I am glad, very glad indeed, to write about my county's cuisine. Sri Lankan cuisine! When you imagine a small island what do you picture? A tiny heap of soil shaped like a cap in the middle of a blue ocean and a few coconut trees in the middle, right ! That is exactly what my country is, a coconut heaven. Coconut is one of our exports, others being spices, gems, rubber and the well renown tea leaves. So, you can well imagine the numerous dishes we make with coconut.

When we travel to another country one thing that we look forward to, is native food. Come to my land and you will be served spicy steaming food with free extra-large smiles. Sri Lanka has been colonized by many countries so our food too is influenced by that reign. Our food is distantly similar to south Indian cuisine, but not similar to any other place on this world. Food here is creamy with coconut milk, aromatic due to all the spices used and one hundred percent tasty. The amount of preserved food we use is zero in normal circumstances. There are many days when our lunch consists of fish dada caught in the river near home, chicken bought from our neighbors farm, green leaves plucked from our fence and yam dug from aunt’s garden, Do you get the idea, FRESH ORGANIC FOOD.

Two things that you will notice when you step on our land is hospitality and divine food. Some food that is native to our land is purely original idea of our ancestors, not influenced by foreign force. Like our famous kottu.

There are many vegetable native to our land. In our country vegetables are of 2 kinds.

Gamey elawalu (native vegatble) – macaral, snake gourd, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, koila, thibbatu.

Foreign vegetables – Carrots, beet, leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc. These also grow in our country in the cooler areas.

We get almost all kinds of fish throughout the year, but when it's the season for that particular fish then we can buy it very cheap. Cuttlefish sometimes sells for $1 a kilogram in season!! Like wise, fruits and vegetables.

Make this delicious lunch to get a very good idea about Sri Lankan cuisine.

Cook Time

Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 2 hours
Yields: For a family of 5
A pot of plain rice just stirred after it was cooked
 
A pot of plain rice just stirred after it was cooked
 

PLAIN RICE

Yes, rice is our staple food. I am one of those who say. umma (mama) ayyo, make something other than rice for lunch. And to this she obliges and cooks be a packet of noodles. But believe me I am only satisfied after eating a plateful of rice after the noodles. We, Sri Lankans have got used to it. My granny has rice for lunch and dinner too. The poor among us have rice for all 3 meals, the cheapest of all meals.The cost of a plate of red rice and coconut sambol will only be Rs.20, that is $ 0.2. And the poorest survive on just this.

Biryani, a single dish full course meal is the best that can be made with rice. This will be tastiest when my granny feeds me. Ask any Asian and they will tell you about the magic in their mothers hand. Food simply tastes heavenly when they feed us. They just know the best combination of curry, she knows how much should be mixed to get the right flavor and the right time when a little bit of pickle should be placed on the tongue. when my granny feeds me, all I have to do is sit back hugging a cushion and simply enjoy the meal, Just like you ended up in willy Wonka's factory. Sorry if some of you feel nauseus after reading this, culture varies right? But food eaten with the hand definitley tastes better than the rest.

When we had gone to Singapore during a holiday, we visited an Indian restaurant and those who had occupied our next table were westerners. Half way through our meal I just took a look at them and saw them all struggling. They were trying to eat rice with their hand, like us and their spoons were kept untouched after the first few mouthfuls. Its best to eat another cuisine the way the natives eat it. I am still waiting for the chance to eat sushi with chopsticks, then it will be my chance to struggle.

We make lots and lots of dishes with rice. Candy, puddings, porridge, snacks and beverages. Every baby in our country is fed on water drained from rice at mid day and the left over rice is soaked at night in some water and a few shallots, and eaten the following morning.We call it thanni sour (water rice).

So lets go to our recipe, rice is sometimes cooked without salt but in our community we cook with salt, and add a little oil so that the grains don't clump.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3 cups water

Instructions

  1. You can cook your favorite grain of rice. the water level I have mentioned is common to all but may slightly vary. So once the rice is cooked, press a grain between your thumb and index finger. If the grain is soft then the rice is thoroughly cooked, but if you can feel white uncooked pieces then add 1/4 cup water and cook again. Basmati normally needs less water than samba.Red rice needs lots of water almost double the amount.
  2. Wash the rice till the water is not cloudy. 3 times would be sufficient. washing helps to remove the starch on the grain.
  3. Add the washed rice in a pan with all the other ingredients.
  4. If you are using the rice cooker then it turns off when the rice is cooked. If you are using a heavy bottomed pan then, when the water dries completely your rice is ready.
  5. Make sure you stir twice. One,When the rice is almost cooked. When holes appear at the top. And the second time, when the rice is fully cooked. Stirring removes lumps. You can use the handle of the wooden spoon to stir.

