Sri Lankan Fish Curry

  • Serves

    serves 4

  • Cook

    45 minutes


By Yusra and Mohamed Ali Makim

Published on November 21, 2017

This relatively mild, lightly sour, and deeply aromatic yellow curry, adapted from Yusra and Mohamed Ali Makim, is a breakfast staple eaten throughout Sri Lanka. Goraka, or Garcinia cambogia, a dried tropical fruit available at specialty spice shops and online, gives the mixture its characteristic sweet-sour flavor. If you can’t find it, rehydrated and deseeded tamarind pulp makes a good substitute. Use as thick a coconut milk as you can find.


A vendor at Manning Market.
Lessons from a tropical island in the Indian Ocean where exuberantly spiced dishes have been influenced by centuries of colonization, migration, and commerce

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  • 2 pieces goraka (4 oz.), also known as fish tamarind or Garcinia cambogia
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • One 1-in. piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 14 cup coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 11/2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 inches pandan leaf, cut in 4 pieces (optional)
  • 12 fresh curry leaves
  • 2-3 small green chiles, such as Thai style, split lengthwise
  • 2 stalks stalks lemongrass, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (½ cup)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 tsp. chili powder
  • 12 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 medium plum tomato, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 12 lb. tuna or other lean, firm-fleshed fish, preferably skin on, cut into 2-in. chunks
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 14 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 14 tsp. ground clove
  • 14 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 12 cup coconut milk


Step 1

Soak the goraka in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain and finely chop. Set aside.

Step 2

Meanwhile, use a small food processor or mortar and pestle to grind together the cardamom, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon stick to make a chunky paste.

Step 3

In a wok or large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add the spice paste and coriander and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Working one at a time, stir in all of the following ingredients: pandan leaf pieces (if using), curry leaves, chiles, lemongrass, and shallots. Lower the heat to medium, then add the salt, chili powder, turmeric, tomato, and reserved goraka; bring to a simmer, then add the tuna, tossing gently to coat. Cover and cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ¾ cup water; cook 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and adjust the heat to simmer; cover and cook until the fish is cooked through, 4–5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed before serving.

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