Sri Lanka is a small island nation in South Asia, which annually receives tens of thousands of tourists. People come here to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday, recharge with positive energy and try local delicacies.
The national cuisine of Sri Lanka amazes with a wide selection of dishes from rice, seafood and vegetables. As in other Asian countries, food here is generously sprinkled with spices, which give it an unforgettable taste and aroma.
Distinctive features of Sri Lankan cuisine
The cuisine of Ceylon (the old name of the island) is similar to the Indian. This is due to the geographical proximity of the two states and the same products used for culinary purposes. But, despite this, in the island kitchen you can notice the characteristic features that make it different from others:
- The diet of the Sri Lankans consists of vegetarian dishes. The local population does not eat beef, pork and lamb. The only meat that is present on the menu is chicken. However, they eat it mainly on holidays.
- The cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of curry mixtures consisting of black pepper, turmeric, cumin, mustard, chili pepper, cinnamon, etc. No meal can do without them. Sri Lankans add such mixtures to chicken, fish, vegetables, beans and other products.
- Despite the abundance of fresh seafood, dried fish is widely used on the island. It is ground into powder and poured into ready meals.
- Before combining spices with products, they are fried in vegetable oil. This allows you to make the food more flavorful.
- Food in Sri Lanka is less spicy than in neighboring India.
History of Sri Lankan cuisine
Historical sources indicate that rice has been grown and eaten in Ceylon since ancient times. The first artificial reservoirs for irrigation of rice fields here were built in the IV century BC. e.
In addition to rice, the ancestors of modern Sri Lankans cultivated millet, lentils, sesame, undu, kurakkan and other cereals. Cereals were the basis of their diet.
In addition to cereals, the ancient inhabitants of Ceylon ate vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, meat of cows, pigs, sheep, parrots and peacocks. After the spread of Hinduism, beef was excluded from their diet. Gradually, other types of meat disappeared from the menu.
In the Middle Ages, the island was under the domination of different states, which significantly enriched its cuisine. From the British, the Sri Lankans adopted omelettes, vegetable stews, puddings and muffins. Thanks to the Arabs, kebabs and different types of pilaf (pilau, biriani) appeared in the local cuisine.
Biriani pilaf is a dish borrowed from Arabic cuisine in the cuisine of Sri Lanka.
The Indonesians brought the Sri Lankans a recipe for sambola, and the Chinese taught them how to cook noodles, soy and bean dishes. The method of preparing lampreiss was borrowed by the local population from the Dutch.
During the period of colonial rule, Europeans brought cabbage, beets and carrots to the island. From America and remote regions of Asia, pineapples, rambutans, papayas, grapes, mangoes, etc. These products quickly took root and began to be actively used during cooking.
Sri Lankan cuisine consists of dishes that are prepared from cereals, fruits, vegetables and spices growing on the island.
The championship among cereals in Ceylon has been held by rice for more than a millennium. More than 15 varieties of this cereal grow here. Sri Lankans prepare many types of dishes from it, but the most common is rice with curry. It is eaten three times a day in the country, served each time with a new sauce. Flour is also made from rice, which is then used to make pancakes, noodles, desserts, etc.
In addition, lentils, barley, semolina, hercules and other cereals are eaten in Sri Lanka, but they are not as common as rice.
Fruits and vegetables
A lot of tropical fruits grow in the country. In their raw form, they are rarely eaten, using mainly for cooking different dishes.
The most common here is coconut. Its juice is drunk, and coconut milk is made from the pulp, which is used to make curries and other foods. Coconut chips become an ingredient for salads, desserts, sauces, etc.
Other fruits in demand in Ceylon include bananas, pineapples, mangoes, watermelons, durian, pomelo, rambutan, jackfruit, lychee. Their Sri Lankans are often consumed in not quite traditional ways: bananas are fried, mangoes are leavened, and pineapples are sprinkled with salt and spices.
Fried bananas are an original dish in Sri Lankan cuisine.
From vegetables in Sri Lanka grow eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, beets and other gifts of nature. Most often, these products are added to curries.
The king of spices in Ceylon is the hot chili pepper. It is used in different forms (ground, fresh, dried, in pods) and is added to food in large quantities. In addition to chili, Sri Lankan dishes can not be imagined without black pepper, ginger, garlic, cumin, mustard seeds and other spices.
Chili pepper is the most popular spice in Sri Lankan cuisine.
Popular cooking methods
Residents of Ceylon love fried food. They fry fish and chicken until black, believing that when their crust is not dark enough, they are poorly cooked and can cause poisoning.
Of the other methods of heat treatment of food, Sri Lankans use stewing, boiling and baking. Some products are steamed.
Traditions of local cuisine
Sri Lankans are conservative in matters of cooking and eating. They sit down at the table at the same time and eat only freshly prepared dishes. The remains of lunch or dinner are thrown away, because due to the hot climate, the products quickly deteriorate.
