Cuisine of Siri Lanka

International Cuisine, Siri Lanka

Siri-lanka-9Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro-Gourmaniac needs to Know

Part 14

Fiery Cuisines Part 11 …… Sri Lanka..
Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island situated in the Indian Ocean just south of India. It has a coastline of 1,340 km and a terrain made up of central highlands, lowland plains and coastal belt. There are dense evergreen rain forests in the south-west and although there are a few deep-water bays and many rivers, there are no natural lakes. The climate is warm subtropical with high humidity in the lowlands. Monsoonal rainfall is generally sufficient for agriculture except in the north of the island.
The island is estimated to have been colonised by the Balangoda people about 34,000 years ago. The people called the Veddas (forest-dwellers) are believed to have inhabited Sri Lanka’s semi-evergreen dry forest called the Wanni, for at least 16,000. Although the Balangoda are originally believed to have been hunter gatherers who generally lived in caves and having been responsible for creating Horton Plains situated in the central hills, by burning the trees in order to catch game, the discovery of oats and barley on the plains dating to 15,000 BC suggest they may also have used the land for agricultural purposes. Their diets included deer, wild boar and reptilians as confirmed by the discovery of these bones at various sites. The meat was probably roasted over an open. With such a large coastline, not surprisingly plenty of fish including shark was also part of their daily diet.
The Sinhalese migrated to Sri Lanka probably from North India in the 5000BC first settling along rivers. They also enjoyed a similar diet and evidence found suggests that the cultivation of wet rice was well practised. They constructed canals, water-storage tanks and reservoirs which made up an elaborate irrigation system as a backup in times of drought. By 900BC and the use of iron, advanced forms of farming and livestock breeding were practised. Cinnamon, which is native to Sri Lanka, was in use in Ancient Egypt in about 1,500 BC, suggesting that there were trading links with the island.
The island’s location made it a popular stop-off point for foreign traders, especially as it produced many fine spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Examples include Arabs who introduced the the use of saffron and rose water, Portuguese who ruled the island in the 1500’s and who not only introduced Chillies to the island but also culinary terms such as ‘temper’ which is derived from the Portuguese word, temperado to fry and season and the Dutch who ruled the island from 1658 to1796 who introduced recipes rich in eggs and butter such as Breudher, a Dutch Christmas cake, plus savoury recipes such as Frikkadels (meatballs). There are also Malay influences as can be seen in the dish Wattalapam, which a steamed dessert and the rice dishes pilau and biriani.
Sri Lankan food is not for the timid eater: the fiery curries, sweet caramelized onion in seeni sambal (Spicy onion relish), and sour lime pickle are all dominant, powerful flavours that startle awake senses dulled by the thick, hot island air. While visitors to the island or those eating in Sri Lankan restaurants outside the country may find watered down versions, most Sri Lankan cooking is unapologetically, punch you in the face, get the adrenaline pumping flavoured.
Today, a typical Sri Lankan meal would consist of a main curry of fish, meat or poultry, several other curries made with vegetables and /or pulses such as lentils plus condiments such as chutneys and sambals which are generally extremely (spicy) hot and made from various ingredients such as coconut, onions, lime juice and chillies. All the dishes are placed on the table at the same time and diners help themselves to a little of everything using a dessertspoon and fork or their fingers.
75% of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese (mostly Buddhist), and the food generally described as Sri Lankan is their food. Tamils (mostly Hindus), especially those in the north, use slightly different spices and other ingredients in their curries, but the format of the dishes is similar to food found on the rest of the island. Many Westerners’ only reference to Tamil culture is the Tamil Tigers, a group of militant separatists from the north. Since the government’s defeat of the group in 2009, the island is quite safe for tourists, though the new reputation has not fully spread so this exciting, delicious destination remains affordable to visit.
Muslims, mostly on the east coast of the island, have popularized dishes familiar from other parts of the world, such as biryani, and the Burghers (descendants of colonial Europeans) introduced Dutch and Portuguese candies and desserts.
