So this has nothing to do with spa school, massage therapy, Indonesia, or even Bali. But I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time lately reading up about essential oils and other health-related articles. It got me thinking back to when I discovered this herbal porridge in Sri Lanka and loved it! It was great for the digestion problems I was having and I noted it down to make sure I’d look it up when I get back home. I was hopeful I’d find it in an Indian/Indonesian supermarket. But after researching it tonight I discovered the leafy green vegetable which is the main ingredient, is actually grown in my backyard! It’s actually Pennywort and (though not grown in my backyard now), my mum used to always make juice out of it for my dad. It grows like a weed haha. I remember her telling me it’s super good for his health but I just thought it smelled horrid. Turns out it can actually taste good!
I first learned this herbal porridge to be called ‘Gotukola’ because that’s what they called the drink when I bought it. But it actually refers to the vegetable pennywort. The porridge itself is called ‘Kola Kenda’ in Sri Lanka, and it can be made from a variety of leafy greens including Gotukola, Mukunuwenna, Ranawara, Welpenela, Polpala, Iramusu, Hathawariya, Elabatu, Aligetapera, Erabadu. These are all exotic words I’ve never come across but they’re just the indigenous names of leafy greens like coriander and asparagus. Traditionally, Kola Kenda is a blend of leafy greens, rice, water, coconut, and some salt. It looks like this!
Sri Lankans would typically have it on an empty stomach before breakfast. I love porridge so this was likeable on my food scale. It doesn’t taste as bitter with the coconut and rice, and I love that light salty taste. It’s almost like a cleanser for the tongue. It’s served warm too, so it’s soothing for the throat and stomach, digestive system, and it’s got a taste that eliminates cravings. When it’s made fresh there might be some other ingredients as well, like red rice, mung beans, garlic, and pepper corns. While I was in Sri Lanka I discovered they also sell an instant version of it, kind of like Continental soup packets. I was ecstatic to find it in this form because it meant I could carry it with me backpacking and all I needed was boiling water! Quick and easy meal any time of day, especially when I always get hungry right before bed. I decided gotukola would be my food fix.
WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT KOLA KENDA?
Turns out mum was right. A lot of things are good about Kola Kenda.
- Treats fatigue, constipation, high blood pressure
- Enhances digestive function
- Reduces cholesterol
- Prevents cancer and heart diseases
- Enhances the immune system and helps maintain bones and teeth, as well as reduces inflammation.
No wonder it’s known as Sri Lanka’s energy dish.
HOW DO YOU MAKE KOLA KENDA?
Easy as 2 minute noodles, or porridge rather. It’s pretty straight forward and it’s pretty much just chucking the ingredients together and bringing it to the boil.
Ingredients (how much you like of each really):
- Leafy greens blended with water (like making a green juice/smoothie)
- Boiled rice
- Coconut milk
- Salt to taste
- Combine the rice, salt and coconut milk in a pot. Add water to your preference
- Bring to a boil on medium heat for about 5 mins
- Add the juice and stir
- Remove from heat when it just starts to boil again.
If it’s a bit too gluggy you can filter the blended greens so it’s just a clean juice before adding it to the rice mix to boil.
So there you have it. A nutritious alternative for breakfast, a snack, if you’re bored of uncle toby’s oats, or if you need something more filling than just a green juice 🙂
WAIT, THERE’S MORE?
Kola Kenda is typically served with jaggery which is basically a concentrated product of cane sugar or palm sugar. I think any asian kitchen will have palm sugar haha. While you’d probably jump to the conclusion that it’s just a block of sugar, jaggery actually has many medicinal properties. Aside from having a rich, spicy flavor, it’s unrefined meaning it has more vitamins and minerals than refined white sugar.
According to Ayurvedic medicine jaggery can:
- Reduce respiratory infections
- Prevents constipation by activating digestive enzymes (ding! ding! ding!)
- Detox the liver
- Treat flu symptoms (add jaggery instead of sugar to your tea!)
- Cleanse the blood
- Boost immunity since it’s loaded wth antioxidants and minerals like zinc and selenium
- Ease menstrual pain and cramps (Girls, have some sugar with your mood swings!)
- Prevent anaemia as it’s rich in iron and folate
- Cool the stomach (Palm sugar punch in summer?)
- Control blood pressure as it’s also rich in potassium and sodium
- Relieve joint pains (drink a glass of milk with jaggery every day)
- Aid weight loss
So before you feel all guilty about having some jaggery or deserts made of jaggery, just remember it’s a natural sweetener with a million health benefits! It is high in calories though so don’t go popping palm sugar cubes now.