Cabbage Varai / Muttaikoss Varai

Like most everyone lately, we’ve been a little startled by how grocery prices have gone up.

Cabbage is still pretty cheap, though! This is cabbage varai — delicious and healthy, just the thing to round out a plate of rice and curry.

And did I mention that it’s both easy and fast? 🙂

Cabbage Varai / Muttaikoss Varai

(15-20 minutes, serves 8.)

Sweet, firm, rich with coconut.

8 oz. cabbage 1 medium onion, minced 2 fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped ¼ rounded tsp. ground turmeric ¼ rounded tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 rounded tsp. salt ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

    1. Shred cabbage finely. Wash well, drain, and put into a large saucepan. Don’t worry about drying the water clinging to the cabbage—you actually want that water to help steam the cabbage.
    1. Add all the other ingredients except the coconut. Cover and cook gently until cabbage is tender, stirring periodically.
    1. Uncover, add coconut, stir well, and when the liquid in the pan has been absorbed by the coconut, remove from heat. Allow to cool before serving.

(This recipe and many more can be found in my cookbooks, A Feast of Serendib and Vegan Serendib.)

Hard day, made comfort food.

Hard day, made comfort food. Amma cooked this for us at least once every other week, I think, when I was growing up — rice, a meat dish, and a vegetable curry for dinner every night.


Sri Lankan Carrot Curry

(20 minutes, serves 4)

3 medium onions, chopped
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 T ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Thai green chilies, chopped fine
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed
six large carrots, sliced into thin coins
1 rounded tsp salt
1/2 t. turmeric
1 cup coconut milk (can use milk instead, but be extra careful not to curdle)

1. Sauté onions in oil on high with mustard seed, cumin seed, and ginger until onions are golden. Add garlic, carrots and salt. Cook on medium-high, stirring frequently, until carrots are cooked through.

2. Stir in coconut milk and turn heat down to low; simmer until well-blended, stirring constantly. Serve hot.

You might win a free cookbook!

Remember, if you cook two recipes from Vegan Serendib this week, you might win a free cookbook!

Contest details here:

The cookbook is also on sale this last week of January, 30% off:


Eggplant Sambol / Kaththarikkai Sambol

(1 hour prep, 20 minutes cooking, serves 8.)

My vegetarian friends are particularly fond of this dish. It offers a bright note, with its raw onion and lime juice, that wakes up a plate of rice and curry.

    • 1 eggplant
    • 1 rounded tsp. salt
    • 1 rounded tsp. ground turmeric oil for deep frying
    • 3 fresh green chilies, sliced thin
    • 1 medium onion, sliced thin lime juice
    • 1⁄4 cup coconut milk, optional

1. Cut eggplant into quarters lengthwise and then slice thinly. Rub with salt and turmeric, spread on a few layers of paper towels and leave at least 1 hour. Bitter water will rise to the surface of the eggplant; blot that water with more paper towels. This will make for much tastier eggplant.

2. Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan and fry eggplant slices slowly until brown on both sides. Lift out with Chinese spider (mesh metal spoon) and put in a dry bowl.

3. Mix with remaining ingredients; serve warm.

Veganuary 2024 Challenge!

Veganuary 2024 Challenge!

This is a one-week challenge to cook a few new vegan Sri Lankan dishes, and get a prize. 🙂 Here’s how it works:

1) I’m posting a selection of recipes from my Sri Lankan cookbook, Vegan Serendib (which Food Network named one of their Top 10 Vegan Cookbooks of 2022):

2) If you cook and post photos (to this thread) of two recipes in the next week, between today and Wednesday, January 31, 2024, you’ll get a free digital copy of the cookbook sampler, with 40 vegan Sri Lankan recipes (that were developed for Vegan Serendib, so they’re not included in my previous cookbook, A Feast of Serendib).

3) You’ll ALSO be entered into a drawing for a digital + paperback edition of the full cookbook for that week.

4) If you make THREE recipes, you’ll ALSO be entered into a drawing for a digital + hardcover edition of the full cookbook. (Note — some of the recipes are very fast and easy! Like rice cooked in coconut milk!)

5) If you cook two dishes and ALSO ‘like’ this post, you’ll be entered twice.

6) If you cook two dishes and ALSO share this post, you’ll be entered again for the share.
Ready? Set? Go!

(The full cookbooks can be purchased online in my shop (, at Amazon, and locally at Berwyn Sprout and Carnivore Oak Park. They can also be ordered through your local independent bookstore or library!)


#Veganuary sale!

Hey, folks — it’s a sale! For the last week of Veganuary, 1/25 – 1/31, Vegan Serendib will be 30% off (hardcover, paperback, and e-book), if you pick it up either online at my shop, or at the Serendib House store in Berwyn’s Sprout incubator project.

