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  • Writer's pictureSusie Csorsz Brown

Gotu Kola Sambol

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

One of the best things about living overseas is tasting new-to-us regional yumminess. Sambol is one of those foods. In Sri Lanka, a myriad of sambol options exist, most of which are used as accompaniments to the meal, a kick of flavor and spice. Most mixtures include spices, herbs, coconut, tomato or other fruit or veg, as well as some sort of sea-inspired taste like dried fish. This particular sambol is no different except it is also enjoyed as a salad. Now, this particular version of this sambol uses fish sauce instead of the normal dried fish, so you can control that fishiness.

Gotu kola sambol
Gotu Kola Sambol, shown here with Gingery Chicken Meatballs

Here's the thing: I know I promised not to post recipes with ingredients that are hard to find, but this is one of those recipes where it is worth seeking out that special ingredient. IN this case, freshly grated coconut. Apparently, the secret is the freezer section. For this recipe, you'll want to get unsweetened, grated coconut. You can also rehydrate desiccated coconut, which is widely available. To rehydrate your dried unsweetened coconut, simply toss the dried bits with hot water until it feels moist; allow to sit to fully rehydrate.

The other ingredient in this dish that might be hard to find is gotu kola. Gotu kola is a herby plant that is a member of the parsley family. It is widely used in dishes in this part of the world. You can find it in Asian markets in the U.S., and you can also find the seeds to grow your own (it's a super easy-to-grow, pretty little plant). That being said, you can also sub in parsley (curly leaf has a similar flavor) or curly leaf kale in the recipe.

Gotu Kola Sambol

Serving: 6-8


4 oz, about 4 cups well-packed small bunch of gotu kola, washed (alternatively use curly leaf parsley or curly kale)

1 large tomato, finely chopped

1 small green finger chilli, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely diced (soaked to reduce onion bite, optional; if soaking drain well before using)

About 3/4 cup fresh coconut, grated

2 T fish sauce

2 T fresh lime juice

table salt, to taste


Finely chop the gotu kola, mostly leaves but it’s okay if some stalks are included, and place in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, chilli and onions and mix together.

Add a couple of handfuls of coconut flesh to the bowl, along with the fish sauce, lime juice and a little salt. Mix well to combine, taste and add more salt if desired.


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