This coconut-custard dessert is popular in Sri Lanka but is believed to be Malay in orgin. At Flying Fish, Peter Kuruvita serves it with orange, cashew nuts, fresh coconut, pomegranate seeds and a tuille biscuit, but simple seasonal fruits are also a lovely accompaniment.






Skill level

Average: 3.9 (69 votes)


  • 180 g (⅔ cup) jaggery (see Note)
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp cardamom seeds
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 cinnamon quill, broken
  • 4 eggs, lighty beaten
  • 185 ml (¾ cup) coconut milk
  • oil, to grease
  • chopped roasted cashew nuts and palm syrup (kitul treacle), (see Note), to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time 2 hours
Drink match 2006 Craggy Range 'Noble’ Riesling.

Preheat oven to 150°C. Place jaggery, 100 ml water and spices in a saucepan over low–medium heat and stir for 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk together eggs and jaggery mixture, then gradually whisk in coconut milk until mixture is pale and slightly thickened. Strain into a jug and discard solids.

Grease 6 x 125 ml dariole moulds and place in a large roasting pan. Divide watalappan mixture between moulds and fill roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of moulds. Cook for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Set aside to cool slightly, then refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled.

To serve, carefully turn out watalappans onto plates. Scatter with cashews and drizzle over palm syrup.

• Jaggery, available from Indian or Asian food shops, is an unrefined sugar typically made from sugarcane or date palm sap. It is often used in Indian and Sri Lankan recipes. Substitute grated dark palm sugar.
• Palm syrup is available from selected Asian food shops. Substitute golden syrup.



Photography by Alan Benson.


As seen in Feast magazine, November 2011, Issue 3.