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      Sri Lanka – Taste cuisine taken to the extreme

      Sri Lankan cuisine is truly unique, based on the recipes of the peoples who have colonised these lands over the ages, notably the Indians, Arabs, Portuguese and Dutch. The basic ingredients of all Sri Lankan dishes are the excellent varieties of vegetables and fruit grown in the island’s gardens.

      Rice, fish, curry

      The most popular dish in Sri Lanka is undoubtedly curried rice. Small side dishes are served with the main courses on separate plates. One of these is pol sambol – a mixture of grated coconut, chilli peppers and other spices, which you can add to curries in case you find it insufficiently spicy. Other garnishes are various kinds of vegetables, as well as pieces of beef, mutton or fish. Curry is also made without any meat, only bananas, mango, potatoes, pumpkin and breadfruit. Another vegetarian dish is curry with legumes – peas, lentils, etc. There are so many types of curries cooked in Sri Lanka that everyone can choose according to their own preferences. Of all the rice types, the tastiest is red husked rice. The basic elements of curry mixtures are spices – cinnamon, turmeric, chilli and the leaves of the Pandanus veitchii palm. Coconut milk, garlic or a mixture of ground herring can also be used to prepare dishes.

      Most other Sri Lankan specialities have fish and seafood as their main ingredients. They are often served with chips and various salads. Some of the most popular dishes of this type are crabs prepared in various ways, as well as ambul thiyal, a delicious tuna sauce.

      Another traditional dish is the hopper – a flame-fried omelette, most often served for breakfast or dinner. String hoppers are small, steamed noodle lumps and pittu is a mixture of shaved coconut and rice. Very popular are also dishes like lamprai – rice cooked in hard meat soup and then baked in banana leaves, along with meat and vegetables. The traditional lunch in Sri Lanka is made up of so-called short-eats – a plate full of chunks and flat meatballs, Chinese rolls and various baked goods.

      One of the rules of dining etiquette in Sri Lanka is not to use cutlery, but only your hands to eat, as Sri Lankans are convinced that this is the only way to fully enjoy the taste of food. A must-have item is therefore the water bowls for washing hands, brought after each dish.

      Sweets

      Sweets and various desserts are also among Sri Lankans’ favourite dishes. The most famous are wattalappam (a caramel-flavoured milk pudding), kiri peni (sweet cheese with honey), jaggery (boiled palm-kernel syrup), kavun (a pancake made from a mixture of flour and molasses, fried in coconut oil), aluva (caramel cream with cashew nuts) and kiri bath (rice pudding dessert for children). Fruits of all kinds, which grow in Sri Lanka in large quantities, can also make an excellent dessert. Try avocados, melons, papaya, red bananas, mangoes of all shapes, with different tastes and flavours.

      Drinks

      Sri Lanka has gained worldwide fame mainly due to its teas, which are exported to many countries. Sri Lankans drink an infusion of tea leaves mixed with milk and sugar. The local coffee doesn’t have much of a reputation, and its taste, strange from our point of view, will probably disappoint you, perhaps except for coffee served in luxury hotels. You can taste freshly squeezed lemon juice, but ask that mineral water or soda be used instead of tap water to dilute it. In Sri Lanka you can usually buy non-alcoholic drinks such as Coca-Cola. You can also try the local ginger beer or thambili – the juice from an orange-coloured variety of coconut. Beer is quite expensive, and during the full moon celebrations every month of the year, its sale is prohibited. A very popular drink with the locals is toddy, a kind of must made from coconuts, all natural. From toddy an extremely strong alcohol, called arak, of various types and varying quality is produced by fermentation. Arak is mainly used as an ingredient in the preparation of cocktails.

      Traditional Sri Lankan recipes

      Curry with eggplant and sesame

      Ingredients

      6 small aubergines, 100 g sesame seeds roasted and finely ground, ¼ cup tamarind juice, 1 medium onion finely chopped, ½ tsp garlic paste, ½ tsp ginger paste, salt to taste, chilli to taste, ½ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp ground cumin, a few curry leaves, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 cube coconut sugar, oil.

      Method of preparation

      Wash and dry the aubergines with a kitchen towel. Make two long slits so that they open like petals, then sauté in oil until they change colour and have softened. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil. Heat a little oil in a wok pan, add the cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Sauté for about ½ minute, then add the onion and cook until golden brown. Add garlic and ginger paste, sesame seeds, salt, chilli pepper, turmeric, coriander, coconut sugar and tamarind juice. Cook over medium heat for five minutes. Add the blanched aubergines and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with Indian chappati bread or a side of boiled rice.

      Sea bass juice

      Ingredients

      Peeled and seeded lard cut into smaller pieces, 2 tablespoons honey (or sugar), juice of half a lemon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg.

      Method of preparation

      Put all the ingredients in the blender and mix well. Serve immediately. If we didn’t have time to leave the sea bass in the fridge, ice cubes can be added to the blender.

      Author – Mariana Constandache

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