Discover the Authentic Flavors of Sri Lankan Fish Ambul Thiyal

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Sri Lanka is renowned for its famous cuisine, rich culture and history. Sri Lankan cuisine has it’s unique fusion of flavors, spices and techniques. And it has close influenced by Indian, Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonizers. One of the most popular and traditional dishes of Sri Lankan cuisine is Ambul Thiyal, a sour and spicy fish curry. The Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal is a delicious dish which is blend of fish, spices, and tamarind that has been a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine for centuries. In this article, we’ll delve into the history, recipe, and benefits of Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal.

History of Sri Lankan Fish Ambul Thiyal

The origins of Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal can be traced back to the coastal regions of Sri Lanka. This dish was initially created by fishermen who needed a way to preserve their catch for longer periods. The word “Ambul” in the name of this dish means sour in Sinhalese, which refers to the tangy taste of tamarind used in the recipe. The word “Thiyal” means cooked in clay pots over an open flame.

The dish was initially prepared using tuna, a commonly found fish in Sri Lanka’s coastal waters. However, over time, other types of fish, such as shark, mackerel, and swordfish, were also used to prepare Ambul Thiyal. The recipe for Ambul Thiyal has been passed down from generation to generation, and each family has their unique take on the dish.

Recipe for Sri Lankan Fish Ambul Thiyal

This is a complex dish that requires several ingredients and techniques. Here’s a recipe for Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal:

1 lb. tuna (or any other firm white fish) cut into chunks
1/2 cup coconut vinegar (or regular vinegar)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cumin seeds and 1 tsp. coriander seeds
10-12 curry leaves
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
1 onion, sliced
2-3 green chilies, sliced
1 tbsp. tamarind paste
2 tbsp. coconut oil
Water as needed

Instructions to prepare:

Mix the black peper and salt, turmeric powder, vinegar and chili powder in a bowl. then add the selected fish chunks and keep it marinate at least for 30 minutes.

dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds using a pan until fragrant. Let it cool and then grind those to a powder.

Take a dry pan and heat the coconut oil.
then and the green chilies , garlic & curry leaves, onion and ginger in to heat oil.
Saute until the onion is translucent.

Next add the previously prepared marinated fish in to the pan along with the tamarind paste and ground cumin and coriander. Stir well.

Then water need to add as required to cover the fish and bring to a boil.
Reduce the burner heat and let it boil for 10 to 15 min.
When the fish is cooked through and the gravy has thickened dish is ready to serve.

Serve hot with steamed rice and garnish with fresh curry leaves.

Pros and Cons of Sri Lankan Fish Ambul Thiyal

Like any other dish, Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal has its pros and cons. Here are a few:

Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal is a healthy meal that’s rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients.
It is a versatile dish that can be paired with rice, bread, or even eaten on its own.
The dish is relatively easy to prepare

The dish can be quite spicy, and may be not suite with everyone taste.
Some people may find the tamarind flavor too sour.
The dish requires several ingredients that may not be readily available in some regions.
The cooking process is long.

FAQs About Sri Lankan Fish Ambul Thiyal

Here are a few common questions that people have about Sri Lankan Ambul Thiyal:

What type of fish is best for Ambul Thiyal?
Traditionally, tuna is used to make Ambul Thiyal. However mackerel, shark, and swordfish also can use.

Can I substitute tamarind with something else?
While tamarind is a key ingredient in Ambul Thiyal, you can use other souring agents like vinegar or lime juice if tamarind is not available.

Is Ambul Thiyal gluten-free?
Yes, Ambul Thiyal is a gluten-free dish since it does not contain any wheat or wheat-based products.

Can I freeze leftover Ambul Thiyal?
Yes, you can freeze it in airtight container and leftover Ambul Thiyal for up to three months.


Sri Lankan Ambul Thiyal is a mouth-watering dish that’s steeped in tradition and history. This curry is a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine and is enjoyed both locals and foreigners. Ambul Thiyal is definitely worth a try. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get ready to savor the authentic flavors of Sri Lankan fish Ambul Thiyal.

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