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Elavalu ‘Thel Dala’

Enjoy authentic Sri Lankan stir-fry variations of your favorite vegetables!



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‘Thel Dala’, Authentic Sri Lankan Stir-Fry


‘Thel Dala’, loosely translated to English, means stir-fry, offers a variation of cooking found in almost every Sri Lankan ‘kussiya’ (kitchen) on a daily basis. It is most commonly used to fry up shredded vegetables (or ‘elavalu’), mixed in with a healthy blend of traditional herbs and spices to extract that classic aromatic taste and flavor that is truly Sri Lankan.


Sri Lankan stir-fryEvery version of a ‘thel dala’ recipe starts with the same base ingredient. Therefore, make sure your pantry is stocked up with these before you begin! They include onions, green chillies, red chillies (fresh or dried), curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds. Also,  turmeric powder, curry powder and salt (give or take an ingredient here and there) add flavors.

When choosing between when to use turmeric or curry powder, we offer a quick tip to use. Generally, if the vegetable is lighter (leaves, bulbs or legumes) use turmeric powder. However, when using a darker, more earthy vegetable, such as a root, use curry powder instead.

We offer a simple, easy to ‘stir-fry’ meal for the healthy vegan looking to add some spice to their diet. The below recipe serves 2-3 people, and instructs you on how to cook up a traditional Sri Lankan Stir-Fry Cabbage dish, or ‘Gova Thel Dala’, so let’s begin!


Gova Thel Dala


Our basic recipe



  • 14 oz  cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil (or your favorite oil)
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • a handful of curry leaves (8-10)
    • 2 dried red chillies, diced
    • 1 tsp mustard seeds
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)





  • Heat oil in a non-stick pan or wok
  • Sauté onion, curry leaves and red chillies in oil for about a minute, until the onions turn translucent and the aromatic scent kicks in
  • Add the mustard and cumin seeds and continue to fry until the mustard seeds start to split
  • Put the cabbage in.
  • Drizzle the salt and turmeric over the cabbage
  • Mix in and stir cabbage for 5 minutes until it is cooked and all of the water evaporates.

Elavalu Thel Dala Options

For the above recipe, you may also choose to add in shredded coconut for a milder, sweeter variation of this dish. Add a handful of shredded coconut in at step 2 after you sauté the aromatics.


As mentioned before, a variety of alternative vegetables can be incorporated into this recipe with ease. We’ve included afew different options below. Try this Sri Lankan stir-fry twist with your favorite veggies!

  • Leaf options – watercress, spinach, bok choy
  • Bulb options – leeks
  • Legume options – beans (green, French or snake)
  • Root options – lotus, carrots, daikon, parsnip, turnip
  • If you are considering the lotus option, swap out the turmeric for curry powder (1/2 tsp) and the cumin seeds for 1 tbsp of vinegar instead! Ensure that you thinly slice the lotus root and expect it to be crunchy even after cooking.
  • Serving options – for a healthy, balanced meal, all of the above are best accompanied with a bowl of steamed white rice (one cup) and a protein gravy such as a dhal (lentil) curry.


Facts and History of Sri-Lanka

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