WHB: Sri Lankan Beef Dinner

For the longest time, I have looked for an explanation of what “palillo” is. It is a spice and coloring agent that is commonly used in Peruvian cooking. I typically replace turmeric and saffron with palillo simply for costs reasons. Palillo has been said to be the Peruvian Saffron and seems to be much more cost effective.

One day, while at the organic market, I saw the palillo root for the first time. It resembled ginger but with an orange color that seemed to brighten the skin. Of course, I had to buy it although I had no idea what I would do with it.

As I continued to look for information on palillo, I wondered just how much similarity there was between palillo and turmeric. As soon as the page loaded about turmeric, I was staring at what everyone told me was palillo. You see, even in the stores in Peru they sell both palillo and curcuma (turmeric) so how was I to know one was imported turmeric and the other domestic turmeric! It was as though a light bulb went on in my mind! they are truly one in the same!

Turmeric is part of the ginger family, which is native to tropical south asia. The root must be boiled for several hours, dried in hot ovens and then ground in order to be used as the ground turmeric so common to recipes. In recent years, many studies have been published regarding the medicinal properties that turmeric contains. It has anti-inflammatory properties and has proven to be a help with other medical ailments. it is a source of iron and manganese as well as vitamin B6, fiber and potassium landing it a position in the World’s Healthiest Foods. Turmeric is often part of curry dishes that are found throughout the world.

Sri Lankan Beef Dinner

Yield: Serves 4

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light


  • 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 4 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 pounds of stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red jalapeño peppers, minced
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar


  1. Cook coriander, cumin, and turmeric in a small saucepan over medium-low heat 7 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally.
  2. Combine toasted spices, black pepper, salt, and beef in a large bowl. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.
  3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, ginger, garlic, and jalapeños; sauté 3 minutes or until onions are tender. Remove onion mixture from pan. Recoat the pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef. Return onion mixture and beef to pan; stir in milk and vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is very tender. Serve over hot white rice.


Sri Lankan Beef Dinner is being served up for Weekend Herb Blogging. WHB was created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and this week hosted by Amy and Jonny from We Are Never Full. Check out the round up soon!!

Gretchen Noelle

My love of food was cultivated early on by my family but has come alive while living in Peru. During the 12 years of living in Lima, Peru, I have also enjoyed numerous trips to other areas of the country. Here on Provecho Peru you will find Peruvian recipes in English, American favorites prepared overseas, news about Peruvian Cuisine and interesting tidbits about life in Peru.

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19 Responses

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Gretchen I love discoveries like this! What a fun story, not easily forgotten either!

  2. Darius T. Williams says:

    Oh yea – I’m loving this! Now THIS looks great!-DTWwww.everydaycookin.blosgpot.com

  3. Kalyn says:

    How fun discovering that. I haven’t heard of the Peruvian word for the local turmeric, so I learned something new! The recipe sounds fantastic too.

  4. Erin says:

    This looks delicious! I love to hear about your stories of learning about different foods.

  5. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    This looks wonderful, Gretchen! We ate at a Sri Lankan restaurant in London once and it was phenomenal! I’ve never seen one around here before, but I could try your dish and pretend I’m back there. 🙂

  6. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    This is the kind of dish I love to build an entire meal around. It will send me to the cookbooks to find other Sri Lankan specialties now.

  7. Snooky doodle says:

    what a nice dish. I like it :)I didn’t know tumeric was that healthy

  8. Deborah says:

    what a great discovery! this looks delicious!

  9. Gretchen Noelle says:

    Tanna – Thanks! I was so glad to figure it out!DTW – Thanks! It was delicious!Kalyn – I had wondered for so long, now I am glad to share with others!Erin – Thanks so much!Susan – I have never eaten at a Sri Lankan place, but would be very tempted to do so!Lydia – Oh, it was tasty! Hope you find some more!Snooky Doodle – Yes, healthy and delicious!Deborah – It was tasty!!

  10. natalia says:

    Ciao ! This stew looks terrific I can almost smell it ! I love your blog !

  11. Happy cook says:

    Looks so delicious and creamy with the coconut milk.I would love to have them with rice for my dinner.

  12. Shari@Whisk: a food blog says:

    Interesting post! I wonder why there are two names. Is it simply domestic versus non-domestic? Your Beef Dinner looks and sounds delicious!! Lots of spices and coconut milk always gets me! Love it.

  13. Ning says:

    Many Filipino dishes use turmeric paired with coconut milk. In a way, this Sri Lankan dish is similar to Filipino dishes. Thanks for sharing! We learn something new everyday! 🙂

  14. Gretchen Noelle says:

    Natalia – Mmmm…it was really very tasty!Happy Cook – Perfect with rice and some tasty vegetables.Shari – I really have no idea, but I know the secret now! It was very tasty.Ning – Thank you for sharing! Great to know!

  15. Jude says:

    Turmeric is such an essential flavoring in many cuisines… thanks for the info in your post!

  16. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    Glad to hear that the palillo mystery has finally been solved.

  17. Erika says:

    I have a post on turmeric that may interest you – with further details on its heath benefits especially as a cancer preventative! Plus a recipe with this spice, cauliflower and coconut milk. Erika

  18. Nilma says:

    Hi Gretchen. Are you still in Peru? I am a Sri Lankan living in Peru now. I make a similar sort of curry but I would say we use a lot of chillie! We love chillie! Let me know and I will invite you over some time! Cheers!

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