Cooking class at Matey Hut

Up to now I’ve mostly stumbled across restaurants or asked for local recommendations, but in Ella, for the first time, I decided to check TripAdvisor. The top rated restaurant was one called Matey Hut, which looked like it had authentic local cuisine and was also reasonably priced. Because most of the other restaurants in Ella looked more touristy, I went to check out Matey Hut for dinner.

That dinner, which consisted of okra curry, pumpkin curry, coconut sambol, and paratha, was easily the best I’ve had in Sri Lanka so far. Somehow, miraculously, it was also one of the cheapest! For the first time, I considered returning to a place simply to revisit a restaurant.

By chance, my table was right below a hand painted sign that read “Cookery classes.” When the bill came, I asked for details. The owner explained that they offered the classes in the morning at 9am, for only 2000 LKR ($13.33). In class, you learn how to cook 6 dishes and then have them for lunch afterward.

Cookery classes at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

I was so there!

The next morning I arrived as they were setting up shop. For a moment I was worried that they might have forgotten that I had signed up for class, but after a few minutes, I was beckoned into the small, dark kitchen.

This is where the magic happens! A roughly 8×4 ft space with three burners.

The kitchen at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

The kitchen at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

I was surprised to find that I was just me, essentially shadowing the cook (whose name I now realized that I never got, but she is the wife of the husband and wife owners). The class was less formalized, and I guess not set up to scale – but given that only one other person max could have squeezed in the kitchen with us, scaling would certainly be difficult.

The cook had the teaching part down pat, though. She first showed me all the ingredients that we were going to use:

Ingredients for the cooking class at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

Spices for cooking class at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

And then had me help to prepare them. I shaved a coconut with a hand-cranked shaver, cut up the onions and garlic, and cut up vegetables whenever she directed me to.

These are the four essential ingredients that we used for every dish: (1) chopped onions, (2) chopped garlic, (3) rampe leaves, and (4) curry leaves:

Ingredients for the cooking class at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

Somehow, miraculously, we churned out 6 dishes in 2 hours, with 3 burners in a space where we could barely squeeze past one another. Meanwhile, it usually takes me 2 hours to cook 1 meal for the week, for which the only real seasoning I use is salt or soy sauce. I am in complete awe. It was masterful coordination! She knew exactly what to start prepping while what was cooking and how long everything would take.

The three burners at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

Here is the final result, which I cooked! …kind of. I admit I might have spent more time scribbling down recipes than actually doing the cooking. Because there are SO MANY ingredients. No wonder why Sri Lankan food is so flavorful!

The finished meal from the cooking class at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

The finished meal from the cooking class at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

Curries, coconut sambol, and daal from cooking class at Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

Without further ado, the recipes, in the order that we made them:


Pumpkin Curry

Ingredients:

150g pumpkin, cut in chunks
Handful chopped onions
Handful chopped garlic
Handful curry leaves
Pinch of rampe leaves
Pinch of cinnamon
Chili powder to taste
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp tumeric powder
Few fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste
1 tsp coconut oil
2 dried red chilis
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 tbsp blended roasted rice/coconut

Instructions:

  1. Heat wok on medium heat
  2. Add handful chopped garlic, handful chopped onions, handful curry leaves, pinch of rampe leaves, cinnamon, chili powder, curry powder, tumeric powder, fenugreek seeds, salt, and light coconut milk
  3. Cook until liquid dries up
  4. Add coconut oil, dried red chili, more chopped garlic, chopped onions, curry leaves, and rampe leaves
  5. Cook until the mixture is golden brown
  6. Add thick coconut milk, blended roasted rice/coconut
  7. Add pumpkin
  8. Cook until pumpkin is soft, able to stick a fork through without much pressure

Mango Curry

Ingredients:

3 small mangos
3 cardamom seeds, chopped
Pinch of cinnamon, chopped
5 cloves, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
Handful chopped onions
Handful chopped garlic
Handful curry leaves
Pinch of rampe leaves
1/4 tbsp mustard seeds
chili powder to taste
2 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp tumeric
salt to taste
1 cup water
1 tbsp sugar
Dash of thick coconut milk

Instructions: 

  1. Peel mangos (we used small ones, about the size of my fist, but any size is okay)
  2. Heat wok on medium heat
  3. Add coconut oil, wait until oil is hot
  4. Add all ingredients except mango, water, and coconut milk
  5. Cook until slightly brown
  6. Add mangos and water, and coconut milk
  7. Cook until liquid is dried up and mango is soft, able to stick a fork through without much pressure

