Sri Lanka, being an island with a tropical climate, coconuts and fish are two of the most influential components of Sri Lankan cuisine. Fish is made into curries, and coconut in some form or another, is a dominant ingredient in cooking. Rice and curry is the Sri Lankan staple, though various kinds of bread, both roti style flatbreads and even loaves of bread, are very common. A few things about Sri Lankan food can be said with certainty

Sri Lankans thoroughly love spices, they love food that explodes with flavor, and many enjoy deep fried, and very tasty, snacks. Whatever you choose to eat in Sri Lanka, your mouth is going to rejoice with happiness. Though Sri Lankan food has parallels to South Indian food, yet it remains distinctly its own form of cuisine. The central feature of Sri Lankan cuisine is boiled or steamed rice, served with a curry of fish or meat, along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils, or fruits. Dishes are accompanied by pickled fruits or vegetables, chutneys, and sambals.

Throughout years of colonization and influence from other countries, Sri Lanka has adapted its food culture into a blend of different curry concoctions and tasty dishes. Sri Lankan cuisine is known for its particular combinations of herbs, spices, fish, vegetables, rice fruits. The cuisine is highly centred around many varieties of rice as well as coconut which is an ubiquitous plant throughout the country. Seafood also plays a significant role in the cuisine, be it fresh fish or preserved fish. As a country that was a hub in the historic oceanic silk road, contact with foreign traders brought new food items and cultural influences in addition to the local traditions of the country's ethnic groups, all of which have helped shape Sri Lankan cuisine.

Sri lankan food

One Of The Basic Recipe For A Sri Lankan Curry/Spice Powder

Ingredients 

  • Coriander seeds- 4 tsp
  • Cumin seeds- 3 tsp
  • Black peppercorns-1 tsp
  • Cinnamon stick-1-inch piece
  • Green cardamom-2-3 no
  • Curry leaves- 10-12 no
  • Dried red chilies- 2-3 no
  • Fennel seeds-1 tsp
  • Black cardamom-1-2 no
  • Fenugreek seeds-1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds-1 tsp
  • Basmati rice- 2 tbsp.
  • Cloves- 3-4 no

Method

  1. Using a thick bottomed pan, add in the basmati rice and saute it for a few minutes in order to change its color and add a crusty outer look to the rice grains, control the flame and continue adding in the other spices as well and dry roast them all together for a few mins.
  2. Turn off the flame, remove the mixture into a plate/thali and allow to cool completely, dry grind the mixture to a nice smooth powder and store in an airtight container and use in the sri-lankan recipes/curries etc
  3. Let us have a look at a few popular and easy to make dishes often prepared during festivities, at restaurants and special occasions on Sri-lankan Menus:

Sri Lankan Style Mulligatwany Soup

Sri Lankan Style Mulligatwany Soup

Ingredients

  • Oil-2 tbsp.
  • Curry leaves-4-5 no
  • Chicken stock-3-4 cups 
  • Shredded boiled chicken-1/2 cup
  • Onion-1 medium, chopped
  • Carrot-1/2 no chopped
  • Tomato-2 med sized, chopped
  • Green chilies-1 tsp chopped
  • Red chilies-1-2 no slit
  • Coriander seeds- 2 tsp roasted and powdered
  • Yellow lentils-1/2 cup mix boiled- optional
  • Cumin seeds-1 tsp roasted, powdered
  • Fenugreek seeds-1/2 tsp roasted, powdered
  • White rice-2 tsp roasted
  • Black pepper-1/2 tsp crushed
  • Red chili powder-1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Ginger-1 tsp chopped
  • Garlic-1 tsp chopped
  • Celery-1 stalk chopped
  • Coconut milk-1 cup thick
  • Coriander leaves-2 tbsp. chopped
Chef Kaviraj on Sri Lankan food

For garnish

  • Boiled rice-2 tsp
  • Lime juice-1-2 tsp add and serve

Method

  1. In a pan, dry roast all the whole spices along with the rice until fragrant and well refreshed, turn off the flame and cool, add in the peppercorns, powder them all together and keep aside.
  2. In a pan add oil, add in curry leaves, saute the onions, celery, carrots add little salt to taste, add in the ginger, garlic, chilies and continue to saute for a few mins.
  3. Add in the powdered spices and mix well, add in tomatoes, boiled lentils, coriander leaves, add in the powdered spices and mix well.
  4. Now add in the chicken stock and chicken pieces and bring to a boil, simmer and cook for 12-15 mins on a medium flame.
  5. Here we have two options to either cool, puree the above mixture or keep it whole as it is, then add in the coconut milk and simmer for 2-3 mins.
  6. Turn off the flame and add in lime juice and garnish with boiled rice and serve hot.

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

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Ingredients

Chicken curry cuts- 500- 750 gms, with bones and skin.

  • Oil-2 tsp
  • Ghee-2 tsp
  • Onion-2 medium chopped
  • Ginger-1 tsp chopped
  • Garlic-1 tsp chopped
  • Tomato-2 medium sized chopped
  • Tomato puree-2-3 tsp
  • Curry leaves- 8-10 no
  • Green chilies-2 tsp chopped
  • Sri-lankan curry powder-2 tsp as given above
  • Red chili powder-1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as needed
  • White vinegar-2 tsp
  • Coconut milk-1 cup or as needed thick variety
  • Coriander leaves-2 tbsp. chopped
  • Fried curry leaves/ red chilies for garnish.