The island grows some 15 varieties of rice (down from 280 just 50 years ago, and 400 in times before that), some of which are used for various types of rice flour pancakes (called hoppers) and rice noodles (called string hoppers).
Coconut is a major ingredient in the greens dish mallum, and, of course, it’s a big player in the island’s sweets. When I started testing Sri Lankan recipes, the first thing I did was buy a giant bag of desiccated coconut.
Stroll through the countryside and the fragrant smell of cardamom and curry leaves will inevitably grab you. In the city, piles of turmeric and fennel seed sit in ceramic pots at the market, waiting patiently for their turn in a curry. These spices are fundamental to the cuisine, serving as the base for the many curries, sambals (relishes), sundals (salads), and mallums (greens dishes) served with most meals. Black pepper is native to the island and was the most powerful spice in Sri Lankan cooking before spicy peppers arrived on colonial era trading ships. Black pepper curries still pop up on menus, and are worth seeking out for the original flavours of the island—and because they offer an entirely different type of heat.
Once chili peppers arrived, they took off: over 60 types grow on the island, and you can judge the spiciness of most dishes by how much of the blush of red pepper, used fresh or dried, it has taken on. To continue making a curry, you’ll likely need fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, fennel seed, cloves, and coriander, all used whole or ground. From underground, garlic, ginger, and turmeric are often added in chunks, while curry leaves and pandanus leaves are used fresh. Finally, a list of Sri Lankan curry ingredients would be incomplete without the local cinnamon, often called Sri Lankan cinnamon, after the island’s former name. What we in Australia usually call cinnamon is actually the less subtle and balanced cassia, rather than the warm, gently spicy and floral-scented Sri Lankan cinnamon.
The real distinction of Sri Lankan cuisine is not the individual spices used, but the prominence with which they’re featured. Whatever the starting base of the curry, it is often topped in the end with a smattering of fried spices (the process of frying them and adding at the end is called tempering), so that vivid flavour is never missing.
Sri Lankan curries feature sizable chunks of fresh protein swimming in bright, fragrantly-spiced broths. Along the coasts, you’ll often see fish, shrimp, or crab. In the high hills of central Sri Lanka, pork is used; chicken, beef, goat, and lamb are found island-wide. Crab curry is the stunner, and rightly famous, with the delicate local crab meat absorbing brilliant Sri Lankan spices.
Most of the Sri Lankans eat vegetables. With a large community of farmers the Rice and curry is the main food in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka curries are known for their fiery hot spicy flavours and coconut milk is very distinct feature of Sri Lankan cuisine that different regions of country specialize in different types of dishes. The specialty in Sri Lankan food is that same food is differently made in different regions. Dishes from the North region of Sri Lanka have distinct south Indian flavours.
Dishes from the South region of Sri Lanka can be Spicy, Hot or Mild. The meals of the southern region of Sri Lanka are known for their variety and fishing village though the coastal strip. Ambulthiyal a unique spicy fish preparation with thick gamboges “Goraka” paste.
Traditional Black Curry Powder
2 cups Coriander seeds
1/2 cup Curry leaves
1 tbls Cloves
1 tbls Cardamom
1 tbls Cinnamon crushed
1 tbls raw Rice
1 tbls Fenugreek
1 tbls Brown Mustard seeds
1 tbls Nigella
1 cup Cumin
2 1/2 cups Dried Red Chilli
Roast first two ingredients in a heavy pan over medium heat.
After a couple of minutes add the next four ingredients and roast till golden brown.
Now add the next four ingredients and roast for few more minutes till fragrant. Take care not to burn.
Finally add the chilli pieces roast for a minute or so.
Let cool.
Grind into a powder using either a mortar with a pestle or electric spice grinder.
Store in a tight container. This could be kept for up to a year.
Andrew’s Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry Powder
100 g Coriander seeds
1 1/2 tbls Brown Mustard seeds
1 tbls Fenugreek seeds
3 Pandanus leaves (I usually get mine in the Freezer at the Asian Grocers)
2 Cinnamon Quills
7 Green Cardamom Pods
1 tbls white Rice
1 tbls Desiccated Coconut
12 Fresh Curry leaves
Clean and wash all the ingredients and let them dry in the sun until everything is completely dry.
Cut pandanus leaves into small pieces, slightly less than 1 cm pieces.
Grind all the ingredients into a fine powder.
This homemade curry powder is sure to add an unforgettable taste to all your vegetable dishes


