Monthly Archives: September 2013

Maalu Paan


A few interesting factoids about growing up Sri Lankan in Australia.

  • You learn to eat chilli before you can walk
  • You learn to love really hot, really sweet tea in all kinds of weather
  • Mc Donalds is not approapirate road-trip food, Maalu Paan or any other form of “short-eat” is.

We grew up going away for holidays to exotic Australian towns (like Cowra, Nowra and Karuah) and every time we packed ourselves into the convoy of cars, each of our mums would pack a box full of short-eats. Maalu Paan (fish buns), vegetable rotis, fish cutlets or Chinese rolls to ward off the munchies.  There was no stopping off at Maccas, unless we needed the amenities. We stopped off at the side of the road, piled out of the cars and ate short-eats so spicy that it really didn’t matter they were cold. As kids, we hated it! We wanted chips, or burgers or nuggets. Now we  often have all of the above and sorely wish we could have maalu paan once again.




  • 75o g of plain flour
  • 60g butter chopped
  • 1tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tsp. dried yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 150 ml warm milk mixed with 150ml warm water


  • 2 tbsp. oil for frying
  • 400g canned tuna
  • 300g potato cooked, cooled and finely chopped or put through a ricer
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • A few curry leaves
  • 1 cm ginger finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 5cm stick of cinnamon
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 green chillis sliced or to taste
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes or to taste
  • egg and a dash of milk for egg washing


I made my dough in the kitchenaid, it’s easier that way but feel free to do it by hand.

Add the flour and chopped butter to the bowl and mix using the paddle attachment. You want the mixture to resemble breadcrumbs.


When it becomes crumbly in texture, add the egg, sugar, yeast and salt and mix. When the egg is evenly distributed, slowly add the milk. Stop adding the milk when the mixture comes together and forms a rough ball.

At this point, swap the paddle for the dough hook. (see below)


Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, until you’re left with a mostly smooth dough.


Spray the top lightly with oil, cover in a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.


For the filling add the oil to a medium sized frying pan and fry off the onion, curry leaf, green chilli, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and garlic. When the onion is soft add the drained tuna and fry for 5 minutes until the tuna is warmed through. Add the pepper and chilli flakes and taste. Adjust the spices to your taste. Remember that you still have the potato to add, so a little extra spice is a good thing to cope with the potato.


When the tuna is warmed through, add the potato and mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture to cool right down.IMG_5789

The dough should have risen by now. Punch it down and divide it into 4 (half then half again). For large rolls, divide each 1/4 into 4, I decided to divide it  into 5 to make the rolls slightly smaller.

Fashion each portion into a ball, cover and set aside. Working with one ball at time roll into a nice round shape then flatten into a circle about 10 cm across.

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Place a tablespoon of mixture in the middle. This is a veg mixture I had, so don’t be alarmed that my fish has suddenly changed colour. Fold one side of the circle in towards the middle.

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Now fold the opposite side in so that you have a point at the top. Finally fold down the open end, into the middle, making sure you seal the mixture in.

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Place on a lined tray, sealed side down and eggwash.

Bake in a 350 fahrenheit (180 celsius) oven for 20 minutes, or until the rolls have a lovely brown colour to them.


These can be served hot or at room temperature but it’s essential to enjoy them with a hot cup of Ceylon tea. Once you’ve mastered the basic dough, go crazy with the filling. I’ve done butter chicken, plain vegetables or even a nice spicy dhal.


I also had about a cup of the fish filling left, I rolled it into balls, dipped them in egg and breadcrumbs  before deep frying them and we had some fish cutlets for tea!


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Filed under Fish, Meat/Fish Dishes, Short-Eats, Uncategorized

Leek and Beetroot Tart


We’re doing Vegetarian  again and I’ve committed to using the last of our farmer’s market haul in the bottom of the fridge. We’ve been left with beetroot and leeks which thankfully go well together.

This is actually a really simple recipe, but I made it complicated for myself by making my own “rough puff pastry”. I didn’t have a choice. You see, here in Seattle no-one makes Pampas. I can’t count on the pack of frozen puff in my freezer, bought in bulk, 10 sheets at a time. The one’s we’ve found are often expensive and not quite the same as the stuff back home.  When I ran into the concept of a ‘rough puff pastry’ a few months ago, I was intrigued. Could we indulge in tarte tatin once again? Would sausage rolls be on the menu regularly? Could we take a box of egg and bacon rolls out on a day trip? I dared not hope. Today I finally tried the recipe and while it’s a heart attack waiting to happen, I can safely say that tarte tatin is back on the menu, albeit occasionally. Wheeee!

