Often referred to as a watered down India, Sri Lanka has more variations of food than Jimmy Saville has (insert sick joke here). However the comparison is noticeable, with many spices, curry leaves, and fresh veg, all often growing in a Sri Lankans back garden. For this reason I’m finding it difficult where to start on my first food post in Sri Lanka, as after 9 days in the country if I were to write about everything I’ve eaten to date, I think I’d be here forever.
So I’ll start by writing what generally consists of a Sri Lankans typical daily meal, and some of the best we’ve had to date.
Breakfast – String Hoppers
Us English love it, the full monty, fry up, the works, call it what you like, but this traditional Sri Lankan truckers brecko is very different to our Bacon & Sausage.
The staple of a Sri Lankan breakfasts comes in the form of what appear to be noodles, these are called String Hoppers. String Hoppers are different to noodles, as they are made with rice flour as opposed to wheat flour. The flour is mixed with water, salt, then pressed through a machine to give this light noodle.
This is then served with a curry, different to the English curries as the Sri Lankan curries are often more watery, and less meaty, the sauce almost acting as moisture to soak in to the noodles. Some of the best curries I’ve eaten with my String Hoppers include a Dhaal curry, fish curry, and a pumpkin curry.
So far, in essence, what we have is a curry and rice, this is where the Sri Lankans turn it up a notch, and make it that bit more special. This is now served with what is called a Coconut Sambol, which is fresh coconut, grated, mixed with lime, chilli, and coriander. Mix together with your curry, and often a red onion chutney, and you have a String Hopper breakfast. As you may notice, this is quite a large breakfast, and costs around 300 rupees (£1.50)
Lunch – Curry & Rice
So you’ve had your ridiculously tasty breakfast, what do you fancy for lunch, how’s about some more curry?? I was surprised to find that Sri Lankans often eat their main meal for their lunch, this can often take up to 4 hours to prepare. Being an island just south of India, the waters are full of fresh seafood, and the Sri Lankans eat a lot more seafood than they do meat. Some of our tastiest seafood curries so far include a Seer fish curry, which is a big chunky tuna like fish, and a prawn curry, big juicy prawns, skin on, head on, the lot, all adding to the flavour of the sauce.
Sri Lankan curries are often made by making a paste out of spices, mixing with coconut milk, adding fresh curry leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, and chillies, then poaching the fish gently until cooked tender. Unfortunately us westerners get ourselves everywhere, so you tend to find that the standard curry is dubbed down for the western palate, this can often be sorted by asking for it spicy, or as they would eat it. The beauty of these curries, are that generally everything comes from their own backgarden, from the pumpkins, to the curry leaves, to the fresh papayas they serve afterwards.
The rice is boiled along with fresh curry leaves (a different more delicate type to the ones used in the curry) then served with the curry alongside poppadoms, and often some vegetable salad, one of my favourites includes aubergines, red onions, and tomatoes. Generally the rice and curries we have been eating have cost between 200 and 500 rupees (£1 – £2.50)
Anyway, less rambling, here are some pics of some of our best curries to date.
Tea (or dinner to you posh folk) – Rotti / Kotthu Rotti
Before I came to Sri Lanka, I had absolutely no idea what a Rotti was, however in this lovely country, these Rotti shacks are the equivalent to our corner shop. All freshly made, a Rotti man rolls out a doughy pancake, stuffs with your choice of filling, ranging from chilli and onion, to bacon, fish or egg. These are then grilled on a grilled pan, and served chopped in to little pieces. It is pretty normal to order 1 or 2 of these for your evening meal. My experience of Rottis are…..they are either very tasty, or very bland, again asking for extra chilli and as the Sri Lankans have it helps. A Rotti will generally cost between 100 and 200 rupees (50p – £1). Another slight variation of this Rotti is a Kotthu Rotti, this involves frying the pancake first, then grilling altogether with the filling of your choice, often fish/chicken, rice and vegetables. The sound of the chopping on the grill echoes around the street. A Kotthu Rotti will cost about 300 rupees (£1.50).