Sri Lankan Chili Powder Blend
250g Red chili
100g Coriander
50g Black Pepper (Whole)
2tbls Cumin
1 tsp Green Cardamom pods
1 tsp Cloves
1 Cinnamon Quill
1tbls Brown Mustard seeds
1 bunch Curry leaves
1 Pandanus Leaf
Wash everything and let it dry under the sun.
Pre-heat an empty pan over medium heat, add Coriander, Cardamom , Cinnamon and Curry leaf and heat until light brown.
Add Mustard seeds and Cumin, heat for another minute and take the pan off the heat.
Add the Chilli and black Pepper, let it all cool down for about 10 minutes.
Grind the mixture.
Store in a dry place
Extremely Spicy Sri Lankan Style Chilli Paste
1 1/2 Brown Onions
10 tbls Chilli Flakes
1 tbls Lemon juice
3 tbls Maldive fish
½ tsp Salt
Crush and grind the Onions with a mortar and pestle.
Add the Chilli Flakes and Maldive fish to the mortar and mix them with the Onions.
Put everything in a small bowl and add the lemon juice and salt.


Sri Lankan Cashew Curry

1 cup Coconut milk
250 g Cashew nuts
80 gm Brown Onion
1 branch of curry leaves
2 cm of Pandanus leaves
1 tsp Andrew’s Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry Powder
1 tbls Chilli Flakes
3 tbls Rice Bran Oil
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Salt

Boil the Cashew nuts in a pot with three cups of water over Medium Heat.
Add the Turmeric and Curry powder when the water is boiling and keep boiling the Cashews until they’re soft. this can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour.
When The Cashew are soft, add the Coconut milk and Salt. Bring to a boil and take off heat.
Chop the Onion and fry it in a pan over medium heat together with the pandanus leaves and Curry leaves until it’s light brown.
Add the Chilli flake to the pan, stir it for a few seconds and add the content of the pot to the pan.
Mix together for two minutes.
Fish Curry with Coconut Milk

500 gm Snapper
¼ tsp Tumeric
¼ tsp Gnd Mustard Powder
1 tsp Chilli Powder
½ Cinnamon Quill
1/4 tsp Fenugreek
1 Goraka (Indian Tamarind, I get mine at the Asian Grocers)
2 branches curry leaves
1/3 tsp Gnd Black Pepper
1 ½ tsp Garlic Crushed
2 cups Coconut milk
¼ tsp Salt

Cut the Fish to 2 cm cubes, clean and wash.
Put the Fish, Turmeric, Mustard powder, Chilli powder, Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Goraka, Curry leaves, Pepper, Garlic and salt in pan.
Mix well and leave it for 15-20 minutes.
Add the Coconut milk and put it on the stove. Heat it and reduce over low heat as soon as it boils.
Simmer on low for 20 minutes , stirring continually.
This Sri Lankan fish curry tastes great with good with bread and rice.


