Sri Lankan Favorites – Fish Cutlets

Sri Lankan Lunch

A dear friend was back in town this last weekend for the first time in several years, so of course that meant we had to celebrate. In the two and a half days she spent at our house, a good portion of it was spent chatting in the kitchen while I puttered or sitting around a table after a big meal. We also went out and explored the city and appreciated the beautiful spring flowers to make up for all the food. But I don’t let anyone leave our house hungry if I can help it. 🙂

This friend went to college with me but had to go back to Sri Lanka, which is obviously a very long way from Chicago. When I’m missing someone I like to surround myself with things that remind me of them or of the place where they are – so my brother thoughtfully bought me a Sri Lankan cookbook for Christmas 2008 and I’ve been trying out recipes since then and posting them to facebook for my friend to judge. This time she got to judge some of them in person, and she said they were actually pretty authentic!

I’ll start with the fish cutlet recipe because it’s one I’ve found myself making over and over already. It works nicely as an appetizer or as a quick main dish, and can be made ahead or put together last minute. I like that kind of versatility. Oh, and it’s cheap and tastes delicious. That’s always good too. If you broil them rather than frying them, it’s even pretty healthy.

Unbattered Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

  • 1 15 oz. can fish (mackerel, salmon, etc.), drained & deboned
  • 2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 4 medium green chillies (serrano or jalapeno)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
  • 6 large curry leaves*, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. mashed garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 2-3 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups bread crumbs
  • oil for frying (or broil, but watch carefully)

Note: The first part of this recipe comes together quickly, so it helps to have everything prepared and measured before you turn on the stove. You can do the first part up to a day ahead if you like.

1. Make sure the fish and potatoes are prepared and mash together in a bowl, then set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add chillies and onion along with turmeric, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Saute for about 1 minute to blend flavors, stirring constantly.

3. Mix in potato-fish mash, pepper, and curry powder. Season with salt and stir in lime juice. It should start to stick together at this point and you can take it off the stove. Let it cool.

4. When mixture is a comfortable temperature, use your hands to form 1″ rounds (for snacks/appetizers) or into patties(about 2 1/2″ x 3/4″) if serving in sandwiches.

5. Just before cooking, combine flour and water into a paste and dip cutlets in it to cover, then roll in bread crumbs. Fry in oil on the skillet or broil until crispy on the outside, both usually only take a minute or two if the heat is up enough.

Fried tastes a bit better and is easier to control with the small ones, but broiled is obviously a lot healthier. 🙂

Note: if the slideshow below doesn’t work, you can view it directly on flickr here.

Ingredients Gathered First Preparations
Fish Cutlet Ingredients Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets - Ingredients
Ready for Mixing Frying Mixture
Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets - Step 1 Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets - Step 2
Prepared Mixture Prepared Cutlets
Fish Cutlet Mash Unbattered Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets
Large Patties Smaller Cutlets
Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

2 Comments Add yours

  1. tharisi says:

    looks delicious! Would love to know what Sri Lankan cookbook you use.

    1. kitchentourist says:

      My brother bought me “Exotic Tastes of Sri Lanka” by Suharshini Seneviratne
      You can check if it’s available in a library near you here, or look for stores selling it online:

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