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Rapid Creek Market – Karunika Pemarathne

For many Rapid Creek Market shoppers, Karunika Pemarathne's mouthwatering Sri Lankan hoppers are the anticipated end to a crowded Sunday Grocery shop.

Toiling over four gas burners, the home-style cook, who spends her weekdays as an IT consultant, whips up the traditional bowl-shaped coconut pancakes, centred with a soft fried egg, before spooning out a delicious assortment of spiced fillings.

But if you think flavour is the name of the game here, think again. Pemarathne’s cooking follows strict Ayurvedic principles, where every taste is balanced with an earthly element to heal the body and aid digestion.

“It’s not only for the taste, it’s for digestion and to avoid unnecessary toxins,” she says.

“In Sri Lanka we have around three thousand types of plants. People use around two thousand as medicine and for consuming them, so people are really attached to nature. We are blessed with a lot of fruit and vegetables. They’re not only a food, it’s highly tied in with our culture.”

According to Ayurvedic medicine, there are three underlying mind-body types, called dosha. Each dosha requires different things from a diet, including correctly balancing the six primary flavours of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent (spicy).

As well as espousing the benefits of holistic cooking, Pemarathne strongly supports using locally-grown vegies, believing them to be fresher and better for our health.  

“As we live in a tropical climate, to heal us, we need to eat the vegetables around us. When we eat produce from our own land, it has a stronger healing power.”

Forget clean eating, this is a food philosophy that was made for the Top End!

Most Sundays | Rapid Creek Market |

Karunika's Coconut Sambal

2 cups of fresh grated coconut ½ chopped small red onion or 6-8 shallots
1 medium green chilli
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp paprika
½ lime
1 tsp ground Maldive fish flakes (optional)
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig curry leaves, chopped pinch salt 
pinch black pepper

Put all the ingredients, including the juice of the ½ lime, into a food processor and mix for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined. Scrape out sambal into a bowl and add the used lime skin, giving it all another mix with your hands. Remove the lime skin before serving.

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