Sri Lankan Fiery Chicken

1 kg Chicken
120 gm Brown onion
300 gm Tomatoes
2 ½ tsp Garlic crushed
200ml Tomato Sauce
2 green Serranos
3 Eshallots
100 gm red capsicum
1 Tbls Scotch Bonnet chopped
2 cm Ginger fresh
2 tsp Chick stock powder
1 tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Palm sugar
3 tbls Rice Bran Oil
1 tsp Salt
Wash and clean the Chicken, then cut it into 2 cm Cubes.
Salt the Chicken evenly with Salt.
Deep-fry the meat until it gets a golden.
Cut the Onion, Capsicum, Tomatoes and Serrano separately into pieces about 1 cm. Slice the Eshallots
Chop the Ginger and the Garlic,.
Heat 3 Tbls Rice Bran Oil in pan.
Add the Onion pieces and cook them over medium heat 1 min.
Add the Garlic, Serrano and Ginger pieces, stir for 2 mins don’t burned. Lower the heat if necessary.
Add the Scotch Bonnet, Black pepper and Stock powder. Stir well.
Add the Tomatoes, stir 1 min.
Add the Chicken ,stir.
Add the sauce and mix well.
Add the Eshallots, and consume it….


Fiery Prawns Isso Thel Dala

500gm Prawns
1 Tbls Scotch Bonnet chopped
2 branches Curry leaves
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
2 cm Pandanus leaves
2 Green serranos
180 gm Brown Onions
3 tbls Rice Bran Oil
½ tsp Salt

Clean and wash the Prawns, add the salt, mix and cover.
Cut the Onions and Serrano into small pieces.
Heat oil in pot
Add Onions, Serranos, Curry leaves and Pandanus cook until light brown.
Add Cinnamon, Scotch Bonnet and Prawns mix.
Cover and leave for 10 minutes on low heat.


Sri Lankan Potato Stir-Fry

500gm potato
80gm Brown Onion
2 branches Curry leaves
2 cm Pandanus leaf
1 ½ tbls Scotch Bonnet
2 Green Serranos
3 tbls Rice Bran Oil
½ tsp salt
Peel the potatoes and cut into 2 cm cubes
Boil the Potatoes with ½ tsp Salt until the Potatoes are soft.
Cut the Serranos open and dice onion 1cm.
Fry the Onion and Serrano over medium heat with Rice Bran oil, Curry leaves and Pandanus leaves until brown.
Add the Scotch Bonnets and stir, then add the potatoes.
Leave it cooking on low Heat for 5 mins , serve.


Seeni Sambal

1kg Brown Onions
2 tbls ground scotch Bonnets
2 cm piece Cinnamon quill
5 cm Pandanus leaves
2 branches of Curry leaves
1 ½ tsp Palm sugar
2 Cardamom Pods
3 ½ tbls Rice Bran Oil
½ tsp salt
Cut the Onions into small pieces, cut the Pandanus leaves into 3 pieces.
Fry 3 tbls Onion pieces in the oil until light brown.
Add Scotch Bonnets, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Pandanus leaves, Salt, Curry leaves to the rest of the onion and mix it well by hand.
Add the mix to the pot with the 3 tbls of Fried onion pieces and pan fry over low heat until it’s light brown.
As soon you see that the mix turns completely red, add the sugar, stir it well and take the pot off the fire.


Mango Chutney
1kg Green Mango
Water to boil the mango
2 tbls Chilli powder
1/3 tsp Turmeric
¼ tsp Salt
1 cm Cinnamon
3 Cardamom pods
2 branches Curry leaves
3 cm Pandanus leaves
2 tbls Palm sugar
80 gm Brown onion
3 tbls Rice Bran Oil
Peel and wash mango, remove seed and cut Mango to little 1cm wide strips.
Put Mango in small pot, add Turmeric, Chilli powder, Salt and bring to boiling point, then simmer on low heat until the Mango gets soft (around 20 minutes).
Cut Brown onion in small pieces.
Put oil in pan and heat, add Onions, curry leaves, Pandanus, Cinnamon, Cardamom and fry until light brown.
Add boiled Mango and Palm sugar to the pan.
Simmer on low fire for 5 minutes.