The knife feels no pressure as it slices through the tender fish, which quickly disappears off the plate. Biting into the Fish Ambulthiyal is a transcendental experience as one feels the marvellous burst of flavours in the mouth. The plump portions of tuna, drenched in tangy gamborge sauces tingle the taste buds.

Mouth-watering wedges from the Pumpkin Stuffed Fried Chicken Breast are carved and laid on the plate, decorated with a wafer of tapioca chips, and accompanied by Lemon Pickle Rice and Pumpkin Puree. The supple meat, filled with juicy pumpkin, and wrapped in a crispy coat of crushed cashews and coconut is a perfect melange of textures and flavours.

The mark of a delectable delicacy is when its wondrous aromas precede its flavours. And this stood true for the breathtakingly luscious dishes of Fish Ambulthiyal, and Kalupol & Pumpkin Stuffed Fried Chicken Breast, prepared by Chef R Deshapriya and Chef Augustus Lowe, under the aegis of Consulting Chef Lalith Gunasekara, at the Al Falaj Hotel in Muscat.

The hallmark of Sri Lankan cuisine is diversity – of colours, flavours and ingredients. And this was evident right at the outset, with the riot of vivid and aromatic ingredients laid out on the table for the preparation of the two dishes.

Fish Ambulthiyal, says Chef Gunasekara, originated from the southern coastal part of Sri Lanka. It owes its humble origins to the fishermen community. “The gamborge – a type of tamarind – is the key element of the dish, and the secret to its longevity” says Chef Gunasekara.

Fish Ambulthiyal (Source: Muscat Daily)

Marinated in ground gamborge and kept overnight, the tamarind juices seep into the chunks of the tuna, which Chef Deshapriya then cooks in an earthen vessel, covered it with a banana leaf. Chef Deshapriya explains that the plantain leaf helps to enhance the flavours of the dish, while preventing the aromas from escaping. He expounds that the dish is prepared in homes around Sri Lanka now, and is considered a special recipe reserved for exclusive occasions such as weddings and the New Year.

Mostly a dry or semi-dry dish, Chef Deshapriya prepares the Ambulthiyal with just a hint of thick gravy. However, Chef Gunasekara says, “Some people like the Ambulthiyal to be really dry, in which case it can be cooked in an oven.”

As the Fish Ambulthiyal sizzless in the thick tangy tamarind sauces for about 15 minutes, Chef Lowe begins the preparations for Kalupol & Pumpkin Stuffed Fried Chicken Breast. It is to be accompanied by Lemon Pickle Rice and Curried Pumpkin Puree.

Chef Gunasekara describes the origin of the dish, which is not a traditional fare like Fish Ambulthiyal. “At the 2013 edition of Bocuse d’Or – an international culinary competition held every two years, the dish Kalupol & Pumpkin Stuffed Fried Chicken Breast was prepared for the first time as Sri Lanka’s entry for the contest in one of the categories. The recipe won the gold medal.”

As a result, the dish has remained a part of fine dining and caters to global tastes. It is designed for Western palettes which are not accustomed to spicy foods, which is characteristic of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Chef Deshapriya says that Sri Lankan cuisine has found favour in Oman. He points out an interesting link in the modes of cooking between the two. “In many places in Muscat, the Omani shuwa is being made by following similar marination methods used by us. They also cover it with banana leaves while cooking,” says Chef Deshapriya. “When some of the Omani diners come here, they ask, ‘Where’s the shuwa fish?’, and I have to tell them it is not shuwa, it is Fish Ambulthiyal!”

However, while cooking for Omani consumers, the chefs lessen the spice levels. “We sometimes use dates in Fish Ambulthiyal, which is the favourite Sri Lankan food among Omanis,” reveals Chef Deshapriya.

The chefs say that most of the authentic Sri Lankan ingredients are not available in Oman, and need to be sourced from back home, such as the tamarind and cinnamon. “The Sri Lankan cinnamon is very unique as it is not very hot, yet imparts a strong flavour,” says Chef Gunasekara. “It is different in its appearance as as it is rounded and light in colour.”

