An All-time Favourite: Dark, Aromatic and Incredibly Tasty Fish Ambulthiyal from Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Recipes
Featured Image: Giggles in the Kitchen

Over so many years, Sri Lanka has adapted its food culture into a blend of different curry fusions. One thing about Sri Lankan food that can be said with certainty is that Sri Lankans love food with flavour and thus are not afraid to use spices liberally. The result is a tasty array of snacks and curries available everywhere from street food outlets to star class hotels in Colombo. Whatever you choose to eat in Sri Lanka, your taste buds are going to rejoice with happiness.

In Sri Lanka, it being an island with a tropical climate, coconuts and fish are two of the most significant parts of Sri Lankan cuisine. Fish is made into tasty curries or fried. Initially this Ambulthiyal dish was made in the southern part of the island and has gradually become a classic dish of Sri Lanka.

Fish Ambulthiyal is a delicious way of preparing fish. With or without roots in southern Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans always enjoy delicious maalu ambulthiyal whenever there is a special occasion. It is a must in most star class hotel buffets as well.


  • 500g fish (tuna is most suitable)
  • ¼ onion – sliced
  • 8 tablespoons black pepper
  • 10 – 15 pieces goraka (Garcinia cambogia)
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon
  • Salt – to taste

The dish is really easy to prepare.

1. Add goraka to a cup of warm water and leave until it become soft.

2. Wash and cut the fish into big pieces. Keep the fish pieces in a saucepan.

3. Remove goraka from hot water and grind all the ingredients together into a paste including goraka. This includes onion, garlic, black pepper and salt. Add some water when you grind the ingredients together and prepare this into a thick creamy paste.

4. Add a piece of banana leaf to the bottom of a clay pot. If you live in another country and if you cant find banana leaves, don’t worry.

5. On top of the banana leaf (or just into the pot), add a layer of curry leaves. Then add few spoons of the goraka and pepper paste on top of it. Now add a layer of fish pieces without breaking them. Add the goraka and pepper paste on top & add any remaining fish after this layer of paste. Add some curry leaves on top of the fish. Add the cinnamon stick.

6. Cover and cook the fish in medium heat until the gravy becomes dry or thick.

The dish is done within 10 minutes.