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Chiles and Coconut Pack a Punch in this Addictive Sri Lankan Condiment

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Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature. Today, longtime Food52er QueenSashy brings us an addictive condiment that you'll want to build meals around.


If you think that the spiciest cuisine in the world is in Mexico, you are wrong—you are very, very wrong. It is Sri Lanka, the tiny island at the southern tip of India, that takes the first prize.

And when I crave Sri Lankan food, it is not the curries I desire; it is pol sambol. Sambols are garnishes, the condiments to the meal. Pol (coconut) sambol is a garnish made with freshly shredded coconut, chopped red onions, a squeeze of lime juice, chilies, and salt, mixed together in perfect harmony.

Photo by Julia Gartland

Pol sambol is the most Sri Lankan of all Sri Lankan dishes. The way we Westerners feel about ketchup, well, pol sambol brings about the very same warm and fuzzy feeling among the Sri Lankan folk. One can get seriously addicted to pol sambol. I am. It is on my list of top ten dishes of all time.

The key ingredient in Sri Lankan cuisine is fresh coconut, which presents one of the greatest challenges for Westerners making an attempt at Sri Lankan cooking. Coconuts can be tricky to source in western supermarkets. And even when the cook is fortunate enough to get hold of one, the cook faces close to insurmountable obstacles in opening it up. I did, however, come up with a little trick to address the fresh coconut problem, so let’s proceed to the recipe and you will find out…

Sri Lankan Pol Sambol

Sri Lankan Pol Sambol

QueenSashy QueenSashy
Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 2 ounces red onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried red chiles
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 8 curry leaves, crushed
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
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Tags: Community, Heirloom Recipes