Sri Lankan Beef Curry


The curry leaves and green chile give this Sri Lankan curry a pretty pale green color. We use either boneless beef or ribs, and you can also use the same method to make lamb curry (see the variation). The dish has plenty of aromatic sauce slightly enriched with coconut milk, and a mild chile heat. Leftovers are delicious.


  • 1 pound boneless beef (such as round steaks or roast) or about pounds short ribs or cross ribs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • About 10 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 1 green cayenne chile, finely chopped
  • Generous 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canned or fresh coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 3 cups water

Dry Spice Mixture

  • 1 tablespoon raw white rice
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick
  • 5 to 6 cardamom seeds (from 1 to 2 green cardamom pods)


Cut the boneless beef into approximately ½-inch cubes. Or, if using ribs, cut them apart. Set aside.

In a small dry heavy skillet, roast the dry spice mixture over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until it has a good aroma. Transfer to a spice/coffee grinder and grind to a powder, or grind with a mortar and a pestle. Set aside in a small bowl.

In a wide heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the curry leaves, green chile, onion, and turmeric and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the beef and salt and cook, stirring occasionally to expose all surfaces of the meat to the hot oil, for 5 minutes, or until the meat is browned.

Add the reserved dry spice mixture and the coconut milk and stir to coat the meat with the coconut milk. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop the tamarind pulp and soak it in the hot water for about 10 minutes. Press the mixture through a strainer or sieve placed over a bowl. Discard the pulp and combine the tamarind liquid with the 3 cups water.

Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook at a strong simmer for about 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and the flavors well blended.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, if you wish. Serve hot.

Serve with plenty of rice to soak up the sauce and with a sweet chutney, such as Hot Sweet Date-Onion Chutney. Andhra Spiced Eggplant or Fresh Bean Sprout Salad would be a good side dish.