Green Bean Curry

Ingredients:

2 cups green beans
Handful chopped onions
Handful chopped garlic
Handful curry leaves
Pinch of rampe leaves
2 small tomatoes
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp mustard cream
1/4 tsp tumeric
Salt to taste
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 green chili, sliced

Instructions: 

  1. Break ends off green beans and break green beans into roughly 1in chunks
  2. Chop tomatoes into quarters
  3. Heat wok on medium heat
  4. Add handful chopped garlic, handful chopped onions, handful curry leaves, pinch of rampe leaves
  5. Cook for 1-2 min until brown
  6. Add rest of ingredients
  7. Cook until liquid is dried up and green beans are soft, able to stick a fork through without much pressure

Eggplant Curry

Ingredients:

2 small eggplants
2 small potatoes
Green chili to taste, sliced
Handful chopped onions
Handful chopped garlic
Handful curry leaves
Pinch of rampe leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp tumeric powder
Pinch of chili flakes
2 cardamom seeds
1/4 cup thick coconut milk
2 tsp jagri, honey, or brown sugar
Oil to deepfry

Instructions: 

  1. Cut eggplant into vertical strips about 1/4-1/2 inch wide
  2. Deep fry egg plant in oil until golden brown
  3. Remove egg plant from oil
  4. Heat wok to medium heat
  5. Add all ingredients except eggplant, jagri, and coconut milk
  6. Cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly brown
  7. Add eggplant and coconut milk
  8. Add jagri
  9. Cook until all liquid is dried

Daal

Ingredients:

100 grams lentils
1 cup loose coconut milk
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt to taste
Handful chopped onions
Handful chopped garlic
Handful curry leaves
Pinch of rampe leaves
Green chili to taste, sliced
1/4 cup thick coconut milk
Oil to deepfry

Instructions: 

  1. Wash lentils and soak them in water for 10-15 minutes
  2. Heat pot on high
  3. Add lentils, loose coconut milk, tumeric, chili powder, cinnamon, and salt
  4. Cook until water is reduced, then reduce heat
  5. Add handful chopped garlic, handful chopped onions, handful curry leaves, pinch of rampe leaves, and green chili
  6. Cook until the water is all gone
  7. Add thick coconut milk
  8. Stir and turn off heat
  9. Slice a handful of onions and garlic into very thin slices, deep fry very briefly
  10. Deep fry curry leaves by just dipping them in the oil
  11. Sprinkle fried onions, garlic, and curry leaves on top of the daal

Coconut Sambol

Ingredients:

1 cup scraped coconut
1/2 small onion
1 small tomoato, sliced
Pinch of curry leaves
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small green chili, sliced
1 lime

Instructions: 

  1. Add all ingredients in a bowl
  2. Mix with hands, no heat required!

The talent behind the delicious food:

The owners of Matey Hut, Ella, Sri Lanka

So glad I happened to check TripAdvisor and had enough time to participate in the cooking class! I really wish more people knew about it (and that they charged more for it – just the ingredients themselves had to add to up 500 of the 2000LKR). But so fortunate to have caught it when I did.

Now to try to reproduce these dishes at home…I’m sure that will be a whole separate adventure.

11 Replies to “Cooking class at Matey Hut”

  1. @Kayla – Haha, it means a lot of staying up late to write posts! But worth it to help me remember the experiences as well. 🙂 Thank you!

  2. I am so happy you have their recipes!!! We are in Ella now and classes are booked for when we are here and their rice and curry is the best in all of Sri Lanka! Have you made at home?

  3. You are an absolute champion, we did the cooking class a couple of days ago and it was brilliant but great to have these recipes laid out. Thank you!

  4. I also have to commend you on being able to make notes about your travels, its just one more thing to do! I was wondering about the eggplant curry recipe, there were potatoes in the recipe? I was just wondering because it wasn’t written in the directions, only in the ingredients. Sorry to bother if I misread something, I’m not a natural cook lol.

    1. Hi Sarah, great catch! It’s possible that it might be a mistake, it’s been so long that I can’t remember clearly. But potatoes might also be part of the recipe in #5, “Add all ingredients except eggplant, jagri, and coconut milk.” Guess you can try it both ways!

    1. Hi Fatima, yes, I confirmed with them the night before. The class was in the early morning, so they have to prepare the materials. Plus the kitchen is small, so there isn’t room for too many people at once.

  5. Thank you Jessica. This is by far the most informative and useful article I’ve read about Sri Lankan cuisine so far. Classes were booked out so I couldn’t attend any. Thanks again 🙂

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