When one talks of Sri Lankan food, curry is what usually comes up. There is no doubt about it – curry is everywhere in this country. That is not to say, however, that Sri Lankan cuisine doesn’t have various dishes to offer the gastronomic visitor. Still, we cannot have a discussion about Sri Lankan food without talking about the omnipresent curry.
A visit to Sri Lanka might very well mean a curry dish as the main feature of every meal. The dish can be made of pork, fish, chicken, beef, or mutton. In addition to these meats, various vegetables are also made into curry. A mixture of meat and vegetables is also possible. The common ingredients for Sri Lankan curry include coconut milk, onions, and chillies – lots of them! A word of warning is warranted, especially for those who cannot tolerate extremely spicy food: Sri Lankan curry can be VERy spicy. However, in most restaurants – especially in hotels – you can ask for a less spicy version to suit your taste.
Sri Lankans know that the best partner for curry is rice – plain boiled rice. Just like many other Asian countries, rice is a staple in Sri Lanka. It really is perfect to offset the rich (and spicy!) flavors of the curry dishes.
Aside from curry, Sri Lankans like to serve side dishes during a meal. Side dishes are usually pickles and chutneys. A signature side dish is sambol. This dish is made of fiery peppers mixed with coconut and other spices. Other popular side dishes are parripu (red lentils) and mullung (spiced green leaves which are shredded or ripped and stir-fried).
For breakfast, forget the traditional pancakes and bacon and eggs that you may be used to. Instead, go for hoppers. It’s not what you probably think it is (no insects in this recipe!). Hoppers are actually a kind of pancake but fried egg or sweet coconut meat is placed in the middle. It is fried in such a way that the edges are crisp but the middle stays soft.
Sri Lankan desserts are one of a kind and there are many varieties to choose from. A popular dessert is kevum or kavun. It is flour cake mixed with treacle and deep-fried. If you’re more adventurous, try moong kavun, which is made from green gram. It is shaped into diamonds prior to frying, making it more interesting. Wattalappam is another Sri Lankan dessert which visitors must try. It is actually egg pudding and is of Malay origins. For a sweet but healthy snack, kiri peni is the choice. It is curd (yoghurt made from buffalo milk) mixed with honey. If you happen to attend a ceremonial occasion, you’ll probably get to try another dessert called kiribath. It is made of rice cooked in coconut milk and served with sambol. Of course, you might be able to persuade the chef to prepare it just for you.
Wherever you go in Sri Lanka, you will not find yourself lacking for excellent dishes made with only the freshest ingredients.