Polos Ambula

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

Manike cooked this curry with fresh polos from her garden. To cut them, she wedged a knife between her toes, with the blade facing upwards, then sliced the polos on the upturned blade. This is the traditional way women in the villages cut veggies — it looks dangerous but they have it down to a fine art. Another key ingredient in this dish is goroka, a dried sour fruit, and this is where the dish gets its name: ambula means ‘sour’ in Sinhala and polos means ‘young green jackfruit’. The curry is best cooked in a clay pot and the flavours are enhanced if left overnight.


  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, plus 1 teaspoon extra
  • 1 young green jackfruit (polos)* or 2 tins (560 g/1 lb 4 oz each) young green jackfruit in brine, drained and rinsed
  • 10 small pink Asian shallots*, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked
  • 2 teaspoons Manike’s thuna paha (or store-bought roasted curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon unroasted chilli powder*
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 goroka*
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) coconut milk*
  • 185 ml (6 fl oz/¾ cup) coconut cream*


Fill a large bowl with water, sprinkle in the turmeric and stir to combine. Set aside. If using fresh young jackfruit, rub your hands with oil to protect them, as the jackfruit releases a sticky gum when cut. Cut the jackfruit in half and then into quarters. Take a small amount of the sticky gum in your fingertips, roll it into a ball and use this to collect the rest of the gum off the fruit. Then, using a piece of paper, rub off any residue. Cut off the skin from each piece. Cut off the centre core and discard it, then cut into 2-2.5 cm (¾-1 inch) thick pieces. To prevent further discolouring, submerge the jackfruit pieces into the bowl of turmeric water, stir with your hands and leave for 2 minutes before draining.

In a clay pot or heavy-based saucepan, put the jackfruit, shallots, garlic, curry leaves, thuna paha, chilli powder, extra turmeric, fenugreek seeds, salt and goroka. Add the coconut milk, coconut cream and 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) water (or enough to cover all the ingredients). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 30—45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the curry starts to thicken. Cover and simmer over low heat for a further 30-45 minutes, or until most of the coconut milk has evaporated. Remove from the heat, then extract the goroka and discard it. Serve with rice.