The local population uses pottery made of clay, made by hand. The cooking process most often takes place on an open fire.
Sri Lankans are indifferent to the cuisines of other countries. The basis of their diet is national dishes. They prefer homemade food and eat with their families, and go to restaurants only in honor of significant events.
What dishes to try in Sri Lanka
To feel the diversity of tastes of the national cuisine of the island, you should not go to restaurants designed for visitors, because in such institutions the recipe of dishes is often violated, trying to make them less spicy.
Authentic Sri Lankan food is served in small cafes where the locals are used to dining. Here it is prepared according to traditional recipes, without changing anything in the proportions of ingredients and the duration of heat treatment.
In such places, you can try the food that the Sri Lankans eat daily.
The secret recipe of this pudding was brought to Ceylon by immigrants from Malaysia. It quickly took root here due to the simplicity of preparation and the availability of ingredients. Sri Lankans love vatalappas so much that they even treated Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain to them during her official visit to the island.
The basis of the dessert is made from coconut milk, brown sugar, agar-agar and eggs. To give it a rich oriental aroma, cardamom, vanilla and cloves are used. The finished pudding is sprinkled with a mixture of raisins and cashew nuts or poured with palm honey. Serve it chilled, without taking it out of the mold.
To prepare this dessert, Sri Lankans cook rice in coconut milk, adding spices, lemon juice, onions or nuts to it. Sometimes kiribat is made sweet. In this case, it contains palm honey and coconut chips. When milk rice solidifies, it is cut into diamonds and served to the table.
Kiribat occupies an important place in the national cuisine of the island. It is the first food to be eaten on New Year’s Day. This dish is blessed to newborn children, newlyweds and dear guests.
Kiribat is the national dessert of Sri Lankan cuisine.
On holidays, Sri Lankans serve tea with aluva – diamond-shaped cookies based on fried rice flour, molasses and cashew nuts. To give baking an oriental flavor, cardamom is added to it.
Aluva – biscuits on rice flour with nuts.
To get lampreis, Sri Lankans fry raw rice with spices in oil and then cook it until ready in meat broth. The resulting porridge is mixed with meat or vegetable curry, wrapped in a banana leaf and deep-fried.
The finished lampris is poured with chutney sauce.
Lampreis – deep-fried rice.
Rice with curry
This dish is the basis of the diet of Sri Lankans in any region of the country. It consists of two parts: boiled unleavened rice and curry – additives that are served with it on the same plate or in a separate dish. They are prepared from fish, shrimp, squid, vegetables, jackfruit, lentils and other products, abundantly seasoned with spices and hot sauces.
In restaurants, rice with additives is served with papadam bread – fried crispy flatbreads made of lentil flour with the addition of spices and herbs.
Rice with curry is the basis of the national cuisine of Sri Lanka.
Cottu (kottu roti)
This is a variant of local fast food, which street vendors make in front of buyers. The method of its preparation is simple: chopped coconut roti cake is mixed with fried vegetables, egg, fish or chicken. Cotta is liberally seasoned with chili peppers and other spices.
Fragrant, tender and juicy fish with a crispy crust is a good addition to rice and vegetable dishes.
To prepare it, large fish are peeled, rubbed with salt and spices, and then completely baked on the grill until a dark crust appears. Before serving, it is poured with garlic oil or lime juice.
Fish, whole grilled.
In Ceylon, seafood is prepared immediately after catching. The most popular here are grilled squid, lobster and tiger shrimp. After cooking, they are poured with lime juice, oil with garlic or tomato sauce. They eat such a delicacy with rice and vegetables.
Grilled calamari is a type of fried seafood in Sri Lankan cooking.
Hoppers on the island are pancakes made of rice flour and coconut milk. They are cooked in an arched skillet, which is called a wok. Thanks to this, pancakes are not flat, but take the form of a bowl with thin walls and a thick bottom.
In the middle of the hoppers lay out the filling. It can be fried vegetables, spicy snacks, fried eggs, coconut chips sprinkled with sugar, etc.
Hoppers are a type of pancakes with a filling.
It’s nothing more than rice noodles formed into clumps. Steam it. They eat thong hoppers with stewed vegetables, fish, seafood, red lentils or sweets.
Green Jackfruit Curry
Locals call this type of curry a strip. It is made as follows: the flesh of green jackfruit for several hours is boiled in coconut milk, seasoned with onions, garlic and a lot of fried spices, which give it a pleasant aroma. They eat strips of rice.
Green jackfruit curry – stripes seasoned with onions and garlic.
In the Jaffna region, a sour-spicy thick cole soup is common, for the preparation of which local chefs take freshly caught fish and seafood. Additional ingredients are brown rice, cassava, beans, jackfruit seeds and palmyra tuber flour.
To give the soup sharpness, chili pepper, turmeric and other spices are added to it. Eat cole with bread or slices of pineapple.
Thick and spicy seafood soup.
