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Parippu is to Sri Lankan cuisine as adasi is to Iranian cuisine. They’re both lentil stews, but the difference is all in the seasonings.

I grew up with adasi, redolent with garlic, onions, turmeric, and angelica powder. These days, I’ve developed a taste for parippu, which soaks up the flavors of coconut milk, lemongrass, curry leaves, and chiles. This is comfort food at its finest. Best of all, it tastes even better the next day.



    1/2 pound red lentils
    2 cups water
    1 onion, chopped
    2 green chiles, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, sliced
    1/8 teaspoon pandanus/pandan leaf extract (optional)
    2-inch stalk lemongrass
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 cardamom pod
    1 clove
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    1/2 cup coconut milk
    1 sprig curry leaves
    1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
    2 dry red chiles

1. Wash and drain lentils.

2. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add lentils, half of the onion, green chiles, garlic, pandanus extract, lemongrass, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, clove, and turmeric. Cover and simmer until lentils are soft, about 25 minutes.

3. Add coconut milk and salt. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. In another pan, heat oil for tempering. Saute onions and curry leaves until onions are translucent. Add mustard seeds and dry red chiles. Fry until mustard seeds begin to pop, about 1 or 2 minutes. Pour over lentils and mix well.

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

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This fiery curry is colossal. Left overnight to meld flavors and reheated the next day, it’s perfection alongside a plate of basmati rice and cooling yogurt.

Make sure to allow the meat enough time to marinate and adjust the amount of cayenne pepper depending on your heat tolerance. If spicy curries are your thing, go to town. My spice tolerance used to be pathetically low, but with practice, I’ve gained a respectable ability craving for heat. If I can do it, so can you.

Sri Lankan beef curry


3 tablespoons roasted curry powder
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 pounds sirloin beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2-inch piece ginger, finely grated or minced
2 green serrano or Thai chiles, sliced
1 sprig curry leaves
2-inch stalk lemongrass
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

1. Lightly toast curry powder and fenugreek seeds in a small pan. Mix with beef, cayenne pepper, paprika, and vinegar and marinate overnight.

2. Heat oil in pan. Saute onions, garlic, ginger, green chiles, curry leaves, lemongrass, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves until onions are translucent.

3. Add marinated beef and fry for several minutes, turning occasionally, until beef is browned.

4. Add 1/4 cup water to the marinating bowl to release the remaining spice mixture and add to pan. Add remaining water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Add coconut milk, salt, and tomato paste and simmer, partially covered, for an additional 40 minutes, until curry is thick.

Kongnamul (Bean Sprout Banchan)

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I can’t get enough banchans or jjigaes or kimchis to save my life. Seriously, I’ve been known to stress eat kimchi straight out of the jar. No kimchi? No problem. I’ll go straight for the leftover banchans laying around in the fridge. It doesn’t help that many of my favorite banchans, or Korean side dishes, are so easy to prepare. This bean sprout banchan is one of the most common. I actually prefer them after they’ve marinated in their seasoning for a few hours.

Kongnamul (bean sprout banchan)


1 pound soybean sprouts
1 garlic clove, minced
1 green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes, optional)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1. Put the soybean sprouts in a bowl and cover with water. Gently clean and pick out any dead beans. Drain.

2. Transfer the bean sprouts to a large saucepan. Add 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until the beans are cooked. Drain and set aside in a bowl to cool slightly. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the rest of the ingredients to the bean sprouts and mix gently with your hands. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Glazed Chicken with Chiles

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I don’t know much about Shaanxi cuisine other than it’s strongly flavored with its emphasis on onions, garlic, vinegar, and chiles. The resemblance to Sichuan cuisine drew me to this old recipe adapted from my tattered copy of Martin Yan’s China, originally named “glazed Xian chicken.” The chicken is stir-fried and coated with a savory sauce and the whole thing comes together in about half an hour. I can’t attest to its authenticity, but I can attest to its deliciousness.

Xian-style chicken


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons rice wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 small dried red chiles
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced diagonally
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/3 cup toasted walnut halves

1. Cut chicken into 3/4 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and add oyster sauce; stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

2. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add chiles and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add celery, zucchini, and onion; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Add walnuts and toss to coat.

Chilled Mussels with Saffron Aioli

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I’ve been hanging on to the same precious tin of Iranian saffron since 2013. I bought it at Jean-Talon Market in Montreal, where sanctions aren’t as restrictive and food imports from Iran are attainable. I know we Iranians like to lay claim to nearly everything under the sun, but it’s true that our saffron is among the best in the world. I dipped into this precious stash for this easy, elegant mussel appetizer.

This recipe makes more aioli than you’ll need, but you can use the leftovers as a sandwich spread, or simply make an extra batch of mussels.

Chilled mussels with saffron aioli

2 1/2 pounds mussels
1 cup white wine
1/2 onion, chopped
1 generous pinch saffron threads
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup drained jarred roasted red pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Scrub mussels, cleaning shells, and discard any mussels that aren’t tightly closed. In a large pot bring wine and onion to a boil over high heat. Add mussels; cook, covered, until they open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and let stand until cool enough to handle. Discard any closed mussels.

2. Separate mussels from shells Set each mussel on a reserved half-shell and place on a baking sheet. Cover and chill.

3. Grind saffron in a mortar and pestle and set aside.

4. In a blender, blend garlic, roasted pepper, saffron, cayenne, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add mayonnaise and blend. Scrape into a bowl.

5. Set mussels on a serving platter. Dollop aioli on each mussel and top with a parsley leaf.