Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sri Lankan Pol Sambol (Sambal) recipe with fresh coconut

Pol Sambol (or sambal) is a spicy coconut mixture that is unique to Sri Lankan cuisine. And it's absolutely delicious. The flavor is very sharp and clean, and if you've only ever had coconut dishes that are sweet, you have to try this savory treat.

I took great pleasure in making this dish. It was my first time, although I'd grown up eating it. Thought I was a novice, it turned out perfectly which means this dish is very, very easy to make as long as you have the correct ingredients.

1 whole coconut
Red chile powder
1 small red onion, chopped
juice of 2 limes (more or less)
dried fish flakes (maldive fish which can be bought here)
1 thinly sliced small green chile*
curry leaves

Now the first thing you have to do is crack open the coconut which is no easy task. Find a heavy knife, one that you can whack against the nut. Use the back of the knife to give it some good, sharp smacks. If you can get it cracked, you can slide the tip of the knife in to pry it open.

If you can capture the coconut water in a cup, drink up! It's very good for you.

Then, you have to scrape the flesh out. This picture gives a good idea of how this works, and you can buy a coconut scraper online or at your local Indian food store, if it's good.

The scraper screws onto the side of a table, and then you crank away.

Mix in the chile powder (as much/little as you want). To get a healthy orange color, you have to put in quite a bit, so get a milder powder if you don't like too much hotness.

Mix in the lime, more or less according to your taste. Traditionally, Sri Lankan food is quite limey.

Add the chopped onion.

Add the sliced green chile and maldive fish (these are optional).

You may fry the curry leaves a little bit before you add them in, but this is not necessary. The curry leaves can be optional, but to me they make the dish authentic. In Sri Lanka, curry leaves are known as karapincha.

Pol sambol can be eaten with plain bread, and it's delicious this way. In this picture, you see it with dal curry (red lentils) and some crusty white bread.

*The chile I mean is not usually found in American grocery stores. It is small, slim and short, very spicy, and can be found in Indian markets.


  1. This looks delicious! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.


  3. Yes. Odiris is a well known brand name for coconut scrapers. BTW adding thinly sliced tomatoes and Maldive fish make the sambal more delicious. You can grind it to make it juicer.