Tag Archives: Meatball recipe from Sri Lanka

Belated Mothers Day Recipe – Sri Lankan Beef Meat Balls (not ‘too’ spicy)

Well there is a little history behind this dish, dating back to when I was in my young 20’s (so yup 20 years ago – oh it pains me to say that ha ha). I had recently at that time been introduced to Turkey (the country not the animal ūüėČ ) by my Dad and absolutely loved the place and the food.

At that time I was at University in London and really learning how to cook and doing it surprisingly well (a skill learnt from my wonderful Mother). One dish I perfected at that time was kofte in tomato sauce (little beef or lamb mince balls in tomato sauce (always beef for me as I don’t eat lamb but I believe it is commonly cooked with lamb in Turkey)) sometimes topped with cheese and finished off under the grill or in an oven). Heaven on earth with chunks of fresh Turkish bread or baguettes and fresh tangy lemony salad and of course lashings of red wine.

So a year or so later I made this dish for my Mum and her other half, Marco (who are in case you wondering are still blissfully happy) and they loved it. However rather than put my original recipe here I’m going to give it some Sri Lankan flavour. Neither Mum or or her other half being too disposed to chilies I will tone it down – for you fire enthusiasts you can turn it up. Always remember a recipe is merely a guide. How you make it is the special result….and if it tastes like shit – don’t give up – keep trying, experiment, taste it…ALWAYS¬†taste it.


Ingredients (for 2 or 3):

  • 500 gr of the best minced beef/lamb (not too much fat in the meat – this will make the gravy oily)
  • 2 eggs (to bind the meat balls)
  • breadcrumbs (now this can be from old bread or the dried supermarket variety – your preference…it is merely to bind the meat balls together with the eggs. A small handful is usually enough. (A friend just told me a handful of couscous works just as well)
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions chopped extremely finely
  • 2 cloves of extremely fine chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp of oregano
  • 1 tbsp of cumin powder (I prefer more but we are toning this down remember)
  • 1/2 tbsp of chili powder (or less –¬†I prefer more but we are toning this down remember)
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric (“kurkuma” in Dutch mum) (this is essential for the Sri Lankan taste – do not mess around here, if anything add more – I would add one table spoon for 500 gr usually)
  • A pinch of curry powder – again – up to personal taste (NOT roasted…just plain old curry powder will do; home-made, shop-bought – just get the required taste in there. You can add fresh curry leaves too if available or if not maybe a bay leaf or two.
  • Salt and pepper as per your own taste


  • Mix ALL of the above.
  • Roll into meatballs about about 2 or 3 cm in diameter. You can chill these on a plate whilst you prepare the sauce.

Ingredients for the sauce.gravy:

  • 25 gr onion (oh that sounds daft – 2 or 3 small onions chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves;¬†finely chopped
  • 2 ginger, fresh;¬†finely¬†chopped
  • 25 ml oil¬†
  • 1 curry leaf sprig (not necessary if already used in meat mixture unless desired)
  • 1/2 large chopped lemon grass stem (known as¬†pandan in Sri Lanka) – I use lots more but that is a personal thing…
  • 1/4 tbsp fenugreek¬†
  • Half a pint (@500ml) of¬†coconut milk (fresh is best, but if you’re lazy like me Maggi powder comes a close second). In Europe just buy a can.
  • 1 tbsp chili powder or flakes (reduce if you are chili-phobic)
  • More turmeric although I prefer it in the meat not the gravy but both are tasty so add a little.
  • A touch more curry powder (unroasted) – when I say a touch I mean a little
  • Chili powder to taste (can be omitted – see phobia thing above)
  • Fry some onions and a tomato until soft and add to the gravy.

NOW! You can either fry the meatballs first in oil or simply add them to the warm (well – hot) curry sauce and let them boil until done (20 minutes on a slow simmer is fine). Healthier and actually tastier. Too much oil always gives me heartburn so I am a bit biased here.

This is not a blow-your-head-off dish – it’s tasty and you can adjust the spices as you wish. When I was ill a few weeks ago I couldn’t tolerate anything hot (and this is from a girl who used to lap up lunu miris), I like this dish with fresh bread or a good rice like basmati. Do try and explore for yourself – it’s very tasty.


Sri Lankan Meatball Curry
Sri Lankan Meatball Curry

The above was made with chicken mince and a bit more chili then recommended above. Just experiment – that’s all the fun!

Happy Vesak.