If you're a food-lover or simply a fan of experiencing a country through its wonderful variety of local kitchens, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has many surprises in store. This is a country that should be on your bucket list, with the friendliest locals, palm-fringed beaches, rich culture and, of course, delicious cuisine, including a myriad of treats from the sea, thick rich curries and feasts made from traditional recipes that dip into the local fresh produce. The kitchens and their creations are a veritable window into the culture of this incredible destination, so we asked our partners and local specialists, Creative Travel, to sum up the five dishes that you absolutely have to try while in Sri Lanka.
Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour Fish Curry)
Being a coastal destination, we had to include a fish dish in our top five. Sour fish curry is the staple for locals and a favourite with travellers who are partial to seafood. It is deep-fried, coated in a sweet and sour sauce, then lightly fried again with red onions and banana peppers. The sweet and sour paste that covers the large chunky pieces of fish is the most important part. Of all the spices used, including black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, pandan leaves and curry leaves, the dried goraka (a local fruit) is the star ingredient that adds the sour punch to the dish. The result is a wonderfully tangy fish dish, that is perfect served with a paratha (flatbread) or rice.
Coconut is widely used in Sri Lanka and one of the locals’ favourite way to use it is in appams. Imagine a pancake made with a slightly fermented concoction of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of sugar. This is Sri Lanka’s staple accompaniment to any dish. A tasty variation is Idiyappam, or ‘string hoppers’ which are appam in delicious noodle form.
Being a trading port, Sri Lanka has been influenced by a diversity of cultures, especially Dutch and it has a thriving Dutch Burgher community. The Burgher kitchens are famous for lamprais, a word that combines the two Dutch words for "lump" and "rice." It is a combination of meat curry, rice, sambol chili sauce with delicious spices such as cardamom, clove and cinnamon, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It’s often served with two frikkadels (Dutch-style meatballs), blachan (a shrimp paste) and brinjal. Delicious!
Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to avoid jackfruit while in Sri Lanka. Jackfruit is used in many different recipes depending on its degrees of ripeness. One of the most popular recipes is to cook unripe jackfruit, known as polos, with a blend of spices. Once cooked, it tastes a bit like chicken with a soft texture and savoury taste. The ripe fruit is called waraka and has a deliciously sweet but subtle taste.
Gotukola Sambol (Pennywort Salad)
The vast fields of leafy vegetables in Sri Lanka mean they’re a staple of the locals and gotukola is their tasty favourite. Gotukola Sambol is a salad or accompaniment made by finely slicing the gotukola, combining it with grated coconut meat, red onions and a few spices for seasoning. It’s delicious and so healthy!
These five dishes give you a quick insight into to the wonderful array of flavours and unique dishes that you can look forward to in Sri Lanka – from spicy curries to an array of tropical vegetables and an abundance of fish.
To find out more about a trip to Sri Lanka to experience this unique and fascinating country for yourself, call 020 8246 5300 or click here.