Mr Firehouse declared this tart delicious and he’s the one who always says “and we can have those sausages in the freezer…” whenever I suggest a meat free meal.

  • 4 small beetroots roasted
  • 2-3 small leeks cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic smashed
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • small knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp. of oil
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry or 1/2 quanity of rough puff pastry  (I used this link)

To serve

Parsley Sauce

  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped
  • 1 green onion (spring onion) finely sliced
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 small red onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Walnuts and sour cream to dress the tart

A few tips and tricks

Cleaning the leeks

Leeks are notorious for getting grit in between all their millions of layers. The best trick I ever learned was to slice the leek down the middle, but not all the way, and then run water along the cut.The water gets between all the layers and gets rid of all the grit.


Roasting the beets

I roast the beetroot in the oven wrapped in foil, with the skin on. I cook them until I can place a knife through them. Once cooled, you can easily scrape the skin off with a serrated knife.



Preheat your oven to 350 fahrenheit, 180 celsius. In an ovenproof frying pan (it needs to go in the oven to cook the pastry), at least 30cm wide add the butter and the oil. When the butter has melted add the leeks and garlic. As the leeks begin to soften add the thyme and balsamic vinegar and cook for a few minutes until the leeks have some colour on them and then turn the heat off.


Lay the roasted beetroots on the bed of leeks and arrange them nicely.


Now lay the puff pastry on top and tuck the edges underneath the leaks making a dome to encase all the yummy goodness.


If you want you can do an egg wash at this point, but as this will be the bottom of the tart, I don’t think there’s much point. Place the pan straight in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry has risen, crisp and golden.


Leave the tart to cool. This is super important. Firstly the pan you used is super hot and therefore tricky to invert and secondly, letting it cool lets all the yummy goodness stick to the pastry and hold together better.

Flip the cooled tart onto a board and scatter the walnuts on top.

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I served my tart with the parsley sauce (recipe below)  and a little dollop of sour cream.

For the parsley sauce, simply combine all of the ingredients and stir. So simple, but so good!


Filed under Snacks and Sides, Tarts, Vegetable Dishes



I have an irrational hatred for cleaning garlic. I hate the way the skin sticks to my fingers, I hate that I can smell the garlic on me for ages afterwards. I hate that all the cloves are different sizes. I also don’t like the taste of smell of the minced garlic in bottles, it never tastes quite right, like lemon juice out of a squeeze bottle. So, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks to avoid the hassle.

A few notes

  • Fresh garlic is always best, so if you can get it fresh and want a potent garlic flavour, go for the good stuff. If I’m doing a lamb roast, or a garlic centred dish, I always forgo the annoyances and get the fresh stuff.
  • Garlic stored at room temperature, in oil or in the fridge can develop botulinum toxin, so please be very careful about how you store garlic

I buy these bags from Costco, but there’s a lot of places you can buy already peeled garlic.


I then rinse and place the whole lot in a food processor and process until finely chopped (almost a paste). Next I place teaspoons full (about 2 small cloves of garlic) onto a tray, lined with paper and place in the freezer. Once frozen (leave at least 4-6 hours depending on your freezer) I place them in zip loc backs and keep in the freezer. When I need garlic in a recipe, I simply place a frozen nugget in the pot, it defrosts quickly and I have no garlic skins stuck to me!

I also freeze some cloves whole by laying them on a tray and placing them in a Ziploc bag once frozen. This is for recipes that ask for slices or chopped garlic, rather than crushed.


1  bag of garlic lasts us at least a few months and a few hours work (mainly in the freezer) saves me a lot of annoyance down the track.

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Filed under Tips and Tricks

Kiri (Milk) Toffee

On occasion, at unreasonable times during the night (FYI 9pm is unreasonable when you have a baby) I get the urge to cook or bake. When I was pregnant I would make caramel popcorn at 10pm and then refuse to go to bed till it was all finished. Then I’d complain all night about feeling so sick. Nowadays I’m a little more responsible, but the urge to concoct late at night still strikes. These toffees were the result of a late night cooking session.
If you’re afriad of sugar, look away. This recipe has A LOT! It’s definitely a sometimes food,in fact I made these, kept a few for Mr Firehouse and myself and sent the rest off to work with him to make his workmates fat.
This is a Sri Lankan classic. Cloyingly sweet but quite simple to make with only a few ingredients and a little love and patience. Have everything ready to go before you start this recipe.
  • I tin of sweetened condensed mik
  • 250g of sugar
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 2 cardomon pods seeds removed and group
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. cashew nuts (optional)


Lay a piece of baking paper on a tray, ready to pour the hot toffee onto.