Authentic Sri Lankan spices (Source: Muscat Daily)

Feasting upon the artfully presented Fish Ambulthiyal, and Kalupol & Pumpkin Stuffed Fried Chicken Breast is a delightful sensory experience. One feels transported to the Emerald Isle as one takes in the sights, aromas and flavours of the two dishes. It is little wonder then, that tastes can transport one across places.

Fish Ambulthiyal

Ingredients for ambulthiyal paste

Gamborge 5 pieces

Cardamom pods 4

Coriander powder 1/2tsp

Cumin powder 1/2tsp

Roasted curry powder 1/2tsp

Black peppercorns 2

Chilli powder 1/2tsp

Cinnamon stick 1

Chilli flakes 1/2tsp

Green chilli 1

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Ginger 4 slices

Water 1 cup

Salt to taste

For the fish

Tuna fish 500gm

Medium onion 1

Garlic sliced 2tsp

Pandan leaves 1 sprig

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Cumin seeds 1tsp

Fenugreek seeds 1tsp

Mustard seeds 1tsp

Chilli powder 1tsp

Turmeric powder A pinch

Coconut oil 2tbsp


1. Boil gamborge in water until soft and grind with rest of the ingredients.

2. Prepare the seasoning.

3. Marinate tuna fish with ambulthiyal paste and chill overnight.

4. Sauté onion, garlic, pandan leaves, curry leaves, cumin, mustard and fenugreek in coconut oil.

5. Add chilli powder, turmeric powder and mix well.

6. Add marinated tuna fish and a little water.

7. Bring to boil and simmer till it becomes a little dry.

8. Serve.

(Source: Al Falaj Hotel)

Kalupol and Pumpkin Fried Chicken Breast

Kalupol and Pumpkin Fried Chicken Breast (Source: Muscat Daily)


Minced chicken 200gm

Medium chicken breast 5

Fresh grated coconut 300gm

White long grain rice 75gm

Curry leaves 2 sprigs

Pandan leaves 1 sprig

Whole dry red chillies 2

Black peppercorns A pinch

Roasted curry powder 1tsp

Mustard seeds 1tsp

Fenugreek seeds 1tsp

Cumin seeds 1tsp

Cinnamon stick 1

Cardamom pods 3

Medium onions 2

Garlic cloves 3

Grated boiled pumpkin 150gms

Dessicated coconut 75gm

Sliced cashewnuts 100gm

Eggs 2

Vegetable oil 500ml

Salt to taste



  1. Roast grated coconut with rice on slow fire to golden brown and grind them together to a powder.

  2. Roast all whole spices till golden brown and grind.

  3. Combine both mixtures together (kalupol mixture).

  4. Add the kalupol mixture, grated pumpkin, salt and pepper to the minced chicken and mix well.

  5. Make a hole on the top of the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper. Then fill in the mixture.

  6. Coat the chicken breast in a mixture of coconut and cashewnut crumbs with curry leaves.

  7. Deep fry the chicken breast till golden brown.


Curried Pumpkin Purée


Puréed boiled pumpkin 1 cup

Chopped onions 2tbsp

Chopped garlic 1tbsp

Chopped curry leaves 1tbsp

Curry powder 1tbsp

Coconut milk 100ml

Coconut oil or butter 1tbsp

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sauté onion, garlic and curry leaves in coconut oil or butter till golden brown.

  2. Add turmeric powder, curry powder and pumpkin purée.

  3. Add coconut milk and simmer till it becomes a thick sauce.


Lemon Pickle Rice Ingredients


Boiled rice 2 cups

Chopped onion 2tsp

Chopped garlic 1tsp

Coconut milk 50ml

Coconut oil or butter 2tbsp

Lemon pickle 2tbsp

Turmeric powder A pinch

Curry leaves A sprig

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sauté onion, garlic and curry leaves till brown.

  2. Add turmeric powder, rice and lemon pickle.

  3. Add coconut milk and bring to boil.

(Source: Al Falaj Hotel)