A SALAD IS COMPULSORY FOR US

 
 

Normally our lunch is accompanied by salads. We call it sambol. Either a vegetable salad, cucumber salad, onion salad, aubergine, spinach, beet root, carrot or even snake gourd and various types of leaves native to us. Gotukola, curry leaves, mukunu enne, kan kun, siru keera, saarene and we also chop up tender passion fruit leaves finely add a little salt, onion, green chili and dry maldive fish, and abracadabra you get a tasty passion leaf salad. One of my teachers makes salad with the hibiscus flower.

We also make an accompaniment called mallung, It is a dry curry. Mallung is when we cook grains or vegetables with spice and desiccated coconut.

What you see above is one of the most common. It is called 'puli sambol' sour salad.

  • salad leaves
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • onions
  • capsicum
  • salt
  • lime juice a shade more than usual

 

DEVILED BEEF

 
 

Sri Lankan's are famous for their various ways of cooking meat. A sinhalese favorite is 'ambul thiyal' fish cooked in pepper and goraka (gambooge). We stir fry almost any kind of meat. rabbits and deer meat can be easily bought in the eastern parts.

Deviled beef is a specialty in our country. Men who work abroad always ask their wife or mother to send them a parcel of deviled beef now and then. It tastes so spicy and delicious and also can be kept for a few days longer than any other curry. I love it when my uncles' living abroad ask my granny to make it. She will take out her huge wok, so huge that a toddler can easily be bathed in it, and starts making her deviled beef. I stand near her observing all the magical substances that goes into the wok to make this dish. My favorite part comes when the beef has been packed to DHL and the rest kept on the table for the family. Then me and my brother rush to the wok with spoons in hand. The wok that is now almost black inside will be placed on the floor. We scrape the inside and eat it fast as we can so that we can eat more than the other. My granny calmly sits by it on a low stool puts some plain rice in the wok and mixes till the rice turns red. Then she feeds us. Those were the days..

 

 
The pot in which you cook will get roasted from the inside and that's what we fight for.
 
The pot in which you cook will get roasted from the inside and that's what we fight for.

DEVILED BEEF

Ingredients

  • 500 g beef
  • 2 large onions, chopped finely
  • 1 small capsicum cut into rings
  • 1 medium tomato cubed
  • 2/5 green chilies chopped
  • 4 tbsp. chili flakes (change accordingly)
  • 2 tsp. ginger and garlic (blended finely)
  • 5/10 curry leaves
  • 1 leaf of rampa/ pandan leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp or 10 pods
  • 3 inch piece of cinnamon
  • 3 cardamoms
  • 5 tbsp. oil
  • Salt to taste

 

Instructions

  1. Clean and cut beef into 1 ½ inch cubes or into strips.
  2. Pour 1 1/2 cups of water in a pan; add the beef and some salt.
  3. Add the ginger garlic, cardamom and cinnamon, tamarind and boil the beef till almost cooked.
  4. Then add the rest of the ingredients (onion, curry leaves, green chili, rampa, salt and the tomato)
  5. Add the oil and mix it well.
  6. Cook till the beef turns hot red. By this time the onions should have turned dark red almost black like a barbecue.
  7. Taste it and add salt or chili flakes as needed. (After chili flakes are added you should cook it at least a minute)

YOUR DEVILED BEEF IS READY

PEPPERED LIVER

 
 

Hope this doesnt disgust you. I am totally unaware of my readers culture but very sincerely hope that my cuisine does not make one throw up.

I was reading about offal the other day and was disgusted myself. Some people eat cows head, tongue, eye balls (I thought only Shrek does), feet and what not all. Then I thought to myself that some people must be disgusted by what I eat (spleen, liver, guts, lungs and stomach).

You have to try this peppered liver its awesome and those of you who don't like offal can also do the same for fish chunks.

 

PEPPERED LIVER

Ingredients

 

  • 200 g. liver
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp. coriander powder
  • ½ tsp ginger garlic
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamoms
  • 1 small onion cut finely
  • 4 pieces capsicum cut into rings
  • 4 pieces of tomato cubed
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1 rampa/ pandant leaf
  • 1 green chili chopped
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1½ cups water

 

Instructions

  1. In a pan mix all the ingredients together and pour the oil on top.
  2. Cook on medium flame with the lid on.
  3. When the liver is cooked and the gravy turns very thick like tomato ketchup then your curry is ready.

 

POTATO MILK CURRY

 

We use coconuts for every meal. When we hear our neighbor break the coconut (tuck, tuck, tuck) then mama says 'ah, dhatha (sister) has started cooking'. So when we start preparing for any meal, the first thing we do is scrape a coconut to get its milk.

