Long before I set foot on Sri Lankan soil, I already knew that I absolutely wanted to take a cooking class while there. Why? Because I only heard good things about Sri Lanka food. And well, what can I say? I was not disappointed and the food was mouthwatering indeed. Reason enough to bring some major curry-making skills back home!
I found out about “Karuna’s Cooking Class” in Unawatuna via Lonely Planet. It had super positive reviews and when my friend Katja and I arrived at the restaurant, we immediately knew why: Karuna is the most cheerful person and she had uns under her spell immediately.
We attendend the class with seven other people and after getting to know our fellow chefs (due to some funny coincidence, everybody but me worked in medicine), we first drove to the market in Galle, which is a mere fifteen minute ride from Unawatuna. What a feast for the eye! All those beautiful fruits and vegetables! Karuna asked us about our preferences – tuna vs. chicken – and favourites (pumpkin! beetroot! yeeeey!) and together we picked all the fresh ingredients we needed for the cooking.
Back in Koruna’s open air kitchen, we all got to snack on some fresh watermelon (Yeeees!! Give me watermelon and you will be my friend until the end of my days!) before it was finally time to really get started.
We first learnt how to make cocunut milk and water out of fresh coconuts: All you need is what Sri Lankans call a “coconut machine” and strong arms. Needless to say that the coconuts in Sri Lanka taste absolutely divine and that it will be hard to recreate the recipes with the coconut cream we get in supermarkets back home. :(
Then we went on to prepare the different curries one at a time. Koruna always took the time to let us write down all the ingredients and also told us ways to modify the different curries with different veggies or meats. The cooking class was very hands on and we all took turns in cutting and stirring and cooking for the next couple hours, before indulging over the amazing food we prepared.
We learnt how to prepare six or seven different curries – from the mandatory Dahl to tuna and mango curry. But it was not what you might imagine a classic cooking class to look like, but rather a get-together with nice people / group cooking over Koruna’s casual instructions. Because “Learning by doing” is always the best way to learn something new and it’s even better when doing so in nice surroundings.
One of my favourite dishes of Sri Lankan cuisine is without a doubt beetroot curry. I was really surprised to find out that Sri Lankans eat a lot of beetroots, potatoes and squash – food I would not necessarily associate with Asian cuisine. So of course, I was more than pleased to learn how to prepare it myself. If you like beetroot, give it a shot – you will be amazed by the deliciousness of this meal. And if for some incomprehensible reason you are not so much into beetroot, just replace them with squash, potatoes etc.
SPICY BEETROOT CURRY (serves 2)
- 4 crushed garlic cloves
- 0,5 kg raw beetroots
- 1 cup cocunut cream
- 20 curry leaves
- 1,5 tsp salt
- 1,5 tsp pepper
- 1,5 tsp chili flakes
- 1,5 tsp currypowder
- 2 tsb curcuma
Crush the garlic and cut the raw beetroots in thin slices.
Add all the spices and the cocunut cream.
Bring to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes (or until the beetroots are soft), stir regularly.
Let sit for a few minutes before eating, in order for the curry to develop its whole creamy amazingness.
Serve with rice.
It was such a nice afternoon, spent with nice people and yummy foods. What more could you ask for? Even though it is a bit pricey, I definitely recommend this cooking class in the south of Sri Lanka.
And if you don’t stay in Unawatuna anyways, don’t forget to bring your bikini for a swim in the ocean! The beach in Unawatuna is picture perfect and definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Considering pretty much every single beach in Sri Lanka is breathtaking, this really means a lot. Bonus: It’s also one of the rare beaches that are perfectly suitable for swimming and letting yourself float on the gentle waves (one of my favourite passtimes in the whole world). AND there are lots of bars serving fresh cocktails and juices.
How to get there:
Karuna’s Cooking Class @ Sonja’s Healthfood Restaurant
Wella Dewala Road (= impossible to miss, as this is the main road behind the beach)
+94 77 961 5310
The class starts at 11am and ends at around 3pm.