When Nuwan and I were visiting his grandmother (Achcho) after our wedding she wanted to cook us everything under the sun. She suggested crabs and prawns and fish but every time she asked we’d say “just pol sambol, parrippu (dhal) and bread please”. I think if we were given the opportunity we’d have had that combination with fresh, crusty Sri Lankan bread every day. Poor Achcho on the other hand, was very exasperated! The truth is the taste of a real Sri Lankan pol sambol, made with freshly grated coconut, ground on a miris gala and seasoned with fresh lime from the garden can’t be beaten. This is a fixture on most tables in Sri Lanka and locals and tourists alike come to love it’s zing and spice. In fact a friend, who had spent time in Sri Lanka and desperately missed the food, once confessed that when she found a local Sri Lankan restaurant that made pol sambol she bought some home and ate it with everything, including spaghetti bolognese!
My dad usually made the pol sambol at home, especially when it was needed in large quantities. He’d often use the blender and if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a blender or food processor would also work.
- 100g of dessicated coconut
- 2 tbsp. coconut milk
- 1/2 cup hot water
- salt to taste
- 1/2 small red onion diced
- 1 tbsp. chilli flakes
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 black pepper corns
- 1/4 tsp. maldive fish flakes
- 1/2 a lime
- 1/2 a small tomato chopped (I used about 4 cherry tomatoes quartered)
In a bowl mix together the coconut, coconut milk and hot water. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds and let it cool. This helps rehydrate the coconut and get back some of the coconut flavour that is lost in the dessication process. If you’re lucky to have fresh or frozen coconut, ignore the first step.
In a mortar and pestle pound the onion, salt, peper, garlic and chilli until you’ve got a fine paste.
Slowly add the coconut, 1-2 tbsp. at a time until you’ve used up all the coconut. I usually add the tomatoes at the last minute and give a quick pounds to mix it up. I don’t want to pulverize the tomatoes. If you’re using a food processor, hold off on doing this. Empty the coconut mixture into a bowl and then add the tomatoes.
With the coconut mixture in the bowl, squeeze over the lime juice and using your hands give the whole thing a good mix and scrunch. The colour should be uniform.
Serve with fresh crusty bread or as a condiment with rice and curry.