Yard-Long Beans Curry (Payathanga Curry)

This is a very common side dish consumed with rice in Sri Lanka.  This tastes very good with “Pittu” also

Here in the US, string beans take a while to cook.  I remember in Sri Lanka these beans are very tender and light green.  They cook quite quickly compared to the ones found in US.  Also where I buy these beans, they are normally quite rigid and darker in color.  So depending on where you live/the type of string beans you buy change the amount of water you use to cook.  If the beans are quite tender, less amount of water should be used.

Also in Sri Lanka I have never seen anyone using a knife to chop these beans into pieces.  My mother, my aunt and my husband’s family break the beans into 1 inch pieces with their hands.  I was curious why they were doing this instead of cutting them into pieces.  So I asked a couple of my relatives.  I got different answers.

Someone told me if the beans are broken instead of cut, the curry tastes better.

Another person told me when you break the beans with your hand, due to the force the seeds tend to fly/come out of the beans and when cooked the curry taste very good

Another answer I got was, there was a story that these beans may have some kind of caterpillar growing inside them.  So when it is broken, these caterpillars just fly out due to the force of breaking.

Anyway, these are the stories I got.  So if anyone has any other information regarding why the beans are broken instead of cut, please let me know and I will add to this list.

Also this curry is normally cooked quite spicy.  So here I have used 2 teaspoon chili powder.  But depending on taste, this can be adjusted.


  • 12 oz yard long beans
  • 3 cups water
  • 2  teaspoons Sri Lankan chili powder
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (thick milk tastes very good in this curry)
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon canola oil
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3 dried red chilies broken into 2 – 3 pieces
  • 1 strand curry leaves


  • Wash and break the beans into 1 inch pieces

  • Grind cumin and black pepper coarsely and set aside (do not roast them)
  • In a covered saucepan add beans, water, coconut milk, chili powder and salt and cover and cook for about 15 minutes
  • Add the ground cumin mixture and cover and cook until gravy thickens.  Make sure there is gravy left (do not cook too long or until the gravy is almost absorbed. The reason is when this curry is left to cool the gravy tends to dry out and get absorbed by the beans – It took me couple of trials to get the right consistency)
  • In a skillet add oil and add onion and garlic and sauté until they are lightly browned.
  • Add broken chili, curry leaves and fry for another 2 minutes
  • Transfer this fried mixture into the curry and mix well

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