You will have heard that India doesn’t have Curry Powder, and that is sort of true. There is no such general-purpose mix of spices such as the Keens Madras Curry Powder that we all grew up with – bright yellow-orange powder that added the same taste to a variety of dishes that my mother cooked. But there are mixed spice powders used throughout India and Sri Lanka, called podi in Tamil Nadu. These differ to our notion of curry powders in that they are made for specific uses including specific dishes.
One such spice mix from Sri Lanka, from the Singalese community, is this unroasted curry powder or spice mix called Thuna Paha, which means three to five. It is the generic term used in Sri Lanka for the spice mixtures used in every day cooking, made from between 3 to 5 spices. Recipes vary, as households cooks include different spices in their mix, and use different ratios of spices.
Once the spices are roasted, it becomes a different spice mix, so don’t confuse them. Badapu thuna paha is the roasted curry powder, and kalu kudu is roasted for longer and is much darker in colour. You can always tell what kind of thuna paha you have by the colour – normal thuna paha is light brown, badapu thuna paha is a darker, richer brown and kalu kudu (as the name says) is almost black.
Singalese Thuna Paha and Badapu Thuna Paha | Sri Lankan 5-Spice Curry Powder
ingredients – adjust amounts to your preferences
50g coriander seeds
10g – 25g cumin seeds
10g – 25g fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
sprig curry leaves
1*6cm piece of pandanus
Dry the curry leaves and pandanus in a warm to hot pan over moderate heat, or leave in the sun to warm and dry for a day or two.
Grind all ingredients to make a powder.
recipe notes and alternatives
Other spices that are often include are cardamom and cloves.
Often only coriander, cumin and fennel are used.
Badapu Thuna Paha
To make Badapu thuna paha, dry roast the spices until golden brown, as well as the pandanus and curry leaves, and then grind. Other spices can be added to this mix – dried red chillies, cardamom pods, cloves, fenugreek and black peppercorns. It is also sometimes called Black Curry Powder – for this mix, roast the spices until well roasted.