In a non-stick saucepan place the sugar and water and place on a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the cardamon seeds, condensed milk and vanilla and stir.


Heres the hard part, keep stirring. The whole mixture will keep changing from beige to brown to dark brown.



Getting darker


Starting to come away from the sides

Eventually it will begin to form a ball and come away from the sides. At this point add the nuts (if you’re using) and pour onto the prepared dish. HP1B8767

You can use an oiled, heat proof spatula to flatten and shape this toffee. Sometimes though, the rustic-ness is nice.

As soon as it’s cool enough to touch, use an oiled knife to cut into squares!If it gets too hard, use a serrated knife to cut it up.



Filed under Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats

Masala Vadai


I’ve posted a similar recipe before; Dhal Wade, this is just an update on the recipe and some more detailed photos of the “how to” process. I’ve also decided that there is no agreed upon spelling for “Vadai” and have decided to go with a different spelling today.

Yield: This quantity made about 60 medium sizes vadais


  • 3 cups red lentils/channa dhal (I used red lentils, also known as mysoor dhal)
  • 6 tbsp. raw rice
  • 6 tbsp. urid dhal
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 small red onion
  • handful of curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 3 green chillies
  • 3 tbsp. chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. unroasted curry powder
  • 2.5 tsp. salt


Soak the peas/lentils, rice and dhal for at least 4 hours.
Drain the lentils well and set aside a cup of of lentils. Using a food processor or blender, process the remaining lentils until it becomes a paste that sticks together. If you grab a spoonful, you should be able to form it into a ball or patty without it falling apart. Add a little bit of water as you’re blending, if you need. The more water you add, the more oil your vadai’s will absorb as they cook.
I use the pulse function on my food processor and usually blend in 2 batches. I blend one to a fine paste, and the second batch to a slightly coarser paste. I also use the food processor to chop the onions, ginger, curry leaves, chillies and coriander.
Combine the onion mix, the ground lentils and the whole lentils. Finally add the remaining spices and mix thoroughly.
Using your hands or spoons, form the mixture into patties. I make little quenelles using 2 spoons. I know this isn’t the traditional shape but it keeps my hands clean to turn the already frying vadais and there’s no need to wash my hands every 5 minutes. Feel free to make the traditional flattened patty shape.
Fry them in batches of 5-8 in a large wok or frying pan on medium heat until the vadais are crispy on the outside and cooked through. I usually test as I go.
Vadais are best served hot with a cup of hot sweet tea. If you’re storing them, reheat them in a 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit) oven for 10-15 minutes to get that crispness back.


Filed under Short-Eats, Snacks and Sides, Snacks and Sides, Sri Lankan Food, Vegetable Dishes

Mango Tart


Pastry can be a beast. It was a beast that I waited a long time to conquer. The first time I baked a chocolate ganache tart, 2 hours before the guests arrived it broke! I hadn’t quite mastered the removable base on the tin and the very short, crumbly pastry. I hated it! I hated the rolling, the sticking, the pie weights and the blind baking. The results never looked right and it was hours of work for one measly, shrunk, broken tart. But alas, my favourite dessert is a lemon tart and I had two options….make lemon tart or live without lemon tart. It wasn’t really a choice.

A few months ago I was perusing Pinterest and I came across the amazing unshrinkable pastry shell from Smitten Kitchen. It’s not perfect (that probably has something to do with my pastry skills) but it’s pretty close. It’s crisp, it’s short and it’s the perfect accompaniment to any tart filling. Unfortunately I can no longer whinge and moan to Mr Firehouse about my tarts shrinking and thus I have no excuse to not make them any more.

This tart can be made gluten free as well and for that I’m going to send you over to my lovely friend Nat at Not From a Packet Mix, who has wonderful pictures and instructions for a GF sour cream pastry.

