Rice and Curry
Hoppers, Kiribath and Watalappan aren’t words commonly heard in Australia, because many of us are yet to uncover the culinary delights of Sri Lanka. That looks set to change though, with an increasing number of food-lovers becoming privy to the country’s rich food culture. Journeys centred around the island’s vibrant epicurean experiences are now being offered by many touring companies such as Abercrombie & Kent, World Expeditions and Intrepid. Nathalie Craig reveals some of the food experiences not to miss when travelling in Sri Lanka.
A staple item you will see on menus across the country is ‘rice and curry’. A description which greatly underplays what you’re about to be served. Get ready for a heaped plate of rice with up to 15 accompaniments. These usually include an assortment of intensely flavoured meat, fish and vegetable curries along with dahl, pickles, sambols and pappadums. Sri Lankan curries are largely coconut based, brought to life with fresh curry leaves, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, fenugreek, cardamom and generous amounts of fiery chilli. Traditionally these dishes are eaten by hand, with locals taking a ball of rice with their fingertips then gently mixing it with the spiced accompaniments. The technique is efficient, clean and looks deceptively easy. When travelling through Sri Lanka I tried it for myself in a local curry house, and my attempt came off rather ungracefully. While I strove to eat by hand throughout my journey, the locals are always more than happy to give foreigners cutlery. In a buzzing Colombo cafe while watching the life of island’s capital go by.