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Cynthia's Tempered Fried Potatoes with Turmeric

Recipe by: by Cynthia Shanmugalingam, chef & author of Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka

Serves: 2–4

Cynthia's Tempered Fried Potatoes with Turmeric
Photo by:  

Alex Lau

Excerpted from Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka by Cynthia Shanmugalingam. Copyright © 2022. Available from Bloomsbury Publishing.

Sri Lanka has many different kilangus, or potatoey root vegetables: cassava, taro, sweet potato and one of my favourites, a vibrant purple yam called ‘rasa valli kilangu’ which means King’s Jewel. 

This quick dish, made by tempering hot spices, curry leaves and onion in oil and adding soft potatoes so they crisp up in the pan, is great made with new potatoes that you don’t need to peel. I roast the potatoes a bit crispier than is strictly traditional. If you can get Maldive fish or bonito, it makes a big difference. 

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For the potatoes
  • 500 grams new potatoes, washed
  • ½ teaspoon Pragati Turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
  • ½ lime
For the temper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced 1 green chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Maldive fish flakes, bonito flakes or katsuoboshi
  • Optional: 2.5-centimeter piece of pandan leaf
  • 1 teaspoon powdered Kashmiri Chillies (or 3 whole dried Kashmiri Chillies, crushed up in your hands)
  • 1 teaspoon Bindu Black Mustard


  1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the turmeric and salt. Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer and cook for 15–20 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender enough to insert a fork. Drain well. 
  2. In a large frying pan over a high heat, heat the 2 tablespoons  of oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the potatoes. With a fork, gently press down on each potato, breaking the skin and smashing them a bit. You don’t want to break them up, just smush them up a little. Cook for 2–3 minutes and when they are nice and golden brown, turn each potato over. When they are brown on both sides, transfer to a bowl while you make the temper. 
  3. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into the frying pan. When hot, add the onion and cook until it starts to go translucent. Add the curry leaves, garlic, green chilli, Maldive fish and pandan leaf, if using. Stir-fry for 2–3 minutes, until the curry leaves are bright green. Add the chilli powder or dried red chillies, mustard seeds and add a little more oil if necessary to keep everything bright and moving. After 1–2 minutes, when the seeds start to pop, return the potatoes  to the pan and stir through, coating thoroughly in the spicy mixture. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice. 

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