Monday, 11 April 2016 11:56

An Age Old Recipe Of Tradition

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New Year is a time for revelling and rejoicing.It is a display of tradition and an exaltation of culture. Sacred rituals of our forefathers are upheld with reverence, and celebrating this grand festival with food is a must.


Today, sweets and curries have become customary accompaniments on the festive table. Hath Maaluva is a little different. Prepared and consumed without much ado, it is the crowning glory of wholesome cooking.

Discovering the background of this old Avurudu dish proved to be an intense pursuit as little is written about its origins. The term Maaluva in Sinhala means curry. Hath means seven. Hath Maaluva is thus a seven-in-one multi-nutrient meal. Hath Maaluva is consumed with the auspicious meal of milk rice on New Year's day and is considered a Kandyan and up-country custom, including the province of Sabaragamuwa. Sri Lanka being a predominantly agrarian society, farmers celebrate this annual festival in obeisance of the sun and moon gods and Sath (seven) Pattini, the goddess of fertility. Hence, number seven has links with the goddess of fertility, and the seven vegetables used in the Hath Maaluva are attributed to the goddess of fertility, who it is believed, was born seven times.

The assortment of vegetables used to prepare the Hath Maaluva differs from one region to another. The number combination is not without reason. In fact, examining the many preparations, it is obvious that the Hath Maaluva is a mixture of lentils, leafy greens, and starchy vegetables that are packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and other nutrients. Although the recipe varies according to locality and practice, certain ingredients are considered essential, such as cashew, which is almost always included in this very healthy preparation. One recipe from a book of old Sri Lankan recipes suggested a combination of cashew, jackfruit seed, sweet yam, pumpkin, green gram, tender pumpkin leaves and mukunuwenna (known as sessile joyweed). Another combination includes cashew with eggplant, ash plantain, pumpkin, tender pumpkin leaves, jackfruit seed and sweet yam. Cashew, carrots, green beans, shallots, lentil, sweet potato and eggplant is another recipe. Vegetables such as snake gourd, winged beans, string beans, okra and sponge gourd are also used in preparing this dish. The Hath Maaluva prepared in the province of Uva has lasia, sweet yam, pumpkin, ash plantain, kathurumurunga and pumpkin flowers, leaves such as mukunuwenna, sarana (hogweed), kura thampala (green amaranth), tender leaves of lima beans, pumpkin and chow-chow as well as winged beans, lima beans and jackfruit seeds. Hath Maaluva is cooked in a combination of ginger, garlic, spices and coconut milk extract.

The assortment of vegetables used to prepare the Hath Maaluva differs from one region to another. The number combination is not without reason

The Hath Maaluva is a must at the Avurudu festive lunch in Sabaragamuwa, Kandyan and up-country regions. On the other hand, this same dish prepared in a different combination is given to sick and convalescents in certain parts of Kandy. In Galle, south of the country, the Hath Maaluva is prepared as an offering to the dead on the seventh day alms-giving held in memory of a departed one. Gammaduwa, an all-night cleansing ritual, is concluded the following day with a meal at dawn that includes the Hath Maaluva. In the low-country, which includes the southern region, the Hath Maaluva is prepared using prescribed vegetables for an exorcism ritual known as Thovil. It is made as an offering to the devil, and hence not consumed by humans. In the district of Kalutara in the south, the Hath Maaluva for Thovil is made with just seven different types of leaves, cooked by a male and not tasted during preparation, as it would lead to an entrancement and loss of consciousness. In the same district, the Hath Maaluva is made of different yams and starchy vegetables and served to people along with the new rice apportioned to the deities at the harvest at a special ceremony known as Deviyange Danae - alms to the gods. Thus, there are many such regional customs and differences, where this propitious dish of a national festival is prepared and consumed.

In bestowing justice to an inheritance, the Hath Maaluva in its traditional simplicity yet nutritional grandeur must be safeguarded and promoted for posterity

Hath Maaluva is a changing dish, number seven being the only constant factor. Hotels can make a mundane meal look attractive with peppers and more appealing vegetables. Cashew, it seems, continues to remain in all preparations, except in exorcism rituals. What nutritionists propound today about the importance of a well-balanced meal, packed with goodness and taste, was known by our ancestors. In bestowing justice to an inheritance, the Hath Maaluva in its traditional simplicity yet nutritional grandeur must be safeguarded and promoted for posterity.


  •     200g green gram
  •     100g cashew
  •     100g jackfruit seeds,
  •     200g pumpkin
  •     200g sweet yam
  •     200g tender leaves of pumpkin
  •     200g Mukunuwenna
  •     1 cup each of light and thick coconut milk
  •     5-6 red onions sliced
  •     4 green chillies sliced
  •     1-2 teaspoons ginger paste
  •     1-2 teaspoons garlic paste
  •     Pandan leaves
  •     Curry leaves
  •     2-3 teaspoons chilli powder
  •     1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  •     1 tablespoon coriander powder
  •     1 teaspoon cumin powder/seeds
  •     1 teaspoon sweet cumin powder/seeds
  •     Half a teaspoon of mustard seeds
  •     Salt to taste
  •     2 tablespoons of oil (saffron and unroasted curry powder may also be used in place of some of the spices)


Cook green gram in a small quantity of light extract of coconut milk, with all the spices, half the ginger and garlic, green chillies and onions. Subsequently, add the jackfruit seeds and cashew and leave to cook for about five minutes. Then add the pumpkin and sweet yam. Once tender, add the leaves. Add the thick extract of coconut milk. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard. Fry the remaining onions, green chillies, garlic and ginger and curry leaves. Turn in the cooked vegetables, allowing to simmer for a few minutes.

Words Jennifer Paldano Goonewardena Photography Mahesh Bandara and Vishwathan Tharmagulasingam

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