Spinach with Dhal


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

To make this dish Mary used a type of spinach called elaigova, which she picked fresh from her garden. The leaves were quite thick and looked like elephant ears. While I was in Sri Lanka, I ate so many extravagant dishes that I often craved something simple like this. Whenever I asked my hosts for paruppu (dhal) and pol roti with nothing else, they found it bizarre, as it’s considered ‘workers’ food’ and too simple a dish to be served on its own to a guest — but I loved it.


  • 250 g (9 oz) English spinach
  • 150 g ( oz/¾ cup) chana dhal*, soaked in water for 4 hours
  • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil*
  • 1 teaspoon salt, dissolved in 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) warm water
  • 2 cloves garlic, ground into a paste
  • 1 red onion*, sliced
  • 2-3 thin green chillies*, cut in half on the diagonal
  • 12 cm ( inch) piece rampe (pandanus) leaf*, cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) pieces
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) coconut cream*
  • salt, to taste


Wash the spinach, then cut the stems into 2 cm (¾ inch) pieces and tear the leaves into smaller pieces.

Drain the soaked dhal, then rinse and drain again. Put the dhal, 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water and the turmeric in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the dhal is cooked and the water has been absorbed. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over medium heat, and add the spinach and salty water. Add the garlic paste, onion, chillies, rampe and curry leaves; cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Stir in the dhal and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the coconut cream and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly so the coconut cream does not split. Taste and season with salt if needed. Serve with pol roti.