White and red rice garnish
A common dish of local residents is pitta – a dish of ground red and white rice, water and grated coconut. From the resulting mixture, cylinders are formed, which are laid out on a plate and served along with curries and sauces. Sometimes spices are added to pitta.
Salad “Gotu kola”
The main component of the snack is the shoots of centella asiatica – a herbaceous plant with many useful properties for the body. Additionally, coconut chips, onions and grated dried fish are added to the salad. Lime juice is used as a dressing.
Gotu kola is a salad with coconut chips and dried fish.
Drinks in Sri Lanka
Due to the tropical climate, hot weather reigns on the island. To cope with thirst, Sri Lankans consume traditional drinks for their cuisine.
Sri Lanka is the world’s largest producer of tea, so this drink is common here. But the locals do not treat it in a special way, as they do in China. Tea in Ceylon is an everyday drink that is drunk with sugar, milk and spices. Often sweets are served to it.
Freshly squeezed juices are popular on the island: coconut, orange, mango, etc. They are sold in all restaurants and cafes.
In addition to juices, in catering establishments you can order smoothies, which are made from local fruits, ice and milk, or lassi – fruit drinks with the addition of yogurt, sugar and ice.
Mango juice is a natural soft drink.
The favorite carbonated water of the Sri Lankans, sold in stores, is “Ginger Beer”. Despite the presence of the word beer in the name, the drink is non-alcoholic. It has a pungent taste and has a ginger smell.
The traditional drink of the island is arak – coconut vodka with a strength of 38%. In addition to her, the island produces Beer Anchor, Lion Stout and Lion Lager.
But it is difficult to buy alcoholic beverages in Sri Lanka, since they are not sold in all stores. In addition, during the holidays and after 21:00, the sale of alcohol in the country is prohibited.
Sri Lanka Recipes for Home Cooking
Although Sri Lanka is a tropical state, most dishes of national cuisine are prepared from ingredients that are well known to Russians. To try the food of the islanders, you need to stock up on the necessary products and follow the cooking recommendations.
Coconut milk forms the basis of most of the first courses and desserts of the Sri Lankans. Those who want to master Ceylon cuisine need to learn how to make it.
The process of making milk is simple, for this you need only coconuts and drinking water:
- Break the coconut in half. Gently drain the juice into a separate container. It can be drunk.
- Cut white flesh from the inside of the nut and cut it into cubes.
- Pour the resulting raw materials with cold water (300-400 ml) and grind in a blender. As a result, a white liquid should be formed – this is milk.
- Strain the coconut milk through a sieve. Squeeze the remaining cake and throw it away.
This liquid is used in different ways: rice porridge is cooked on it, added to coffee, tea, desserts and first courses.
When you have coconut milk on hand, you can cook a festive meal of the Sri Lankans – curry from chicken and pineapples. It will need the following ingredients:
- 800 g chicken fillet;
- 1 can of canned pineapples;
- 400 ml coconut milk;
- 100 g onions;
- 1 clove of garlic;
- 10 g ginger root;
- chili pepper (at the tip of the knife);
- 1 tbsp curry powder;
- salt to taste;
- vegetable oil for frying.
Step-by-step preparation of curry is as follows:
- Cut the chicken fillet into small pieces and fry in vegetable oil. When the meat is browned, remove it from the pan.
- Chop and fry the onion. When it becomes soft, add finely chopped garlic and ginger. After 1-2 minutes, pour coconut milk and juice into the pan, in which there were canned pineapples. Stir the mixture, pour curry powder.
- After 5 minutes, put the chicken and pineapple pieces in the pan. Add the chili peppers and salt. Simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Chicken and pineapple curry is a festive dish in Sri Lankan cuisine.
Put the finished dish in a deep bowl and serve with boiled crumbly rice.
Easy for home cooking will be a shrimp salad. For it you need to take:
- 1 kg of large shrimp;
- 1 large onion;
- 1 grapefruit and orange each;
- 2 bananas;
- 6 spinach leaves;
- 30 g cashew nuts;
- 1 tsp. curry powder;
- 2 tbsp. l lemon juice;
- 200 ml of yogurt without additives.
Salad with shrimp and banana.
The dish is prepared in this sequence:
- Boil the shrimp, cool and peel.
- Divide citrus into slices, cut bananas into circles, onions into rings, spinach into strips. Finely chop the cashews.
- Prepare the salad dressing by mixing yogurt, lemon juice and curry powder.
- Place shrimp, fruit, onions and spinach in a large deep dish, pour in the dressing and stir. Sprinkle cashews on top and, covered with a lid, put in the refrigerator for 1 hour. After that, the salad can be served to the table.
Sri Lankan cuisine is delicious, bright and unusual. To some, it may seem too spicy, but this “flaw” is easy to correct if you reduce the amount of spices. After that, nothing will prevent you from enjoying the indescribable taste of the national dishes of the tropical island.