Malu Ambul Thiyal
Being an island nation in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean gives Sri Lankans access to readily available fresh seafood. There is no shortage of seafood dishes in the Lankan cuisine. One popular, must-try dish is the sour fish curry or malu ambul thiyal that is preferably made with fresh tuna, but bonito or mackerel could also be used as suitable alternatives. A load of native spices and a special ingredient – goraka (aka malabar tamarind) gives this dish its unique tangy flavour. Initially this hot, peppery dish was developed as a means to preserve fish in the south, but has now become a favourite picnic curry. It is often enjoyed in conjunction with either rice or pol roti (a flatbread made using coconut).
Another popular dish at gatherings is the lamprais. This is a dutch-burger influenced dish consists of the following: yellow rice, lampara curry, seeni sambol, fish cutlet, fried ash plantain curry, wambatu moju (eggplant) and fried boiled egg. The speciality of this dish lies in the fact it is cooked twice. First the rice and the entrees are cooked separately; the second time, the already-cooked constituents are wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in an oven to deliver a mouth-watering platter of lamprais.
One other dish that is an integral part of Sri Lankan cuisine is idiyappam (string hoppers). It is a light and easily digestible delicacy made of rice flour pressed into a noodle form and then steamed. This is a dish popular in south India and can be dated back to the first century AD. Idiyappam is generally served as a main course at breakfast or dinner together with curries. A simple yet coveted combination is with the ala hodi (potato curry), parippu (dhal) and spicy pol sambol (coconut sambol). In Sri Lanka, it is also sometimes consumed with coconut milk and sugar.
Polos Curry (Green Jack fruit Curry)
A favourite curry dish among locals and visitors is the polos curry – made from young jackfruit. The fact that this fruit is very hard to find outside Sri Lanka makes it a cherished dish for all. This seasonal tropical fruit is diced into bite-sized chunks and enhanced with a number of locally available spices including mustard seeds, turmeric, chilli powder, pandan leaves and curry leaf sprigs – another staple in the Lankan cooking. It has a unique starchy texture that is similar to that of cassava or potato and is a standard dish available at most restaurants.
Wambatu Moju (Eggplant Pickle)
The wambatu moju is a complex fusion of varied flavours. Prepared with the eggplant, this dish is bursting with flavour packed with several textures – a delightful pickle in your mouth. The bite-sized eggplant/ brinjal wedges are deep fried and then caramelized with a spoon of sugar, vinegar, red onions, green chilies, mustard seeds, chili powder and a hint of turmeric powder. While looks can be deceiving with this nearly blackened dish, the taste is an altogether different tale. It is ideally served with rice and curries.
Kiribath with Lunumiris
Kiribath is a coconut milk rice dish that is served at most Sri Lankan festivities; it is perfectly complemented by the spicy, tangy taste of the lunu miris (onions ground with chili powder and lime). The rice is cooked in thick coconut milk and served as pieces. This is one traditional dish that should not be missed.
The spicy relish called the pol sambol is prepared with grated coconut, onions, red chilli powder, lemon, salt and Maldive fish. This dish is a household favourite and goes well with any main course. It is also a common accompaniment with idiyappam and appa. In fact if you’ve not had the pol sambol, you’ve not experienced Sri Lanka in its entirety yet!