Sri Lankan cooking takes delicious advantage of the wide variety of native fruit and vegetables; as well as the many spices that grow in the island. Coconut and coconut milk are also major ingredients and are used in sweets, curries and relishes. Rice is a staple, with its flour forming the basis of many popular dishes such as dosas, which are pancakes often filled with spiced potatoes. Chicken, beef and pork are the main meats, although goat and mutton are also used. Fresh and dried seafood is, of course, plentiful.
String hoppers are messy balls of steamed rice noodles often eaten for breakfast in Sri Lanka along with a thin dhal curry. Rice flour pancake hoppers may also be served. Another popular breakfast dish is pittu – rice flour steamed in a cylinder with layers of grated coconut and served with coconut milk. Kola kenda is a herbal porridge made with rice and coconut.
Rice and Curry
The dish of “rice and curry” in Sri Lanka is rarely, if ever as simple as its name might be suggest. On the contrary it can be and frequently does, a veritable banquet comprise a large platter of rice surrounded by a number of smaller dishes made from vegetables, meat or fish and accompanied by chutneys, a sambol (relish) and poppadums. The smaller rice and curry dishes showcase the island’s spices, and will usually comprise such items as fish curry, dhal and curried okra or chili potatoes. Pumpkin curry is frequently served too, as is aubergine, but visitors may also come across such treats as curried mango or jackfruit. A popular relish is pol sambol, made from grated coconut, chili and salty shredded Maldive fish (cured and dried tuna) which has quite a kick to it. Seeni sambol is gentler and uses onion and tamarind for a sweet sour taste. The rice used is predominantly of the boiled white variety, but red rice is also served in some places.
No Sri Lankan curry is considered complete without fenugreek seeds, which add s slight note of bitterness to the dish. Sri Lanka also has its own version of curry powder, which can include coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, fenugreek and cardamom.