Ambulthiyal(Sri Lankan sour fish curry).
Ambulthiyal, also known as malu ambulthiyal is a must-try Sri Lankan sour fish curry.
Made with Goraka(dried garcinia) and black pepper, not only gives the fish ambulthiyal(sour fish)curry a unique taste but is also a method of preserving fish without refrigeration or freezing.
I had Ambulthiyal at an almsgiving and let me tell you something, I simply relished every single morsel of the blackened fish I was served.
I couldn’t understand why no one was going gaga except me, whoever made the Ambulthiyal that day really knew how to prepare it.
Wherever the recipe originated on the island, you have to admit.
Ambulthiyal is a unique dish in Sri Lanka.
It’s definitely Sri Lankan but it is what I would like to categorize as a Sinhalese dish.
What does “Ambulthiyal” mean?
Ambulthiyal is the Sinhalese word for a very distinct fish curry.
It’s cooked using a spice blend that turns the outer part of the fish black in colour.
“Ambul” actually means sour hence the name”sour fish”.
What to serve with ambul thiyal(sour fish curry).
- Main dishes to serve with malu ambulthiyal.
- Vegetarian curries, and salads you can pair with malu ambulthiyal.
- Sri Lankan Dhal curry(parippu, dal, daal). or Sri Lankan Dhal(red lentil)spinach curry
- Sri Lankan Potato curry(ala kiri hodi).,
- Sri Lankan spicy Dry Potato curry(ala theldala)
- Eggplant sweet and sour curry(Sri Lankan brinjal pahi).
- Sri Lankan fried eggplant/brinjal salad.
- Sri Lankan wambatu moju(eggplant/brinjal pickle).
- Sri Lankan cashew curry(kaju maluwa curry).
- Sri Lankan-mildly spiced Pineapple curry. or spicy pineapple curry | Sri Lankan, Sinhalese style.
- Mango curry or an Apple curry(vegetarian, vegan).
You can also add some fried poppadams and fried curd chillies.
For more options, use the search bar to come up with more dishes to pair with ambulthiyal.
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It’s also known as Brindleberry,
Indian tamarind and in Sinhalese,”goraka“.
A substitute ingredient for goraka with the same results?
The types of fish to make the sour fish.
Any type of firm fish would do.
- kelewella(yellowfin tuna).
- Balaya(skipjack tuna).
- I’m using yellow fin tuna.
You can substitute “goraka” with tamarind paste but you need to be careful with the tamarind as it has a sharper sour taste than “goraka” which in turn might make the fish too sour.
Tips for making Ambulthiyal at home.
There are a few things you’ll need before thinking of making the dish,
- First, a large clay pot that won’t crowd the fish so that when you have to move them a bit, you don’t end up breaking the fish into smaller pieces.
- Do I need banana leaves to make fish ambulthiyal?
- There’s a reason why some foods are cooked, eaten or wrapped in banana leaves.
- One reason is that it adds a subtle flavour and fragrance to the dish.
- When it comes to Fish Ambulthiyal, it prevents the fish from charring too much, although a bit of charring does add flavour to it.
Workflow to make malu ambulthiyal.
- Have all the ingredients and pan needed to make the Malu ambulthiyal.
- Make the goraka paste.
- Make the spice paste and combine both.
- Combine both pastes with other seasonings.
- Place the banana leaves inside the cooking clay pot.
- Cook as directed in the recipe.
More fish curry recipes.
- Sri Lankan red chilli fish curry(thalapath malu mirisata).
- How to make Sri Lankan canned fish curry.
- deviled fish(Sri Lankan, spicy chili fish stir-fry)
- Canned tuna fish stir-fry(devilled).
- Sri Lankan Fish curry with coconut milk(thalapath fish curry).
More ambulthiyal(sour fish curry recipes.
This is the perfect dish to take with you to your relatives overseas. this method of cooking the fish preserves well.
When packed well the sour fish can be taken with you on long-distance travel.
Make sure to pack in a tight lid box and also store in zip lock bags to avoid any type of fish smell spreading onto your personal items.
Freezing– packed in an airtight container. you can freeze the sour fish for 3-4 weeks.
Stop food waste by any leftover fish can be frozen or refrigerated ONLY if the sour fish was handled carefully with spoons to serve.
RECIPE DIFFICULTY- MORE CARE IS NEEDED IN PREPARING THIS DISH
How to make fish Ambulthiyal
The ingredients mentioned below use standard measuring cups and spoons.
Ingredients to make the fish ambul thiyal.
500g of firm fish(kelewella, balaya,talapath would be ideal, see notes above)
5 pieces of goraka, soaked for 5 minutes and then pounded to form a fine paste.
3 tablespoons of good quality black pepper
1 tablespoon of minced/grated ginger
4 garlic cloves minced/grated
3 cardamom pods slightly bruised
2-inch pandan leaves
A sprig of curry leaves(5-8 leaves)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to season
Water as needed(just enough to cover the fish)
Have all the ingredients needed to make sour fish(Ambulthiyal) ready.
Cut the fish(500g)into the required size, they should fit the pan while not crowding within the pan.
