Imagine yourself by the beach, in the warm tropical sun along the coast, or driving through the lush green forests as you step inland with scenic views anywhere you set your eyes, wondering how this lovely pear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean offers you a glimpse of paradise so far away from home. Well, not only does Sri Lanka offer you a feast for your eyes, it leaves you well and truly satisfied be it through the visuals or the gastronomic symphony this bountiful land offers.
At Copper Ceylon, we aim to put our best plate forward with dishes from the homeland that represent the true nature of our cuisine, one where food is treated with great respect, and gratitude for the ingredients that are found in abundance. Sri Lankan cuisine is a marriage of these flavours, with spices, rice and coconut coming together with the traditions of our ancestors and the love for creating memories with friends and family.
To give you a taste of what your palate can expect from this cultural hotbed of flavours, we have carefully chosen five dishes that epitomizes the true essence of Sri Lankan cuisine.
Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambol)
Ask any proud Sri Lankan and they won’t hesitate to tell you how dear to their hearts this dish is. What is essentially a condiment, the sambol dons various hats, and this ensemble has the omnipresent coconut playing the lead role in the mouth-watering staple. Typically eaten with rice and lentil curry (dhal), this sambol is made with freshly grated coconut, shallots, red dried chillies which are ground together on a grinding stone to create a bright orange mix which is topped off with a squish of lemon juice. The heat from the chillies is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the shallots and the coconut, and the tang from the lemon juice brings out the oomph this accompaniment is known for. What can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s really no way you can put this aside once you’ve tasted this delight.
Introduced to Sri Lanka by the Dutch, the lamprais (pronounced Lump rice) has amassed popularity as a Sri Lankan delicacy over the years. Lamprais packs quite a punch, insofar as it serves as an entire meal by itself. A traditional lamprais consists of short grain rice cooked with spices, a meat curry (usually a mix of chicken and beef), an aubergine relish (moju), an onion relish, a shrimp paste known as blanchan and frikadeller fish balls, (Yep! that’s a lot of meat), all of which are placed on a banana leaf, wrapped up in a parcel and steamed/baked. As exhausting as the list of ingredients sound, once this lamprais is cooked and the parcel is opened, the aromas that greet you sure makes the mouth water. This one calls for a very hungry belly, so be sure to work up an appetite should you decide to give this a shot.
Sour Fish Curry (Ambulthiyal)
One can’t envision an island if there wasn’t a dish that had fish swimming in a curry which truly encapsulates the flavours of Sri Lanka. What gives this dish its sour character, is a local spice called Goraka, which when paired
with black pepper (another spice found in abundance), provides a punch worthy of driving away any seasonal flu that may hinder your taste buds. The fish that finds itself in this curry can either be tuna, kingfish or yellowfins. A dish cooked using traditional clay pots lined with banana leaves, is served with rice or flatbreads, is a must have for those venturing into this sea of Sri Lankan flavour.
Jaffna Mutton Curry
A curry that gets its name from the largest city in the North of the country, this mutton(goat)/lamb curry is somewhat a celebrity in Sri Lankan cuisine. A go-to for tourists and locals alike, this staple from the North offers a plate full of flavour that is drawn from the all in one curry powder which consists of 11 different spices mixed together and perfectly balanced, . This spicy curry pairs perfectly with rice and string hoppers and is guaranteed to keep those hunger pangs at bay. A simple yet flavour packed curry which will make you keep coming back for more.
Aubergine Relish (Wambatu Moju)
Taking a step back from all the spice and heat that usually accompanies Sri Lankan food, this vegetarian delight brings a tad bit sweetness to what is overall a savoury relish. The aubergine are cuts in strips and cooked with shallots, this pickled delight can be dished out as a condiment or as a star in its own feature served up with rice. A dish that is ubiquitous in every Sri Lankan household, the humble aubergine truly transforms itself into the perfect travel guide taking you on a journey through the country, placing itself tastefully on your palate as you savour the sweet and sour texture of this relish.