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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Fish Ambul Thiyal (sour fish curry) checklist – A Lankan Fishy Treat
Joanna James Joanna James
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Fish Ambul Thiyal (sour fish curry) checklist – A Lankan Fishy Treat

Sri Lankans surely know their way around making a great fish curry. The famous Ambul Thiyal is proof of the fact. If you are keen on making this dish below is a list of everything you need to know


Good Fish

To make a good Ambul Thiyal curry it is very important to get your hands on good quality fish. The most popular fish used for Ambul Thiyal is tuna but if you can't find tuna you can also use pretty much any firm fish to prepare this dish. It is important that the fish you select is fresh. The market is a great place to get fresh fish for it is best if it has not spent too much time being refrigerated. For those in Sri Lanka looking to purchase fresh fish from a supermarket, Keells Super is one place where such fish is found. Although this supermarket does have a good collection of beauty products in Sri Lanka, it is the fresh meats and the fish that it is more popularly known for.


The right ingredient

Ambul Thiyal is a special Sri Lankan dish and one main reason for this is the rich ingredients used in its preparation. The fish dish is dry in consistency and has a characteristic sour flavour to it. It is the Goraka that gives the fish its unique taste but that's not all that is used. A perfect Ambul Thiyal calls for cardamom pods, coriander cumin, curry powder, salt, cracked black pepper, 1 stick of cinnamon, Onions, green chillies, garlic, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, chilli flakes, ginger, black peppercorns and lime juice. When selecting the ingredients make sure they are fresh as well.



The Ambul Thiyal is a traditional fish curry and although you can actually prepare it in any heavy bottomed pan, the dish is traditionally prepared in a clay pot. Since it calls for slow cooking the characteristic smell of the clay pot adds to the unique flavour of the Ambul Thiyal. You can even opt to go one step further and serve the fish curry on a banana leaf which adds to the overall flavour even further.


Cooking methods

To cook Ambul Thiyal you will first need to combine all of the ingredient mentioned above into a paste and then coat the fish pieces thoroughly with this paste. Leave it aside in the clay pot for a while after which a cup of water has to be added and the fish should be cooked in slow flame. It is even better to cook this dish over a coal fire. Keep the fish covered, until all the water has evaporated.



The best part about Ambul Thiyal is that it is a great method of fish preservation. In fact, the curry by itself can remain fresh at room temperature for up to a week. If you are refrigerating your Ambul Thiyal it can stay for even longer. For this reason, the Ambul Thiyal has been considered a favourite Sri Lankan treats to be sent to relatives living abroad.