Sri Lankan cuisine uses coconut milk at least for 1 vegetable curry for lunch. Almost all vegetables are cooked using somewhat the same recipe to get a milk curry. This is what the toddler of the house is fed on. If we had a toddler at home on this day, s/he would be fed on potato milk curry and rice.

 
 

POTATO MILK CURRY

Ingredients

 

  • 3 potatoes cubed
  • 1 small onion sliced finely
  • 1 green chili chopped
  • 5 curry leaves
  • small capsicum
  • 2 pieces of tomatoes cut into rings
  • ¼ tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 cardamoms
  • ½ tsp. ginger garlic
  • 2 pinches of chili powder
  • 4 pinches of turmeric powder
  • 2 pinches of coriander powder
  • 1 pinch of cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. dry Maldives fish*
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1½ cup thin coconut milk
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • Salt to taste

* optional

Ingredients

  1. Cut the potatoes into 8 pieces each. Boil with a little salt with the skin on. Boil till it’s almost done. Don’t overcook.
  2. Peel off the skin. Leave a little of onion, green chili and curry leaves and add the rest to the potato.
  3. Add the tomato and capsicum too.
  4. Add the spices (turmeric, chili powder, cumin powder and the coriander powder) ginger garlic, salt.
  5. Add the thin milk and cook with the lid on.
  6. When the milk has been absorbed almost fully, add the thick milk.
  7. If even after 5 minutes the thin milk is not absorbed then remove the lid and continue cooking.
  8. When the thick milk starts to boil, turn off the stove.
  9. Add the oil in a small pan. Turn the stove on and when the oil boils, add the onions, green chili, curry leaves that you kept aside.
  10. Then add the fenugreek seeds, cardamom and cinnamon and fry till the onions turn golden brown. You should be getting a lovely smell by this time.
  11. Add this to the top of the potato curry.

YOUR CURRY IS DONE.

 

FRIED BEANS AND CARROT IN MILK GRAVY

 
 

fried beans mmmm.......I just love it. We normally make this for small parties at home.When I say small I mean100 people. Our community gives the largest feasts and throws the biggest parties. There were 6000 invites for my cousins wedding (yes, six thousand!). You can see how large the weddings are when you pay a visit to my country.

Those of you who are not so fond of beans or carrot should try out new ways of cooking them and this, dear friend, should be definitely added to that try out list. You should choose tender beans for this curry and the best is yellow beans. I have used green ones and you will see that yellow beans will make the curry look brighter.

You can also add a pinch of turmeric and some salt for the carrot and beans before frying it.

 
 

FRIED BEANS AND CARROT IN MILK GRAVY

Ingredients

  • 100 g beans
  • 100 g carrots
  • Oil to fry
  • 1 small onion sliced finely
  • 2 green chilies chopped finely
  • 3 pieces of capsicum cut into rings
  • 2 pieces of tomato cut into cubes
  • 5 curry leaves
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp. coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp. cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ginger garlic
  • 1 tsp. dry Maldives fish* pieces
  • 1 cup thick milk
  • 1 cup thin milk
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice

Instructions

  1. Vein the beans. Cut the carrots and beans into 3 inch strips.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan and deep fry the carrots and beans.
  3. Pour the thin milk in a pan. Add the onions, green chili, capsicum, tomato, curry leaves, ginger garlic, dry fish, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder and chili powder.
  4. Heat this on medium flame.
  5. Then add the fried beans and carrot to this milk.
  6. Close with a lid and cook till the milk is almost absorbed.
  7. Mix the curry.
  8. Then add the thick milk and cook till it starts boiling.
  9. Add the lime juice and mix.

READY TO SERVE.

As Sri Lanka is a tropical country we get almost all fruits through out the year and it is a must that the dining table have a plate of fruit. Bananas or papaya

This is not mango from our tree but our mango looks as bright as this. Its called 'karutha kolamban' in our language.
 
This is not mango from our tree but our mango looks as bright as this. Its called 'karutha kolamban' in our language.
Source: bushraismail

EATING WITH YOUR HANDS

I was looking for a video on you tube so that you can see how you eat with your hands. Some of you must be finding it easy. The funny part of this video is that the foreigner is eating with his hands while our country lad (behind) is using fork and spoon! I wonder if he had injured his fingers! It is very rare tha ta Sri Lankan eats rice and curry with fork and spoon.

Three advice I want to give you.

  • The man in the video started eating from the top of the plate. You eat from the bottom, the side closest to you.
  • mix your food with your fingers (like how you sometimes mix flour and water with fingers) this makes the food taste better than just grabbing some rice from your plate.
  • South Asians fill their mouth with food. If you ever need a picture for 'mouthful' you have to video one south Asian.

Eating rice and curry with your hands