Mango filling

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup mango puree
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 2.5 tablespoons of butter
  • 2/3 cup of cream
  • ¾ cup of sugar


With this recipe it’s best to bake the tart shell all the way through, so blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the weights and then bake until brown and cooked through.
I normally pour the mango puree into a jug and add the lemon juice a little at a time and taste. Mangoes fluctuate so much in tartness that 1/3 cup lemon juice might be way too much. I normally add lemon juice till I’m happy with the sourness and then make up 2/3 cup with water. Or if you’re a mango fiend, go all mango.
In a medium saucepan place all the ingredients for the filling and place on a low heat. Using a whisk stir continuously until the mix thickens to the consistency of a lemon curd. You will get eggy bits, don’t panic, just strain the mixture into the tart shell and bake for another 20 minutes in the oven at 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit).
The filling should wobble a little in the middle when shaken. Now cool and eat with lots of ice cream.


Filed under Sweet Treats, Tarts

Polos (Jackfruit) Curry


Polos is one of my favourite vegetable curries. In Sri Lanka, the cooking of this dish is kind of a sacred art. The best jackfruit trees are well known and highly prized. When they yield their fruit it’s picked and prepared with a prodigious amount of care. It’s cooked low and slow over a wood fire in a clay pot that imparts an earthiness while the fire lends a beautiful smokiness. The curry is usually left for up to a week for the flavours to develop. We don’t have such luxuries here. My jackfruit comes out of a tin. But, it’s a little slice of paradise preserved in salt and vinegar. This recipe is for tinned jackfruit as it’s the only kind of jackfruit I’ve cooked!

This curry freezes beautifully so I’d suggest doubling or tripling the recipe and placing a few servings in the freezer.



  • 1 can tinned jackfruit
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. roasted curry powder
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • handful of curry leaves
  • 1 tsp maldive fish flakes
  • 1/2 tomato chopped
  • 1 green chilli chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove sliced
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 pandan leaf (rampe)
  • 1tsp goraka paste (can substitute with tamirind if you don’t have)
  • 100ml coconut milk


Drain the tin of jackfruit and cut the pieces into uniform sizes. You want them all to cook at the same time.


Place the jackfruit into a pot ( I use my beautiful lankan claypots) and add the tumeric, chilli powder, roasted curry powder, paprika, curry leaves, maldive fish, tomato, green chilli, onion, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and pandan leaf. Mix it all together and add just enough water to cover.


Now place on the stove and simmer until most of the water has evaporated (about 20 minutes).

Note: At this point, you can freeze this curry and add the coconut milk later, once defrosted.


Once most of the water has disappeared add the coconut milk and goraka paste. Mine has heaps of salt added so I don’t add salt, add salt if your goraka isn’t salted. If you can’t find goraka, use tamarind paste instead.


The goraka paste I use. If you can’t find this, tamarind is a perfect alternative.

Bring the curry back to boil and simmer for a few minutes until the gravy has thickened slightly.


Serve hot with rice or eat it with Pol Roti, like we did.


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Filed under Curries, Vegetable Dishes

Curry Leaves


When we left Sydney I had to leave my beautiful curry leaf plant behind. It was so handy being able to pop into the garden, tear off a sprig and run back in to pop it into a curry. I don’t have that luxury here. I suspect the climate gets far too cold for curry leaves to grow. In fact, most supermarkets don’t stock them here. You need to specifically visit an Asian or Indian supermarket to get them and they’re not all that common. I started stocking up last year whenever I went to the Indian grocery but quickly discovered that curry leaves don’t keep all that well in the fridge and just crumble in the freezer. I then took to the drying them and putting them in a tin and now I have curry leaves all year round, except when I forget to go to the Indian grocer or Callum throws them out of the trolley without me noticing.

Here’s how

Simple de-sprig your curry leaves and give them a good wash and drain.

Place them in single layer on an oven tray and put them in a 120 degree celsius (250 fahrenheit) oven for about 20-30 minutes until they’re dry but still green. Make sure there is no residual moisture and all leaves are nice and dry.

Place them in an airtight container. I’ve had mine for about 3-4 months without any issues.


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Filed under Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized

Pol (Coconut) Roti and Lunu Miris


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Roti and luni miris, a class combination

Sri Lankan food can often be time consuming and labour intensive. It’s well worth the effort but sometimes it’s difficult to find the time on a busy weeknight. Pol Roti is an exception. Easy, quick and tasty, it’s something we often eat during the week when the need for curry hits us and rice just won’t cut it.

It took us a while to make Roti here in Seattle. Every single bag of coconut we found was “sweetened”. We finally happened upon it at the largely organic market WHOLE FOODS, and we’ve never looked back. Thank goodness, can you imagine life without pol sambol, roti or Anzac Biccies? Disaster!