Method

  1. Clean, wash, cut and marinate the chicken pieces with the roasted curry powder, red chili powder, little salt, turmeric powder and vinegar for around 20-25 mins, keep refrigerated.
  2. Heat oil and ghee in a heavy bottomed pan, add in the onions until they get light pink in color. Add in the ginger, garlic, chilies, curry leaves and fry for a few mins.
  3. Add in the marinated chicken pieces and saute it well with the onion masala in the pan.
  4. Add in the chopped tomatoes, puree and saute well, cover and simmer for 5-6 mins, add little water to cook the chicken.
  5. Continue cooking the chicken curry for 12-15 minutes, add in the coconut milk and simmer for 4-6 mins, add coriander leaves and serve hot with sri-lankan steamed rice or with roti/ parathas.

Easy Coconut Sambal

Easy Coconut Sambal

Ingredients

  • Grated fresh coconut-1 med sized
  • Shallots- 6-8 no peeled and sliced
  • Dry red chilies- 8-10 no
  • Lime juice-2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar-1/2 tsp

Method

  1. Dry grind the red chilies and little salt together to form a chili flake kind of texture.
  2. Add in the grated coconut to the same grinder jar and continue to churn it once, add sugar and shallots and mix well once more.
  3. Remove the sambal into a mixing bowl and adjust salt, and add lime juice mix well and keep chilled until being used to go alongside with meals.

Sri Lankan Kuttu Parotta

Sri Lankan Kuttu Parotta

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Ingredients

  • Oil-2-3 tbsp.
  • Butter/ghee-2 tsp
  • Leftover rotis/ parottas- 3-4 broken into pieces
  • Eggs-3 no
  • Assorted veggies of your choice- carrots/beans/peas/cabbage etc
  • Onion-2 small chopped
  • Tomatoes-2 small chopped
  • Green chilies-2 tsp chopped
  • Ginger-garlic paste-1 tsp
  • Water-1/2 cup
  • Curry leaves- 8-10 no
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili powder-1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
  • Curry powder-1 tsp as given above
  • Coriander leaves-2 tbsp. chopped
  • Lime juice-2 tbsp.
  • Roasted crushed peanuts-2-3 tsp

Method

Heat oil/ butter/ghee in a pan, add onions and curry leaves and saute for a couple of mins.

  1. Add in the ginger-garlic paste, green chilies and saute for a few seconds, add chili powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste.
  2. Stir the mixture for a minute, add in the tomatoes and cook until soft and mushy. Add a little water to fasten the process.
  3. Break in the eggs/ add in the veggies of your choice and cover the pan with a lid and allow the eggs to cook for a couple of minutes on low flame. 
  4. Add in the cut parottas into the pan and give it all a nice mix to ensure proper mixing, check for salt, add coriander leaves, crushed peanuts, lime juice and serve hot.

Pani Pol Sweet Coconut Pancake

Pani Pol Sweet Coconut Pancake

Ingredients

For The Pancake Mixture

  • Maida-1 cup
  • Salt-1 pinch
  • Oil/ghee-2 tsp
  • Water/ milk as desired to make the batter
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • Egg yolk-1 no
  • Vanilla essence -1/2 tsp

For The Coconut Stuffing

  • Oil/butter/ghee-2 tsp
  • Fresh grated coconut- 1 cup
  • Jaggery-1/2 cup
  • Sugar-2-3 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder-1 pinch
  • Green cardamom powder-1 pinch
  • Chopped nuts-2-3 tsp- almonds/cashews/raisins etc.

Method

  1. Prepare the batter for the pancakes and allow to rest for 12-15 mins.
  2. Using a non-stick pan, spread out the batter using a round spoon and swirl the pan to spread the batter to form thin pancakes.
  3. Using a little oil/butter allows them to cook well on both sides and remove once done.
  4. In a separate pan, heat oil/butter/ghee, add in the jaggery and stir well, allow to melt on low flame, add in the grated coconut, powdered cinnamon and cardamom, nuts and mix well.
  5. Cook this mixture on a low flame for 3-4 mins and remove. While the mixture is still warm we can start filling and rolling up the pancakes and garnish with chopped nuts and arrange them on a serving platter and relish the coconut pancakes.

Sri Lankan is truly a delight to try and adapt into our daily cooking as well as to be able to enjoy the robust aromas, variety of flavours to treat our palate! Most of these recipes can also be Indianised in a number of ways for example the curries, gravies, the kuttu parottas concept can be a good example to try and work with when it comes to using leftover rotis etc. one should be open to accepting new ideas, new cuisines, new ways of cooking along with trends which keep coming and going. On a note of recommendation along with my own visit to Sri-Lanka a few years back I truly believe this is one of those good foods to be relished by all of us without doubt.

Celebrity Chef Kaviraj Khialani has varied experience with hotels and airlines. He is also a consultant, food designer, and food stylist. For more such interesting recipes from the chef, stay tuned to HerZindagi.