A fiery celebration of the flavours in paradise
A meal of rice and curry comes in a spectrum of combinations and flavours. The staple food of the island brings the fiery essence and the craft of Sri Lankan cuisine to your table.
Sri Lankan cuisine is truly a festival of colours and flavours. A meal is never a single dish but a central rice portion with tantalizing curries that balance each other out in terms of taste.
The delicate balance of taste and the bright colours of this unique cuisine can be traced back to as early as 250 BCE, where stone scripts, ancient texts together with palm (Ōla) leaf texts mention the knowledge of sophisticated agricultural practices and food preparations that appreciate intricacies of health and nutrition basis of foods.
What can you expect on your plate?
The mainstay here is, of course, the rice. The island grows more than 15 varieties of rice, from tiny white translucent varieties to long-grained basmati and the nutty red kakuluhaal.
Then comes the curries. A home meal will typically consist of a vegetable dish, a meat dish and a dhal or potato curry, which takes on a yellowish colour, and to top it all off, a Kolla mallum (a dish made of edible leaves mixed with some condiments) and spicy sambal. While the ingredients of the dishes can constantly change in combination, the balance of the flavours remains.
But the rice and curries offered in the island's finer hotels, guesthouses, and eateries have advanced well beyond this simple recipe, frequently consisting of a spectacular miniature banquet, with a plateful of rice accompanied by at least five, and occasionally as many as 15, side dishes.
These frequently include a gastronomic medley of diverse tastes and textures. The meat can range from chicken, pork and even goat and is generally a darker-coloured spicy curry, and the same can be said for seafood; however, they do come in a lighter curry depending on the spices used.
Then come the vegetables, cooked similarly but with a flavour variation through cooking time and spices used. It's fascinating that while many curries look slight the same to the untrained eye, each dish would stand alone with its flavours. Gently flavoured dishes of pineapple, aubergine, brinjal, plus servings of unusual local vegetables – anything from drumsticks (murunga, a bit like okra), ash plantain or jakfruit to other, more arcane regional foodstuffs, and of course the famous dhal curry.
When sitting down for typical rice and curry, you will notice that there is always a lighter or yellow curry generally made with potatoes or dhal. This curry is what balances out the other spicy curries and ties the meal together.
To top it off, a spoonful of mallum, a mix of finely chopped edible leaves with a bit of spice and vinegar. It is what you would call the salad component of the meal and does not go through any cooking process. Finally, a slap of sambal and a crunchy papadam adds that layer of surprising texture to the meal.
Ask any local; the best way to eat rice and curry is by using your hand. You serve the rice in the centre of the plate and then serve the curries on and around the rice. Make sure to drizzle a bit of extra curry on top of the rice. Finally, pick a spot on your plate where there's a little space, and you create a ball of rice with your fingers while picking little bits of the curries on your plate and mixing them into the rice. This might seem a bit messy and take some practice, but no cutlery can match the mixing prowess of the fingers, and it does taste that much better.
If you want to indulge in a perfectly balanced and flavoursome rice and curry meal, drop by any W15 Collection property and taste the flavours of paradise. For those wanting to learn more about the intricate art of making a Sri Lankan dish, we have a cooking demonstration available at selected properties.
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