It's likely the term tempering comes from the Portuguese 'temperado' meaning to add flavour to, or to season. There are a couple of ways you can temper food in Sri Lankan cooking.

1. You can shallow fry ingredients and add them to a dish just before it is served to add flavour or accentuate existing flavours.Oil is heated in a frying pan to a very high temperature and ingredients such as onions, rampa (pandanus leaf), sera (lemongrass), mustard seeds, curry leaves and sometimes ground but not roasted spices (coriander, cumin, fennel and perhaps cardamom and cinnamon depending on the dish), are put into the hot oil and cooked quickly. Onions are usually allowed to brown and caramelise. Mustard seeds are usually fried till they pop, curry leaves till they crisp (careful, they spit), spices till they are dark, cinnamon till it starts to release its scent.  Just before you take the dish to the table, you pour the spices and oil onto the plated dish, like a garnish. Don’t stir it through.

2. You can fry up a cooking vegetable, like potatoes, breadfruit, beans, with chili, curry leaves, onions and Maldive fish.

Copyright (C) 2009 Paul van Reyk


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