January 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:06 pm

What? You don’t know rampeh leaf? I guess that’s OK. I didn’t know what it was until a few years ago, which is quite embarrassing given my Sri Lankan heritage.

Rampeh, otherwise known as pandanus amaryllifolius ,or screwpine, is a tree that grows in South East Asia. They can look pretty damn bizarre as they’ve got roots that stick out into the air, like a mangrove tree.  The leaves have a very distinctive smell, which is caramel-like and nutty, and for this reason they’re cultivated and used to flavour food.

Pandanus tree

I mostly come across rampeh in Sri Lankan cookery, although I’ve seen it mentioned in Thai and Indonesian recipes as well. Usually, a few inches of the leaf  are tied into a little knot and fried up with spices in the early stages of making curries.

Before this week, I’d never cooked with rampeh before, mostly because it’s a bit of a nuisance to find in Britain. You need to go to a specialist shop and even they seem to run out of it reasonably quickly. But, oddly enough, Dad had come across a shop which stocked loads of the stuff,  in Paris of all places! So he brought home a load and I took a few leaves for myself, in time to use them for Weekend Herb Blogging. 

rampeh and spices

Rampeh and some spices

Since everyone in the world apart from me already knew what weekend herb blogging was before Scott at Real Epicurean decided to host it, I don’t there’s any point in me saying much about it. If you don’t know about it yet, then get with it already!  :razz: Start by reading this post at Kalyn’s Kitchen and Scott’s post here.

Anyway, since I conveniently had my rampeh, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make a  authentic (hopefully) Sri-Lankan chicken curry. I did this a few months back, long before I got the hang of this photography business. I didn’t have rampeh then, so it seemed a good dish to try to find out what difference rampeh really made.

Spices

My parents make a load of Sri-Lankan curry powder in one go to save time. I don’t make Sri Lankan curries often enough to do this so I tend to do enough for the one curry I’m making that day. The spices above  (cumin, mustard, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom seeds) are dry roasted in a pan seperately until golden brown to enhance their flavour and then ground together into a fine powder. In that picture there should also be fennel and coriander seed but Goon was still rooting around in the cupboards for those when I took the picture. 

The powder you get is much darker than normal curry powder from the local store. The roasting gives it this deeper colour and also enhances the flavour and  aroma.

 curry powder

So now to make the curry. I used skinned chicken thighs and drumsticks for this because, wherever you go in Sri-Lanka, that is what the chicken curry is made from. I have NO IDEA what the hell they do with the breast and wings, but I’ve certainly never seen them in a genuine Sri-Lankan curry!

The recipe for the Sri Lankan Chicken Curry (Kukul Mas)  has been here for ages. I tweaked it just now to include the rampeh. Serve it with kiribath (or string hoppers if you’re lucky enough to have them) and curried lentils or vegetables. 

kukul mas

The verdict on Rampeh: There was a definite difference in flavour between the curry without rampeh and this one, but it’s very hard to describe. Nuttier maybe? I don’t  know -  the flavour is so unique. Anyway, it was a GOOD flavour. :)

So, my rampeh leaves have now gone in the freezer until the next time I want them, along with some nice looking curry leaves that I’d used to make the lentil side dish for this meal. I’m actually scared by how much that curry looks like the chicken I’d find in Sri-Lanka. Particulary the  dodgy ones you can buy from the little roadside “hotels,” which are damn tasty but tend to leave you bathroom-bound for a few days after.

Fortunately there was none of that with this meal…  just tasty, spicy chicken and lentils with creamy, garlicky kiribath, washed down with a nice medium Riesling from Jacob’s Creek.   

 

13 Comments »

  1. What an interesting post. I’ve never heard of this plant before, and I’m always excited when I can learn about some new type of ingredient. I’d love to try it.

    Welcome to WHB! I’m quite sure that not *everyone* in the world already knew about it, but I have been amazed at how long-lasting it’s been. (It’s because so many bloggers consistently write interesting posts like this one, certainly not anything I’ve done!)

    Comment by Kalyn — January 20, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  2. I’d never heard of Rampeh leaf either - but that’s a good thing, because it makes your article even more interesting!

    Comment by Scott at Realepicurean — January 21, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  3. I am learning so much from your site and also from other foodbloggers sites, its amazing.

    Comment by Margaret — January 21, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

  4. Delicious! I’ve never heard of rampeh before so will be looking out for it in future (although not much chance of getting it here, out in the sticks!).
    I’m in the for WHB too so I’ll see you in the line-up!

    Comment by Freya Erickson — January 22, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  5. Ros, this looks delicious. I’m doubtful that I’ll ever find any though I’m sure I would love the flavor and I do so love curries of all types and stripes. I did WHB this time too because of Scott.

    Comment by Vanessa — January 22, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  6. Paris? You can get the stuff in Wing Yip (Cricklewood/Croydon branch). Sometimes Sri Thai on Shepherd’s Bush Road have it in stock.

    Btw I had the *best* pandan-leaf and lemongrass creme brulee at Mango Tree. Well worth recreating :)

    x

    Comment by Sajini — January 22, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

  7. Weekend Herb Blogging #66 Roundup…

    Wow! When I said I would be stealing (hosting) Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging for a week, I didn’t expect this many great entries!
    I’m impressed to see so many fabulous recipes collected in one place. Of course, in tune with the topic,…

    Trackback by RealEpicurean.com — January 23, 2007 @ 12:52 am

  8. Thanks Kalyn! This was a fun event to participate in and I’ll be back to do it again soon.

    Thanks for hosting Scott! Like I said, I didn’t know any of the names for rampeh until a few years ago. I just knew it as that funny thing that sat next to the curry leaves in the freezer. No doubt it’ll be widely available in a few years time and we’ll all be cooking Sri Lankan curries!

    Freya, it was quite a line up, wasn’t it? I was amazed at how many blogs were there that I hadn’t seen before.

    Sajini, every time I’ve been in Sri Thai they’ve not had the leaf. Dad’s had the same problem with the croydon place. I know in theory you can get it over here but I think there was SO MUCH in the Paris store that Dad got excited and bought loads. Pandan leaf and lemon-grass creme brulee…. interesting….

    Comment by ros — January 23, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  9. Hi Ros, I’m a great fan of pandan myself - have a few recipes on my blog too. Haven’t yet put it in chicken, though!

    Comment by sra — January 23, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  10. I had never heard of it. Ghee I’m usually in the dark.

    Comment by Sue — January 24, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  11. ahh those pics look good enough to eat !!! i love food esp well made tasty Slan rice n curry which apart from my ex boyfriend nobody i know in the UK can provide. shall try ur recipe for chicken curry and see how it goes. cooking is not one of my natural talents *sigh* i need all the help i can get :)

    Comment by savi3 — February 23, 2007 @ 12:13 am

  12. […] …MORE […]

    Pingback by srilanka » Blog Archive » I Finally Got Some Rampeh Leaf! — June 7, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  13. Hi,

    Just wondering where you got your rampeh plant. Any idea where to get it?

    thanks
    serene

    Comment by Serene — August 23, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

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