Curry Powder – The Movie – circa December 2010

Key to good cooking is making curry powder. The experience borders on ritual and a sensory high. The washing of the coriander gives off an earthiness which permeates your being.. like the smell of earth after a long awaited rain. Its best to give yourself an afternoon on a weekend to do this and not plan on any other work getting done; especially if you are growing too old to stand around for hours on end. You got to give the task all you’ve got. I only wish I had something larger than a coffee grinder to grind it. As mine is so tiny it takes forever to do it in batches but its worth all the tea in China.

My home smells wonderful just like when I made curry powder with my mother long ago; and it fills my soul as if I were an old house and the smell, memories.


without fire the sooduru does not release its sweetness
without heat koththamalli does not give up its curry-ness
without grinding the cardamom does not give any fragrance
and without roasting you cannot sniff out their promise

we wait for our mothers
to come sit in our kitchens
smack dab in the middle
and sitting on your best chair

making sure that the koththamalli is roasted
till the colour of coffee she said so you smell
long awaited rain releasing the perfume of the earth
or a kalagediya releasing its earthiness to the water it holds


Washed coriander evokes the smell of earth after the rains. And it is that which is at the heart of what we try to recreate each time we make roasted curry powder. This is the truth that is at the heart of a good Sinhala curry.


… then you roast the cumin… they pop like little cheenapatas!


… then the pleasure of roasted fenugreek… they dance across the pan as they turn from beige to gold to dark brown… such joy!

… royalty arrives … in the form of the princes and princesses … cloves and cardamoms… you only need very little of this.

the cinnamon peelers arrive … later in the procession.

… and then the beautiful rice… roasting… till they develop little tiny pearls on their bodies… giving out their unique nutty fragrance as they roast and dance


and finally… some coconut… which turns colour in a flash as its oil makes them burn so fast…


and finally one last roasting with all together back in the pan… but with fresh curry leaves and rampa all cut up and a quick final roast to dry them out… only takes about 10 – 20 seconds and its all done.

DSCF2093and the ground outcomesImage

sealed for the next curry.

An afterthought:  I have not shown the fennel seeds toasting, of which you should use perhaps about one to two tablespoons at most; the less fennel the earthier the curry powder.  The more fennel it will have sweet notes.  Use it at your whim and you can develop your own subtle differences of flavour depending on the quantities  of the ingredients used.  As usual I simply eyeball it.  Such arrogance… I know.


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