Cast Iron

Sri Lankan Kale Mallung

January 19, 2014
Photo by Alpha Smoot
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

  • Prep time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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 (

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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.