can check out live webcams of some of the great places we might have been visiting in person. We can work on our foreign languages. And we can cook. I wanted to share one (well, two) of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite trips. Back in 2018, I was selected as a G Adventures Ambassador of Change, and in that capacity, I got to go on one of their fantastic trips to Sri Lanka. I’d always wanted to go there; my dad had spent time there decades ago on Project HOPE, and my sister spent her Peace Corps years there and ended up marrying a Sri Lankan man she met during that time. So I couldn’t resist adding time onto my trip to meet my brother-in-law’s wonderful family. Among the many aspects of Sri Lanka that captured my heart was the FOOD! Sooooo good. Every curry was better than the last. My best hope of being able to master anything Sri Lankan in the kitchen was to start with the ubiquitous bread and the delicious coconut accompaniment that I loved. I’ve been so happy to share this with my family and friends back here in the U.S., and it really is quite simple to make! I encourage you to try, and in doing so, bring a little bit of Sri Lanka to you, right there in your own home.
Recipe: Sri Lankan Coconut Roti (serve with sambol, recipe follows)
*** NOTE: must leave at least one hour to let dough rest before cooking ***
* 2 cups flour
* 1 1/4 cups fresh grated coconut or unsweetened desiccated coconut
* 2 to 3 fresh green chilis, seeded & finely chopped – OR – red chili pepper flakes to taste (optional)
* fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional; can find at an Asian grocery store)
* 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
* 1 teaspoon salt (add more to taste)
* 2/3 cup warm water or as needed
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, coconut, chilis, curry leaves, oil and salt. Using your hands, work the coconut oil into the mixture until well distributed. Gradually add the water to the bowl until you have a soft dough that is not too sticky but moist enough to shape into a ball.
- Knead the dough in the bowl for about 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 1 hour or longer.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape into balls. Using the palms of your hands, press each ball into a small round that is roughly 1/4 thick. Keep the uncooked dough covered with the towel while you cook up batches of the roti so the dough doesn’t dry out.
- Brush a cast-iron skillet with coconut oil and heat over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the rotis in batches until browned on both sides – about 2-3 minutes per side. Take care not to overcook, otherwise the roti will be too hard and won’t have a nice bready consistency. Keep warm in foil while you cook the remaining rotis.
Recipe: Coconut Sambol
* Fresh coconut – 1 cup (can use unsweetened shredded)
* Red chili Flakes – 1/2-1 Tablespoon (to taste)
* Red onion – 1/2 chopped
* Tomato – 1/2 medium chopped
* Salt – 1/2 teaspoon (to taste)
* Sugar – pinch
* Fresh lime juice to taste (optional)
Put coconut in food processor & pulse until the right consistency (crumbs). Remove and set aside. Put all remaining ingredients in food processor & pulse until really blended; add coconut back in.