Roti is delicious by itself and especially with lunu miris (recipe below). It’s also goes perfectly with our chicken curry and a generous smear of butter!


Serves 2-3 (Makes 8 medium sized Rotis)

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • I cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Enough luke warm water to make a dough


In a bowl place all the dry ingredients and the oil. Mix until the coconut is evenly distributed.
Now slowly add enough warm water to make a dough that comes to together in a ball. I used about 1 cup.
Here you have 2 options;
Option 1: you can flour your bench and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. You can then cut the dough using a round cutter to get uniform circles. Then repeat until all the dough is used up.
I decided to go the other way
Option 2: Divide the large ball of dough into 8 small balls. Now press the dough flat with the tips of your fingers until the roti is about 1/2 cm thick.
Place a frying pan or crepe pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Place the roti on there one or two at a time. I like the roti to get some nice dark brown patches and keep turning them until I have some colour on both sides.
Cook all the roti and serve warm with Lunu miris (quite literally onion and chilli sambol).
Uncooked rotis freeze really well so if you have extra freeze them with greaseproof paper between the rotis and then sealed in a ziploc bag. You can then cook them straight from frozen.
  • 1/2 a small red onion chopped
  • 3/4 tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
In the bowl of a food processor place your onion, chilli flakes, maldive fish flakes, garlic and pepper. Now whizz it up until the onion is finely chopped and all the ingredients are well mixed. Place the contents in bowl and add the salt and lemon juice to taste. Mix and serve with your warm roti!
Note: If you don’t have a food processor use a mortar and pestle and grind the ingredients together and add the salt and lemon juice last.


Filed under Snacks and Sides, Sri Lankan Food, Vegetable Dishes

Roast Vegetable Quiche

Mr Firehouse gave me a challenge this week. When I accused him of being not very keen on vegetarian cooking, he asked for a vegetarian dinner. This is a vegetarian quiche with cream cheese pastry, so really, double the cheese! It’s delicious, nutritious and colourful!
I’ve always loved the Exclusively food version of quiche and this recipe is based on that recipe. I’ve made modifications, but if you’re looking for the original, you know where to look.
Note: I’ve also successfully made this quiche with gluten free flour.
  • 500g of chopped vegetables to roast (I used zucchini, onion, eggplant capsicum and mushroom)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 125 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 125 g butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup whole meal flour (feel free to use all plain if you want)
  • 1 tbsp fresh herbs of your choice
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1 /2 cups shredded cheese (I used a combo of tasty cheddar and part-skim mozzarella)



Doesn’t that just look like health on tray?

Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C. Place the chopped veg, vinegar, oil and dried thyme into a baking dish. Mix and place in the oven for 45 mins. Make sure you turn the veges over every 15 minutes or so to get a good colour all round.


Mmmm…roast veges. FYI, Mr C loves these just as is….no need to mess around with pastry and cream with him.

While the veg is roasting you can make the quiche base. I use my kitchenaid, but you can easily use a food processor. Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl and mix until it’s all combined and uniform.


Once you hit that stage, start adding the flours, a little at a time. You might not need the whole lot, so add a little at a time.You want a wet dough that you can press into the pan, not one that comes altogether as if you’re going to roll it out. When it’s nearly done, add the fresh herbs and mix.


I make my quiche in a Pyrex pie dish. It’s easy to work with, I can put it straight in the diswasher and it’s the perfect size for this recipe. I spray it generously with some oil before I start, just to be on the safe side. Once greased, push the dough it into the dish until you have a thin layer all around the dish. If I have extra I reinforce the edges, to make them nice and crispy and thick.


Into the pan place a third of the cheese, and lay half the roast veg on top. Arrange them so that whatever slice you get, you get a good mix of veg. Now add another layer of cheese, the rest of the veg and finally the last of the cheese.


First a 1/3 of the cheese


Then the roast veges

In a jug, mix the eggs, cream, salt & pepper and the nutmeg. Now pour the cream and egg mixture into the quiche. Give the liquid time to settle and get into all the nooks and crannies.


Don’t worry if it looks like it’s not full, it’s egg remember, it will puff up.

Bake for 50 minutes at 180 c or 350 F.

Serve warm with a nice green salad, or really, just on it’s own is perfectly okay too. I tend to make extra of these vegetables as Master C is a huuuuge fan!


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Filed under Non-Sri Lankan Food, Vegetable Dishes