Herb porridge- an indigenous nutraceutical | Sunday Observer

Herb porridge- an indigenous nutraceutical

26 September, 2021

Herb porridge is one of the healthiest, highly nutritious and indigenous traditional foods of Sri Lanka. People of ancient Sri Lanka consumed herb porridge locally known as Kola Kenda (Ilaik Kanji in Tamil) as an appetiser in the morning. Traditionally, herb porridge is prepared with locally available rice varieties, herbs, spices and condiments with medicinal value. Apart from being a filling and wholesome meal, Kola Kenda is considered a nutraceutical. As per traditional medical practitioners, it is a food with medicinal values and vice versa. Kola Kenda helps to digest the food and can be consumed by a person of any age and health condition.

Preparing herb porridge

Although preparing Kola Kenda appears to be easy, many people in Sri Lanka aren’t aware of how to prepare Kola Kenda in the right manner while preserving the nutrients and the medicinal properties. Herb porridge is prepared adding the extract of one or more herbs. It is said that adding the green extract of variety of herbs into the porridge enhances health. Also, adding a mix of two or three traditional rice varieties can also enhance the herb porridge. Although aromatic condiments such as cinnamon, clove and cardamom are not generally added in making Kola Kenda, adding them can enhance immunity during pandemic.


Leaves of one or more herbs

Heenati rice ½ cup

Kurulu Thuda rice ½ cup

Mada Thavalu rice ½ cup

Curry leaves a few

Ginger- 1 inch piece

Spring onions- 4

Garlic- 5

A small piece of cinnamon

Cardamom 2 pods

Clove 1

Peppercorns- 3

Coconut milk (half a coconut)

Salt as per taste

Juiced lime

Kitul juggary


Mix all three rice varieties. Wash them properly and soak for about 6 hours, preferably overnight. Grind or crush the soaked wet rice so that the rice will cook faster. Soaked rice can be used as they are without grinding as per individual preference. Do not throw the water that was used to soak the rice. Use them to cook rice.

In a clay pot add the rice and soaked water. Add coconut milk. Crush ginger, garlic, cardamom and peppercorns. Chop onions and add them into the pot along with cinnamon and clove. Add salt and let it cook.

Meanwhile, wash the leaves of herbs and pound them (or grind) to obtain extract. Pounded herbs can be mixed with little water to obtain the green extract.

When the rice is well cooked, add green extract. Cook it for about a minute and half and remove from the heat. Do not cook the porridge after adding green extracts as the nutrients tend to be destroyed when exposed to high heat. Once the porridge is removed from heat add a tea spoon of juiced lime and consumed warm with a piece of Kitul jaggary.

Lesser-known leaves that can be used for making porridge

Bush passion fruit leaves

Locally known as Udahalu or Pada Wel (Passiflora foetida) is a less known vine of which the leaves can be used for preparing green porridge. Although the ripened fruit is eaten, people are less aware that this vine has edible leaves.

As per traditional medical practitioner Dr. Palitha Sri Geegana Arachchige, it has rich pharmacological values. The leaf extract can be used for curing piles, diarrhea, intestinal tract disease and fever.

However, the leaves should be withered prior to cooking to mitigate toxicity.

Butterfly pea leaves

Used mainly for improving memory, butterfly pea leaf extract (Clitoria ternatea) can be used for curing common cold, fever and cough. Butterfly pea leaf porridge can also revitalise the brain and give the person the energy to engage his brain more productively. It also reduces metal fatigue according to Dr. Geegana Arachchige.

Licorice weed leaves

Locally known as Wal Koththamalli Kola, (Scoparia dulcis_ can also be used for preparing herb porridge. It is recommended to mix licorice weeds with other herbs to prepare porridge. Ayurvedic texts state that licorice weed is good for diabetes, kidney diseases, ailments of liver and lungs, fever, cough and high blood pressure.

Passion fruit leaves

Laden with vitamins such as vitamin C, passion fruit leaves can be used for preparing green porridge. Passion fruit leaves have a sleep-inducing effect. Hence, passion fruit leaf porridge is recommended for those who struggle to have a good night’s sleep. The leaves are also used for treating diabetes and hypertension. It possesses antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Guava leaves

Like fruits the leaves too contain antioxidants. As per Dr. Geegana Arachchige guava enhances immunity in the body. Guava leaves can also be used for treating diabetes, diarrhea, stomachache. Green porridge prepared with guava leaves increases appetite.

Fig leaves

Less known fig leaves can also be used for preparing herb porridge. Fig detoxifies and increases red blood cells in the body. According to Ayurveda, it is used for treating reproductive issues of both men and women. Fig leaves said to be good for diabetes.