Sri Lankan Cabbage Mallum

Cabbage is another vegetable that I think is underrated. Boiled to a pulp it is indeed bland and pretty tasteless but it need not be as the recipe below will show you.

Mallum or mallung is a Sri Lankan staple. The name literally means “mix up” and is usually a combination of shredded greens, onion, chilli, Maldive fish and coconut. I’m not a fan of Maldive fish so opt to leave it out and I find it tastes just as good. Mallums play an important part in nutrition in Sri Lanka because this is how a lot of people get their iron as beef is not commonly eaten amongst rural Buddhist folk. These green concoctions are also rich in vitamins and provides the perfect accompaniment to rice (carbs) and dhal (protein) and other meat, fish or vegetable curries.

Mukunuwenna (Alternanthera triandra Lam) and Dandelion Leaves are the local green leaves commonly used in Mallum. The most famous Green sambol (mallum) is made from fresh Gotukola (Centella Asiatica).

Gotukola (Centella Asiatica)

Gotukola (Centella Asiatica)

For Western readers – you can substitute spinach, kale or any other spring greens.

However to please everybody today I have selected cabbage which is available everywhere. Any type of cabbage can be prepared in the following way but I have chosen your run-of-the-mill normal cabbage. If you don’t like cabbage – I dare you to try this and see if it will change your mind. It’s super easy and when you have mastered the cabbage mallum you can try it with other greens. This recipe serves six as a side dish to a main meal.

Ingredients for Sri Lankan Cabbage Mallum (or Mallung):

  • 2 tbsp oil (coconut, vegetable or sunflower)
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ a cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1–2 (or 3) green chillies, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 20g scraped coconut (fresh is best, frozen is ok…if you only manage to get the dry stuff I suggest soaking it in some coconut milk first)
  • 2 limes, juice of 1, plus 1 cut into wedges to serve
  • curry leaves (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat a frying pan or wok until it smokes. Add the oil, then the mustard seeds. Add the cabbage, onion, chillies and curry leaves if using and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the turmeric and coconut; stir-fry until the coconut has a dry texture (take care not to burn it). Quickly take off the heat, stir in the lime juice and a little salt and pepper, and serve.
Sri Lankan Cabbage Mallum

Sri Lankan Cabbage Mallum

I happily eat this with paratha roti but it is usually served as part of the rice and curry meal as an accompaniment.



Filed under Healthy food, Sri Lankan food & recipes, Vegetarian recipes

5 responses to “Sri Lankan Cabbage Mallum

  1. Shammi

    Ankie, you could also try lightly roasting the coconut and other ingredients first, adding the cabbage at the end, for a different taste and drier texture.
    Could even omit the oil, if you add a teaspoon of salt water to the coconut mixture at the begining.
    Dehi ambul literally means the sourness of limes. We call the gotukola thing a sambal/salad. Haven’t heard it being called a dehi ambul, though sourness is usually the more dominant tate of this dish.

    • Thanks I’ll try that.

      And thanks for the heads up on Dehi Ambul – I took it out of a cookery book but now realise that it must have been a mistake as “Dehi” is indeed limes!! Perhaps simply gotukola mallum??

  2. magerata

    I like gotukola salad! Since fresh leaves hard to come by, we settle for occasional gotukola tea!. Cabbage, (and potato and meat), I see a lot at home! never in mallum form 🙂 Something to try perhaps with all the summer time barbecues coming around.

  3. Pingback: Gotu Kola – a Wonder Herb | ankie renique's blog

  4. Pingback: Traditional vegetarian cooking experience with Nadee | Très Kurious | Trekurious creates, curates, and promotes experiential tours, activities, and events. Log on to to find out more.

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