Monday, June 3, 2013

Making Negombo Curry at Jetwing Beach Hotel

Sri Lanka was a place that had been on our “Wanna’ Visit” list for several years. The small island country in
the Indian Ocean is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and beautiful beaches. We visited the World Heritage Sites, went on a safari in a national park, stopped at an elephant orphanage, learned about tea production, and marveled at the beautiful scenery. We ended our visit near the international airport at a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, Jetwing Beach Hotel. We enjoyed the Jetwing’s beach, wonderful meals, and spa.  A high point was their cooking lesson.

The cooking lesson started bright and early but not as early as Chamara, the naturalist at Jetwing Beach Hotel, wanted it to.  He thought 4 a.m. was the perfect time to go to the fish market.  I did not, so talked him into going at 6 a.m.  I know why he wanted to go so early.  Negombo is one of country’s major ports and where the fishing boats arrive early in the morning to sell their fish wholesale.  As Chamara explained, “By 6 a.m. most of the fish has been sold and taken to retail markets all over the country.” Even so there was an amazing amount of fish still for sale including tuna, bass, shrimp, prawns, and squid. We bought shrimp for our cooking class.

At 11 a.m. John, my husband, and I went to the palm-shaded area between the beach and the hotel’s
restaurant where Suneth Nishantha Navarathna, the Chef de Partie, showed us how to make Necombo Prawn Curry.  Curries and rice are the mainstays of Sri Lankan cooking and while many Sri Lankans eat with their fingers the hotel caters to Europeans so cutlery always accompanies meals. A few years ago we tried eating with our fingers by putting the curry on top of the rice, mixing it up, shaping it into a small ball and then putting it in our mouth. By the way the left hand should not be used when eating as it is reserved for cleansing after using the toilet. We found eating with our fingers was not easy and a little messy so we resorted to using cutlery. I love this saying: “One-third of the world eats with their fingers, one-third with chopsticks, one-third with cutlery and everyone one is doing it correctly.”

By the way, Jetwing has taken positive steps to protect, maintain, and enhance a clean and health environment. They conserve energy and water by implementing practicing the Three Rs – recycle, reuse, and reduce. They employ local people and products whenever possible. Shampoo, conditioner, and soaps are all herbal. They try to reduce the use of plastic by using paper, ceramic and cloth were applicable. And, they have started and plan to expand their hotel garden. For more information check or

Negombo Prawn Curry

1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chili powder
½ (one-half) tbsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 lb prawns (or large shrimp) cleaned and deveined
2 tbsp oil
 ½ (one-half) cup thinly sliced onions
2 tbsp diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced ginger
¼ tsp dill seeds
4 curry leaves
¾ (three-fourths) cup of thin coconut milk (add ½ (one-half) water to thick coconut milk)
2 1-inch slivers of cinnamon stick
½ (one-half) tsp gamboge paste (substitute tomato paste)
½ (one-half) cup thick coconut milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix curry powder, chili powder, turmeric, and salt and toss with prawns. Heat oil in frying pan. Sauté onion, garlic, ginger until golden brown. Add seasoned prawns and sauté for about one minute. Add all other ingredients but not the thick coconut milk. Cook for about eight minutes then stir in thick coconut milk. Remove from heat, add lemon juice. Serve with rice.

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