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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