Kola kenda

Pennywort rice soup

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

In every hotel in Sri Lanka you will see this soup at the breakfast buffet, rich green in colour, quite thin, with pieces of red rice in the bottom. Beside it you will also see a bowl of palm sugar, to nibble on as you drink the soup.

Traditionally enjoyed before breakfast, this soup is deeply adored by the locals, including truck drivers on their way to the fish markets at 4 am, and actually in the markets, where stallholders will have a jar or thermos of this healthy, warming soup. At home, it is served like a rice gruel to people who are sick, and can be made with any green leaves, although the gotu kola, or pennywort, is the most prized.

Preparation 15 minutes
Cooking 30 minutes


  • 250 g (9 oz/ cups) raw red rice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup tightly packed pennywort, or any green leaves of your choice
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) coconut milk
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 100 g ( oz) dark palm sugar (jaggery), cut into chunks for serving


Wash the rice and place in a heavy-based saucepan with the salt and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer.

Meanwhile, place the pennywort, garlic and 250 ml (9 fl oz/ 1 cup) of the coconut milk into a blender and whiz until totally emulsified. Strain through a coarse sieve.

After about 15 minutes, when the rice starts to soften, stir in the blended pennywort and remaining coconut milk. Bring to the boil.

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and black pepper. Check the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Serve hot, with the palm sugar to nibble on as you drink the soup.