Cast Iron

Sri Lankan Kale Mallung

January 19, 2014
4 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Prep time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

When I crave Sri Lankan food, it is not the curries I desire—it is the mallungs (or mallums). The word mallung means "to mix up" and is a category of Sri Lankan dishes that feature shredded leafy vegetables, coconut, and spices, all cooked in a dry skillet or clay pot, and then finished with a couple of drops of lemon juice. The process of dry roasting produces vibrant green veggies infused with the aromas of coconut and spices, and brightened by the touch of lemon. Mallungs are one of the primary sources of vitamins for Sri Lankan folks: One or two mallungs are served with every meal and are accompanied by rice and different condiments. This one is one of my favorites. —QueenSashy

Test Kitchen Notes

Just far enough outside my normal spice palette to be intriguing, this kale dish is both fresh and earthy. There's some heat from the chiles, and the coconut (I used flaked rather than shredded) gives it substantial texture. The perk of lemon and salt at the end make it perfectly balanced. I appreciated the author's note to resist adding any liquid to the pan since that would have muddied the flavor and texture. I shared this with friends over brown rice and tofu, and will happily add it to my repertoire! —Caetie

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 10 ounces kale
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 10 curry leaves (approximately)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 4 green chilies (use serrano for more heat, jalapeño for less), minced
  • 3 teaspoons to 4 brown mustard seeds
  • 1 Juice of one lemon
  • 1 dash Salt
  1. In a small bowl, cover the coconut flakes with the coconut water, and leave for about an hour, until coconut absorbs the water.
  2. Wash the kale, dry it thoroughly, and then chop finely.
  3. In a bowl, mix the kale with onion, curry leaves, turmeric, and green chilies. Gently squeeze the coconut to release excess water, and add it to the mix. Set aside for about 15 minutes.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet or casserole over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, add in the kale mixture. Roast the kale over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Resist the temptation to add any water to the skillet. Remove from the heat when the kale softens, and before it starts to discolor. Add salt and lemon juice.
  5. Serve hot, or cold as a salad, with rice and pol sambol (

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • HillC
  • Hippo Flambe
    Hippo Flambe
  • QueenSashy
  • MDN
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.

9 Reviews

HillC April 9, 2017
We couldn't find curry leaves, so used kaffir lime leaves and lime instead of lemon. Not really a 1-for-1 substitute but pretty good!
MDN January 24, 2017
Was amazing! Found fresh curry leaves and frozen grated coconut at a local Indian grocery store in NYC. For those who don't have easy access to an Indian/Asian grocery store, Kalustyan's in NYC is a renowned shop where you can shop online.
Definitely use a skillet or pan to cook this. Using a sauce pan leads to moisture retention and the kale can get clumpy. What you want is a quick sautee just until the kale turns bright green and any liquid has to evaporate simultaneously.
janet August 16, 2015
Also can't get fresh curry leaves here but I do have some dried. Any thoughts on substituting dried leaves for fresh? Thanks.
QueenSashy August 16, 2015
Yes, you can use dried ones, they are not as flavorful as the fresh ones, and I recommend adding a little bit more.
Hippo F. August 16, 2015
Should I use the stems as well or take the leaves off the kale stems like I do with most recipes? This looks wonderful and I look forward to trying it, thanks.
QueenSashy August 16, 2015
Thanks for asking the question... I do not use the stems, mainly because I do not like their texture. Also, in Sri Lanka leafy greens that are used in malungs are much smaller and you do not really get to feel the stems as much as you would with the large leaves we have here.
Ckritter August 13, 2015
Do you have any recommended substitutions for curry leaves? I can't get them here.
QueenSashy August 13, 2015
There is no good substitute for curry leaves, and I would just leave them out. Alternatively you can add a fresh bay leaf and maybe kafir lime leaf, it is a nice combination, but it will be a different flavor altogether.
mstv August 4, 2015
This looks great! I plan on making it soon. Thanks for sharing.