Sri Lankan inspired asparagus curry + pics from my trip: Part one

Sri Lankan inspired asparagus curry

Sri Lankan inspired asparagus curry

It now feels like a dream. In the midst of the daily grind of motherhood, some days it actually feels like it happened in another lifetime altogether.  I’ve long wanted to travel to Sri lanka, I just never would’ve guessed that I’d get there in the way that I did. In June this year and after a series of flights with killer lay-overs, just after midnight -local time- I arrived at my destination. Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was about to embark on a 5 day pre-conference tour of the South with 14 of the world’s top travel bloggers (out of a total of 60 bloggers touring all over the country), as a finalist in Cinnamon Hotels TBC Asia blog awards (in the food blog category)! I felt like a fish out of water. I’m pretty sure I was the only person there who didn’t call themselves a travel blogger, but lucky for me I got to travel alongside some of the savviest bloggers around, most of whom get paid to travel the world. It was an eye opener, that’s for sure.

I woke up that first morning after just a couple of hours sleep, with butterflies in my stomach. Unlike the rest of the bloggers, for which travelling and waking up in foreign countries is a no brainer, for me being so far away from my kids and family, lets just say that I knew this trip would push me out of my comfort zone. But I was ready to embrace the experience. I’d never done a tour before this trip and while it’s not how I like to travel (on and off air-conditioned buses with very little free time to explore and eat local food), after the previous busy months of moving countries and book launches etc, I was very happy for someone else to take care of everything! Did I get to see the ‘real’ Sri Lanka? No, I don’t think so. But what I did get was an amazing taster of a beautiful country that I already have plans to visit again soon. I quickly learnt to make most of the beautiful breakfast buffets served at every Cinnamon Hotel we stayed at. Unlike lunch and dinner, where mostly western food was served, at breakfast we were able to indulge in traditional specialties such as Aappa/Appam (hoppers), string hoppers, dhal and sambols. I think it only took a day for me to let it slip to our wonderful guide Praki that I was a chef. His eyes lit up the second he heard I wanted to learn as much as I could about Sri Lankan cuisine. Every time we boarded the bus he would have some little gem of knowledge to share, or would point out various types of bananas hanging in the little shops alongside the roads, naming each one and telling me his favourite.

Having travelled throughout India in my early 20’s, I stupidly made the mistake of assuming that Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines would be quiet similar. But, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes they use similar ingredients and spices, but in such different ways! I found Sri Lankan curries to be much lighter and fresher, relying heavily on the actual star ingredient and spice, rather than mixing it all up in a rich sauce. It seemed every vegetable has its own curry, which I loved. Wing beans are treated lightly in just a little turmeric and ginger (I used that as inspiration for today’s asparagus curry). Beetroot the same, with a little lick of coconut milk (I’ll share the recipe next week). Banana flower curry is heavy with chilli and Brinjal (eggplant) curry is sweet and sticky. Curries are served alongside rice with various bright and flavoursome sambols. My favourites were Seeni sambol (I’ll share the recipe next week too), Katta sambol (red chilli-based sambol), bitter melon sambol, gota kola sambol.

I took so many photos it was really, really hard to choose a few to share with you all, but I hope you’ll get a feel for what quickly became one of my favourite destinations. And like I said before, I’ve got at least one maybe even two more Sri Lankan posts to share, so hang tight.

Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Cinnamon Hotels | Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway


Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway Sri Lanka by Emma Galloway

Sri Lankan inspired asparagus curry 5w7a4510

Sri Lankan inspired asparagus curry

This dish was inspired by a beautiful wing bean curry I ate as we travelled from down south back to Colombo for the conference and awards. We pulled off the main road and continued down a super bumpy road, ending up at Portofino Resort in Tangalle. While everyone else ate a set western-style menu, I was instead treated to a beautiful traditional feast! It was one of those times I was super grateful to be vegetarian! You can find fresh curry leaves at Indian grocery stores and some supermarkets. They freeze well and can be used straight from the freezer.

Serves 4 as part of a larger meal


2 bunches asparagus (500g), ends trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee

1 onion, finely diced

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

1 green chilli, finely chopped (de-seed for less heat)

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

A little pinch ground cinnamon

1 stem of curry leaves

Fine sea salt

Cooked basmati rice and seeni sambol, to serve


Finely slice asparagus. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil/ghee and saute onion for 6-8 minutes or until tender and lightly golden. Add ginger, chilli and mustard seeds and continue to cook for another minute. Add turmeric, cinnamon and the curry leaves (discard stem), stir well then add asparagus. Cook, stirring often 2-3 minutes until just tender, adding a touch of water if the spices are catching on the pan. Season with salt and serve hot.

Thank you so much to Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts and SriLankan Airlines for making this trip possible!

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  • Reply
    October 10, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Hi Emma, I have a jar of curry leaf stems that I dried a while ago – is this also a good way to preserve them, as opposed to freezing? I just don’t cook with them frequently enough to use them fresh all the time. Love your blogs and books – I’ve been diagnosed with coeliac for a few years now and have long wanted to get back to baking bread (I’ve had a few attempts with mixed results!) – currently about to make my first sourdough bread from your first book. I’d like to try adding some sunflower and pumpkin seeds into the “dough” rather than just on top – will this work ok? Thanks and warm respect! Ruth

    • Reply
      October 10, 2016 at 12:32 am

      Hi Ruth! Thanks for your lovely comment 🙂 I’ve not dried curry leaves myself but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a great way to preserve them as well. Adding seeds to my sourdough should be fine, just don’t add loads or it might cause it to be a bit heavy in texture. xx

  • Reply
    October 10, 2016 at 1:56 am

    Hi Emma, what a beautiful post about the country of my birth. I’ve been following your blog for a while and I love it

  • Reply
    Jenny Brooks
    October 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Emma, I’m a big fun of healthy meals like the one you shared here. Thanks to you my list of healthy foods now is bigger than it was yesterday :). Thanks for sharing. Really loved the pictures.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Hi Emma, I made your asparagus curry last night for dinner and it was amazing, even the kids ate every mouthful. It was such a lovely fresh curry, not heavy at all and I can’t wait to make it again, especially with asparagus in season right now. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful recipes x

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