20 thoughts on “Leela”

  1. Hey Skiz.. can I call you that? Now that you are famous.. I bet everyone’s calling you that…

    Thank you for the recipe.. appreciate it much!! I’ve been goggling away ever since that (NoRes) program aired.

    I’ve a question though.. I see this recipe calls for “allspice”. Isn’t allspice a Jamaican spice? Is it indigenous to Sri Lanka too? Just curious.

    Also is “pandanus” too indigenous to Sri Lanka. I’ve seen then in South Asian islands and Hawaii, didn’t know they grew in Sri Lanka too. I learn something new every day.

    Great show dude..

  2. Chris:

    I’m not sure if allspice is indigenous to Sri Lanka. I know it’s not used in too many dishes there, though. Pandanus (or rampe as Sri Lankans call it) is definitely indigenous and it adds a a real earthy flavor to anything. Thais use it a lot too. The only thing you’ll be hard-pressed to find is the murungu leaves, which I’m told are added more for their cooling quality than flavor. I’ve made this dish without them, and it came out just fine.

    Happy Cooking!


  3. hey Skiz,

    Very inspiring blog as always, and Leela’s Crab Curry is already on the menu for next week here at my crib…and here i was waiting for my book to get here so i can get the recipe lol, but i’m sure i’ll be using your book often for references than just for the crab curry recipe, i know it will be worth it. Growing up in the Philippines we also have a “Leela” so to speak, she’s been with our family for 56 yrs, she was my dad’s nanny when he was born, and then ours when we(siblings) were born, then took on as the role of head maid, and she still is at 82 yrs old, but she is also treated now like family than a maid. She retired twice before but ended up back at our home again, she said she gets bored doing nothing. Reading your blog about Leela was very nostalgic, and almost too familiar to the point of hitting too close to home. hehe Thanks for yet another inspiring read….(and recipe)


  4. Thanks, Tim. Would love to go to the phillipines some time and have some real phillipino food. I know the Bourdain-Phillipines show must have been the tip of the iceberg.

    Anyway, happy cooking and eating!


  5. your welcome man, yeah the NoRes philippines wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. all the places that they went to, you can pretty much get to all those places and eat all those food, in one day, even when he went to cebu could be put in one day…ok maybe thats pushin it lol but still, since its only a two hour plane ride, i was a little disappointed coz there’s a whole lot more of those hole in the wall places that have become “institutions” throughout the years and yet they remain as the anonymous spot at the corner of so and so street, but they remain true to their way of cooking. Definitely visit the Philippines when you can, in the meantime, you should try cooking filipino food, there’s actually a region in the philippines called Bicol and their cooking styles are almost similar to Sri Lankan, ample use of coconut milk, ginger, lemon grass and chillies, lots and lots of chillies(they dont play, when they say spicy), but sans the curry spices. i’ll gladly share some family recipes if you would like to try em. happy cooking as well!


  6. Hey Skiz,

    Thanks for your reply man..

    So we did make the crab curry.. but with fish and Tiger prawns (Shrimp). Do they call it shrimp or prawns in Sri Lanka?

    The crab season opens on Nov 1st here is the San Francisco bay area… we’ll have to wait till then to get crab.

    The curry came out really well.. though we may have overdone the tamarind bit. We don’t get tamarind, so we substituted with paste we got at an indian grocery store.
    The curry was rich and dark like you said, but the next time we’ll dial back the tamarind.

    Other than that.. it was really really good. I’ll let you know how it turns out with crab 🙂

    I do have a great Crab curry of Singapore / South asian origin we’ve modified to our taste. It’s fiery red and hot with – red chilly powder, tomatoes, ginger and garlic paste and onions. We add some white wine to it in the end.

    If it’s ok with you. I can post it here or send it to you via email…

    Thanks for posing the recipe dude.. appreciate it much.

  7. Wow. That recipe is very specific to crab curry, but I’m glad it turned out well. Yes, the tamarind paste is a lot more concentrated than the fruit itself, so you have to be careful. But I see you are already improvising like a real Sri Lankan home cook (and I guess real home cooks everywhere). I have a Shrimp (or prawn as they call it) recipe posted early on in the blog, but if you already ordered the book, it’ll be in there as well as in addition to several different fish curry recipes. My favorite is the sour fish curry, which is a dark dry curry with very little gravy.

    I would welcome your crab curry recipe. You can send it to my regular email at wordsound@aol.com.

    It’s great that you and others are actually making these dishes because they are not that difficult (though the crab curry takes a little more time than most). That’s my whole point to begin with, but I guess I’m preaching to the choir.


  8. I don’t understand the part about the Tamarind. I take fresh tamarind, then strip the seeds out, and then add the tamarind and the water to the curry pot? Or just the water? or?

    1. If you soak a piece of fresh tamarind in hot water, the “meat” will somewhat dissolve from the seeds. You want to use this juice and discard all seeds and fiber. Or else you can use tamarind paste, but as this is more concentrated, use about a teaspoon.

  9. Okay.. I figured it all out after re-reading the post carefully. I made this and it was the flavor BOMB! Delicious, spicy, shell-sucking good!

    Thanks for the recipe.

  10. Skiz,

    I have been to Sri Lanka and I was utterly blown away by the quality of the food there. It was the most delightful supirises at every corner… it was horrible to have to go back to India afterwards.

    You have inspired me to get cooking – and I’ve discovered that I can actually make GOOD Lankan food in my kitchen, just like I remember.

    I got some fresh Padanus leaves in the frige and I will be making Leela’s curry and seeni sambol this week. Can’t wait!

  11. Amazing woman! The key thing in all this is Leela now has the fame she rightfully deserves! I hope she opens up a restaurant. I’ll drive from Colombo in a heartbeat!

  12. Thank u so much for this recipe.. I am sri lankan bt living away.. Ws looking for a good recipe and jst made it.. Came out perfect. Thanks.

  13. I watched Leela cook the food in earthern pots. My granny used to do that on wood fire. Her crab curry was worth dying for too!

    I Made the chi law crab curry. Even w/o the optional ingredients and on an electric stove it turned out amazing! I can only imagine how good it must have tasted with all the ingredients and cooked on wood fire in earthen clay pots!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe and letting us sample food from Sri Lanka


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