It’s a great chance to try some tasty new vegan recipes from sunny Sri Lanka! And remember, if you don’t like spicy, you can always just leave the chili peppers out entirely. It’ll still be delicious!

Discount taken at checkout in both locations. 🙂

Leeks Fried With Chili

So, I feel I should note that the timing for these chili leeks is misleading — it says 50 minutes, which is true for total cooking time, but for 30 minutes of that, it’s just simmering away on low, so there’s very little active cooking. I love this dish for a few reasons:

a) it’s super easy to include in dinner party cooking, since it mostly is going on its own (just remember to set a timer so you don’t forget to turn off the heat!)

b) it’s a very spicy accompaniment, which is great to have around to serve with mild curries, so that those who want spicy can make it spicy, and those who don’t can skip it

c) it’s a vegetable dish I don’t have to chop onions for, because it’s basically onions already on its own. 🙂

Also, it’s delicious and very easy, one of the first dishes I learned to cook. If you have someone like Kevin around willing to slice the leeks and wash them for you, even better — then it’s almost no effort at all!


Leeks Fried with Chili

(50 minutes, serves 8)

This accompaniment offers a little extra heat and onion-y zing to a plate of rice and curry.

4 medium leeks
1/4 cup oil

1/2 rounded tsp turmeric
1 1/2 rounded tsp chili powder
1 rounded tsp salt

1. Rinse dirt off outside of leeks. Discard any tough or withered leaves, but do use the green portions as well as the white.

2. With a sharp knife, slice the leeks thinly across the stalk, making

thin rings / chiffonade; when you’re slicing the green leaves, make a tight bundle in your hands for easier slicing.

3. Wash the sliced leeks very thoroughly. The soil trapped between the leaves won’t actually taste particularly bad, but the grittiness is unpleasant. I recommend not simply running the sliced leeks under a colander—rather, put them in a large bowl of water and wash them vigorously, changing the water at least three times. This is labor-intensive, but well worth it.

4. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the leeks. Sauté, stirring for 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended.

5. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The leeks will reduce in volume. Uncover and cook, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks appear slightly oily. Serve hot.



Thinking about a “Veganuary” giveaway

I’ve been trying to think about a promo I could do for Vegan Serendib in January — lots of people do ‘veganuary,’ so it seems the logical time. What do you think of something like this?


  • I post a set of recipes from Vegan Serendib — maybe two dozen or so, to get people going.
  • if you cook and post photos of three recipes / week, between Monday and Sunday, you get a free digital copy of our cookbook sampler, with 40 vegan Sri Lankan recipes, AND you’ll be entered into a drawing for a paperback edition of the full cookbook for that week. (If you already have a digital copy, you can gift others to friends!)
  • if you do that for all four weeks of January, you get a free digital copy of Vegan Serendib (120 recipes), and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a hardcover edition


Does that seem clear? Appealing enough that you might want to enter? Thoughts welcome to help me refine this! The goal would be to post it tomorrow morning and kick things off.

Holiday Party Prep

Holiday party:

• greenery hung, with the help of Gabriella and one of my students and his partner (cedar garlands from the Oak Park Conservatory Winter Greens market make my old Victorian feel very Victorian Christmas somehow)

• trifle (this year’s was pear, blackberry, strawberry, with ladyfinger cookies, Bird’s custard, a thin drizzling of ginger jam and a smidge of lemon curd, whipped lightly sweetened cream, and a topping of pomegranate seeds — no sherry for a change, so the kids could dig in freely, and I didn’t miss it) — all devoured by end of party

• ribbon sandwiches of beet, carrot, and spinach (Kevin made the spreads, Kavi and I spread the sandwiches Saturday and layered them with damp paper towels, two half-size sheet pan trays wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge overnight, and then we cut them just before serving at the party) went over well, per usual — very popular, all got eaten, and everyone agreed they were both tasty and pretty

• mango fluff was topped with plenty of frozen thawed mango, which is pretty much the best I could do in Chicago in the winter — also all finished by end of party, but we didn’t actually start the second tray that Kavi insisted we’d need, so I guess she’ll just be eating that herself for the rest of the week — she doesn’t seem sad at the prospect…

• Kavi and I are festive; Anand and Kevin were also suitably festive, but I spared them the agony of suffering through a photo this year, because I am the kindest

Recipes for ribbon sandwiches and mango fluff in A Feast of Serendib. (I didn’t include them in Vegan Serendib, but you can make both vegan by substituting in vegan cream cheese, agar-agar, etc. appropriately).

The trifle I just kind of make up every year, but if you google ‘berry trifle,’ you should be able to find some good starting points.


Risking the Onions

Sautéing onions, green chilies, curry leaves, ginger. See, I love you all so much, I let this go without stirring for ten seconds to get this video, risking burnt onion edges.

Amma would have scolded me.

(Don’t worry, it was fine!)