Soak the goraka(5) pieces for 5 minutes and then grind them into a fine paste.
You will need a little water to make the grinding process easier.
Grind and make a paste using garlic(4 cloves), ginger(1tbs), pepper(3tbs), cloves(3), curry leaves(a sprig), pandan leaves(2inch), cardamom(3), red chilli powder(1tsp), turmeric(1/4tsp).
Once you have a fine paste of goraka as well as the other ingredients mentioned above.
Combine both the pastes, check for seasoning, add salt and more pepper if necessary.
How to cook ambulthiyal.
Add the spice paste to a large bowl with fish pieces and mix well.
I would recommend wearing disposable gloves if possible since your hands and nails will carry the smell of the spices for a few hours.
Set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the clay pot to cook the fish.
Cut the banana leaf in a way you can layer the bottom of the clay pot, either in rectangular pieces or one in the shape of a disk.
Once you place the banana leaf in the bottom of the pan, give the fish a last mix and add them to the clay pot.
Try not to crowd the fish or stacking them one over the other too much as you want all the pieces of fish to cook evenly and intact.
If there is leftover marinade in the bowl, add 1 cup of water to it, collect the marinade and pour the water over the fish.
Check if the water just about covers the fish, if not add a little more.
Place the pan over a low fire, and let it simmer until the water evaporates completely.
Do not mix or use a spoon on the dish at any point in the cooking process.
If you really want to move the pieces, hold the pan from both sides and give a little shake for the fish to settle.
Once the fish takes on a blackish tinge while slightly charring on the bottom, remove it from the fire and let it cool.
Then gently pry the fish pieces so they come off the pan easily.
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- Ingredients mentioned below use standard measuring cups and spoons.
- 500g of firm fish(kelewella, balaya,talapath would be ideal, see notes above)
- 5 pieces of goraka soaked for 5 minutes and then pounded to form a fine paste.
- 3 tablespoons of good quality black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of minced/grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves minced/grated
- 3 cardamom pods slightly bruised
- 2-inch pandan leaves
- Sprig of curry leaves(5-8 leaves)
- 3 cloves
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Salt to season
- Have all the ingredients for the sour fish(ambul thiyal)curry.
- Cut the fish into the required size, they should fit the pan while not crowding within the pan.
- Soak the goraka(5) pieces for 5 minutes and then grind them into a fine paste.
- You will need a little water to make the grinding process easier.
- Grind and make a paste using garlic(4 cloves), ginger(1tbs), pepper(3tbs), cloves(3), curry leaves(a sprig), pandan leaves(2inch), cardamom(3), red chilli powder(1tsp), turmeric(1/4tsp).
- Once you have a fine paste of goraka as well as the other ingredients mentioned above,
- Combine both the pastes, check for seasoning, and add salt and more pepper if necessary.
How to cook ambul thiyal.
- Add the paste to a large bowl with the fish pieces and mix well, set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the clay pot to cook the fish.
- Cut the banana leaf in a way you can layer the bottom of the clay pot, either in rectangular pieces or one in the shape of a disk.
- Once you place the banana leaf in the bottom of the pan, give the fish a last mix and add them to the clay pot.
- Try not to crowd the fish or stacking them one over the other too much as you want all the pieces of fish to cook evenly and intact.
- If there is leftover marinade in the bowl, add 1 cup of water to it, collect the marinade and pour the water over the fish.
- Check if the water just about covers the fish, if not add a little more.
- Place the pan over a low fire, and let it simmer until the water evaporates completely.
- Do not mix or use a spoon on the dish at any point in the cooking process, if you really want to move the pieces, hold the pan from both sides and give a little shake for the fish to settle.
- Once the fish takes on a blackish tinge while slightly charring on the bottom, remove it from the fire and let it cool. then gently pry the fish pieces so they come off the pan easily.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 142Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 192mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 27g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.
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old post content not relevant to the recipe.
Forget about the recipe for a minute and let’s journey back in time.
Call me silly but every time I sat down to write this recipe, I’ve been taking short trips to the past, imagining the simple life centred on, hearth and home.
I’m just thankful that it’s not lost to time, that someone’s, someone’s grandmother or daughter passed on the recipe until we now have this dish to enjoy.
So let’s go back in time, let’s imagine the origins of this recipe.
Imagine if you will of times gone by, to a simpler way of life in the island, there is no modern equipment, no way to refrigerate food that can spoil easily, you have the hot sun beating down on you which doesn’t help matters with preserving food.
When all the household work is done, the ladies of that time didn’t have entertainment that involves screens and remote controls, they didn’t have Google or mobiles to keep them occupied.
They had to actually meet each other to have a conversation, maybe over a cup of tea or just a gathering in someone’s kitchen.
They begin talking about family issues, their husbands and then they obviously ask each other what they cooked that day(which still hasn’t changed).
And so begins the exchange of ideas and tips to cook a better dish(just like we share recipes and ideas on Facebook etc).
Did a group of these ladies get together and create the dish?
How did they know what ingredients to use?
The spice blend definitely would have been the first, they would have had to come up with and then cook it in a way the fish doesn’t burn while letting the fish cook for a long time.