Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

Pittu is a mixture of steamed rice flour and fresh coconut, and it’s a great alternative to rice. Knowing it was one of my favourites, Bamini cooked it often, usually serving it with curry or fried dried fish, and for breakfast with jackfruit. Pittu is commonly steamed in a cylindershaped mould, but Bamini steams hers the Jaffna way, in a cone-shaped palmyra basket that sits inside a tall narrow pot.


  • 140 g (5 oz/1 cup) roasted red rice flour*
  • 140 g (5 oz/1 cup) roasted white rice flour*
  • pinch of salt
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) boiling water
  • 240 g ( oz/2 cups) freshly scraped coconut*, plus 2 tablespoons extra for steaming


Combine the red and white rice flours in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Gradually sprinkle the boiling water, a little at a time, onto the flour, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it resembles small breadcrumbs. To test if you have added enough water, squeeze a small amount of mixture in your hand — it should stay together without breaking.

Transfer the mixture to a large shallow dish or bowl. Add the coconut and mix with your fingers. Then, use the side of a large metal spoon to break up any lumps that have formed.

Take a woven palmyra basket and fill the bottom with 1 tablespoon of the extra coconut, then spoon on half the rice flour and coconut mixture, making sure you don’t press the mixture down or it will stick together. Place the basket into the pittu steamer, then cover and steam for 5-10 minutes. To check if the mixture is cooked, tap the top lightly with your fingertips; if it bounces back it’s ready. Remove from the steamer and turn out onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining mixture.