I would never have thought to use pineapple as the core ingredient in a curry, even though I’ve enjoyed curries made from pumpkin and sweet potato. But this Sri Lankan pineapple curry, combining fresh ripe pineapple with coconut milk and spices, works beautifully and is an absolute revelation.
The recipe comes from Peter Kuruvita’s cookbook Serendip: My Sri Lankan Kitchen. A soft back edition has just been released, so if you don’t already have a copy, now is a good time to buy it.
Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry
I love this typically Sri Lankan curry—although it sounds unusual it works very well. But it nearly started a riot while Karen and I were working in Fiji. Most of the men on the construction crews there were Fijian Indians, very particular about their south Indian-based curries. One night after I had cooked a Sri Lankan buffet for the resort guests we served the leftover curries to the Indian guys. Everything was fine until they ate some of the pineapple curry. I think they suspected that the kitchen staff were trying to wind them up—they all downed tools and went off to the general manager’s office to complain. It took a long time for me to convince them that I only had their wellbeing in mind when I served them pineapple curry.
Things changed after that—they built their own kitchen next to their barracks and never had to deal with the resort kitchen again. This recipe is dedicated to Mani and the hard-working and immensely talented building team on Vatulele Island Resort, Fiji.
- 50 g (1¾ oz) ghee
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cm (1¼ in) piece pandanus leaf
- 3 cm (1¼ in) piece lemongrass stem, bruised
- 1 sprig fresh curry leaves, leaves picked
- 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 2 cm (¾ in) pieces
- 3 cm (1¼ in) piece cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon Maldive fish flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut milk
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, roasted and ground
Heat the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion, pandanus leaf, lemongrass and curry leaves and cook over low heat for 6–8 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
Add all the remaining ingredients except for the ground fennel, simmer for 5 minutes, then add the fennel, simmer for 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve.
This was the first recipe we made from the book (substituting yellow mustard seeds for the black ones we didn’t have in stock) and it was a fabulous curry; the pineapple creating a natural sweet sour flavour profile that was wonderful with the mild chilli heat.
Note: that the book suggests the recipe serves 6, which may work if you serve it as one dish amongst several others, but it was the right amount for two of us to share alongside green beans and rice.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Peter Kuruvita’s Serendip: My Sri Lankan Kitchen from publishers Murdoch Books. Recipe published with permission. Photography by Alan Benson.