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Watakolu Vanjanaya - Ridged Gourd Curry - Chef Recipe by Peter Kuruvita
Watakolu Vanjanaya - Ridged Gourd Curry - Chef Recipe by Peter Kuruvita

Watakolu Vanjanaya - Ridged Gourd Curry - Chef Recipe by Peter Kuruvita


"This is a beautiful and unique curry, using an equally unique vegetable that is surprisingly easy to grow. In Sri Lanka, this is one of the curries you would have in your rice and curry selection. On a recent trip there I tasted this curry after many years, and it took me straight back to my grandmother's smoky black kitchen, where one of the house girls would meticulously clean the gourd, ensuring that the skin on the hard outer ridges was removed, but the skin within the concave dips retained.

If the gourd is in perfect condition, the seeds will still be white and edible; otherwise, it's best to remove the seeds if the gourd is a bit old. There is no real replacement for ridged gourd in terms of flavour and texture, but any member of the gourd family will work in this curry." ~ Peter Kuruvita.

NOTE: Vegans and pure vegetarians can omit the Maldive fish.

2 ridged gourds
1 onion, diced
2 Indian green chillies, halved lengthways
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 fresh curry leaf sprig, leaves picked
1 tsp Maldive fish (optional), finely pounded using a mortar and pestle
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp raw curry powder*
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Salt, to taste
300 mL coconut milk
200 mL coconut cream
juice of 1/2 lime
A pinch of dark roasted curry powder*

*Raw Curry Powder (makes 100 g):

"This is great for vegetable curries, and is best cooked with the vegetables. Use it as you would a store-bought curry powder. It is perfect for curried egg sandwiches." ~ Peter Kuruvita.

6 Tbs coriander seeds
2 Tbs cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 x 5 cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick, crumbled
4 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
5 dried curry leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns

*Dark Roasted Curry Powder (makes 250 g):

"This powder looks good and tastes amazing, and is wonderful sprinkled over your finished curry, or even a salad. When cooking a meat-style curry, this is the one to use." ~ Peter Kuruvita.

90 g (1 cup) coriander seeds
3 fresh curry leaf sprigs, leaves picked
2 tsp cloves
2 tsp green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
2 tsp raw rice
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
50 g cumin seeds
5 dried red chillies, crumbled (including the seeds)


Raw Curry Powder:

Turn on your kitchen exhaust fan, so you don’t have a houseful of coughing people.

Heat all the spices in a dry heavy-based frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until aromatic and golden brown. Tip into a small bowl to cool.

Grind to a fine powder, using a spice grinder, and store in an airtight container.

Dark Roasted Curry Powder:

Toast the coriander seeds and curry leaves in a dry heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. After a couple of minutes, add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and rice and toast until golden brown.

Now add the fenugreek, mustard, fennel and cumin seeds and dry-roast for a few more minutes, or until fragrant, taking care not to burn them. Finally add the chilli pieces and toast for a minute or so.

Tip into a small bowl to cool. Grind to a powder, using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and store in an airtight container.

Ridged Gourd Curry:

Take the gourds and peel the skin from the ridges, leaving the skin on the concave inner dips of the gourds. Cut each gourd in half, and then on an angle into 4 cm pieces.

Place all the ingredients, except the coconut cream, lime juice and roasted curry powder, in a heavy-based saucepan, stirring until well combined.

Bring to the boil over medium–high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the skin of the gourd is tender.

Stir in the coconut cream and bring to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat.

Stir in the lime juice and serve garnished with a sprinkling of roasted curry powder.

Credits: Images and recipes from Lands of the Curry Leaf by Peter Kuruvita, Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99 Photography by Alan Benson.