Sri Lankan Rice with Cilantro and Lemon Grass Recipe | Cook the Book

Caroline Russock

Curry leaves are an integral part of Indian and Sri Lankan cooking, but they can be something of a challenge to locate. For those of us who don't have regular access to these fragrant leaves, Madhur Jaffrey has provided an easy alternative in her latest cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: basil.

While the flavors of basil and curry leaves aren't identical, there are fragrant, herbal qualities that they share. Take this Sri Lankan Rice with Cilantro and Lemon Grass for example. Traditionally made with curry leaves, in this rice dish basil is a wonderful stand-in when combined with bright lemon grass and cilantro.

Regardless of whether you are using basil or curry leaves, this is a lovely, deeply flavored pilaf. Beginning with sizzled spices, ginger, garlic, and lemon grass, and steamed with chicken stock, it's got just the right amount of fat to coat the rice and fresh aromatic flavors that come though even when paired with heavily spiced curries.

Adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey. Copyright © 2010. Published by Knopf. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

Recipe Details

Sri Lankan Rice with Cilantro and Lemon Grass Recipe | Cook the Book

Prep 5 mins
Cook 30 mins
Soaking Time 30 mins
Total 65 mins
Serves 4 to 6 servings


  • 2 cups basmati rice

  • 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil

  • 3 cardamom pods

  • 3 whole cloves

  • One 2-inch cinnamon stick

  • 10 fresh curry leaves or 5 fresh basil leaves, torn up

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed to a pulp

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger

  • Bottom 6 inches of lemongrass stalk, cut into 2 pieces

  • 1 packed cup finely chopped cilantro (use tender stems and leaves)

  • 2 2/3 cups chicken stock

  • 1 teaspoon salt (1 1/2 teaspoons if the stock is unsalted) 


  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water. Drain. Soak in water to cover generously for 30 minutes. Drain.

  2. Pour the oil into a medium-sized, heavy pan and set on medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Let them sizzle for 5 seconds. Put in the curry leaves, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Stir around for a minute. Add the drained rice and the cilantro. Turn heat to medium and stir for a minute. Add the stock and salt and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to very, very low, and cook gently for 25 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
149 Calories
7g Fat
17g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 149
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 614mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 18mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 95mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)