Sothi (Coconut Milk Gravy)

(45 min. + soaking time — serves 8)

This is a delicious traditional accompaniment for stringhoppers, served with a little coconut sambol.  When I last visited Sri Lanka, that was one of my favorite meals to have for breakfast, in the very early morning at the hotel, when I was still jet-lagged.  It’s quite soothing.  This makes a fairly large quantity, suitable for feeding several people; just cut ingredients in half for a smaller portion.

1-4 T fenugreek seeds, soaked for two hours beforehand

1 T toasted rice powder (optional)

1 large onion, diced

12 curry leaves

1 small stick cinnamon

2 fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped

1/2 t. turmeric

1 t. salt

2 c. water

1 russet potato, peeled and cubed (optional)

3 c. coconut milk

4 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half lengthwise (optional)

1-2 T lime juice, to taste

NOTE:  Traditionally, this dish was made with quite a lot of fenugreek; modern recipes tend to reduce to about 1 T, instead of 4.  But fenugreek is a potent galactagogue, so if you’re making this dish for a nursing mother, you may want to go old-school.

NOTE 2:  Toasted rice powder is used through Asia (esp. in Thai cooking) to thicken and add flavor and fragrance to dishes.  It’s best made fresh, in the quantities needed.  To make, take one T rice and sauté over medium heat in a dry pan for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.  It’ll release a beautifully nutty, toasted scent.  Then grind to a powder — I use a coffee grinder that I keep dedicated for spices, but you could also use a food processor, or the traditional mortar and pestle.


1. Put all the ingredients except the coconut milk, eggs and lime juice in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, until onions are reduced to a pulp and the potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes.

2. Stir well, add thick coconut milk and heat without bringing dish to a boil.  Stir in lime juice, additional salt to taste, and then carefully add the eggs.  Simmer a minute or two longer, stirring, and then serve hot, with stringhoppers or rice.

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