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We’ve just returned from a fun filled 16 days on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. The food was fantastic, the people friendly, the markets chaotic, the temples serene, the mountains breathtaking, the wildlife plentiful and the weather ? Well, you can’t have everything, it was mostly hot, and at times very wet. 

 

Why Sri Lanka ? We loved time spent earlier this year in southern India, especially the food. Sri Lanka lies just off the southern tip of India and has been influenced over time by various invading Indian dynasties.  Often referred to as the spice Island, it’s been an important trading post for centuries. Other countries have also played their part in shaping Sri Lankan cuisine. The Portuguese arrived in the early part of the 16th century, the Dutch gained control in the 17th century, the British had control by 1815, and independence was proclaimed in 1948. Throughout these years, Chinese traders also contributed to the evolution of Sri Lanka. 

 

So, what’s the food like ? Delicious !

 

Our first night was spent at a homestay in the coastal city of Negombo. All day the rain bucketed down. It was difficult to go anywhere else, so we asked our hosts to provide dinner. Good move ! 

 

The rain let up long enough for a quick quick visit to the fish market, the first of several we’d see.

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Our hostess made 10 different dishes including a mango curry where I watched her pluck the fruit from the tree in the front yard. There was sour fish curry,  chicken curry, dal, several veggie curries, chutney, two rice and roti bread. The meal cost 900 rupees pp, or about $6. Gosh it was good. Lousy photo, some better ones to come.

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Thanks @Okanagancook, it’s good to be back !

@liuzhou, I bet it’s changed, the new name came into play in 1972 !

 

I had hired a driver for the next 9 days, and he would turn out to be a great choice. He loved his food, and knew his country well. 

But first, breakfast at our homestay.. It was simple and traditional, cooked with care. String hoppers, dal and coconut sambal with a cup of tea. The string hoppers are made with a rice flour soft dough, extruded through a special tool, then steamed. We fell in love with coconut sambal, a good thing too, as it’s ubiquitous in Sri Lanka.

736E346A-87F1-49FA-9651-38965C9CC17D.thumb.jpeg.f56eaa125ad0705f1152c62ba8b0be32.jpeg

The average serve is 8 of these for breakfast, you see 2 above. Meals are almost always served family style, so seconds are easy. 

 

Another common sight are king coconuts. Roadside stall holders will hack the top off for you and give you a straw to drink the cool liquid. You give the shell back and they will prize out the flesh, yum. 

6EBE62C7-43F3-4160-A77C-930AB975D619.thumb.jpeg.2e32ec01d13ea7e281439776b26837d5.jpeg

 

The roadside got wilder.

33527683-2F94-4654-B4AC-D3F47EEEA7BE.thumb.jpeg.a49000cea331fddd1f4dcdb489dd0137.jpeg

 

Lunch - Rice and curry is a favoured lunch meal all over the country. We ate with our driver at Chammy Restaurant in Anuradhapura. It’s a very local and typical Sri Lankan place, with two chefs cooking on the footpath in enclosed stations. Various curries are held in a display case. You can choose meat, chicken, fish, egg or veg. We chose vegetarian (one with egg) and were served three different veggie curries including jackfruit, okra and mixed veggies, dal, two hard boiled eggs, rice in a banana leaf lined basket and pappads. The local way to eat is with the fingers of your right hand. On our first full day here, we newbies used cutlery, that would change soon enough.

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Happy chef too...

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Thanks guys.

 

Rice and curry is a once a day thing for me, I can’t manage two, and a club sandwich was the only other choice at our resort. We’re the only guests which is kind of nice, out in the countryside by a lake,  3 dogs and a cat which made our porch their rendezvous spot, cows wandering through, apparently jackals (we didn’t see one) and lots of birds, plus a turtle.

The club sandwich wasn’t too bad, a British influence of course.

A1155127-B14E-412A-918B-C4655385AD09.thumb.jpeg.e42c80c1eb7c92afec25494b8ab8ed6c.jpeg

 

Interesting markings on this turtle.

0FC4B2C0-3718-4CC4-AEA2-37B580736D30.thumb.jpeg.ee30a5f4d2e87451b327ad5f7d6b2ab3.jpeg

 

This guy joined us after dinner, biggest stick insect I’ve seen in a while.

59F7C493-CEBC-4310-8F81-EDB9638BA4E4.thumb.jpeg.7c3f884ca40d90dc635e5404e22bd8f4.jpeg

 

Here’s another string hopper breakfast, this time with chicken curry, coconut sambal and dal, plus roti bread and coffee.

FC03D3F8-3B85-4C30-A3F7-AD2DEDA3DB07.thumb.jpeg.17463b6427feeea66440af4455b48d1b.jpeg

 

“Short eats” are another Sri Lankan institution. They can be eaten as a snack anytime, usually in the afternoon, are often fried and often served in carefully glued together exam papers. We enjoyed cheese and lentil roti, fish roti and vada (crunchy lentil balls). I didn’t get a photo of the food, but here’s the bag complete with the red markers pen.

372462D4-6DD4-468D-BB54-C402A16F5693.thumb.jpeg.17e390c327fa13b543e2f66cf6441d38.jpeg

 

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After a day spent exploring the huge ancient city site AND climbing more than a thousand steps to a mountain top temple, it’s a wonder  I could even sit in a chair to eat. But I did. We grabbed takeaway from the same restaurant Chammys, watching the chef prepare our kottu roti on the flat hot plate out on the footpath. He swirled on oil, a mix of chopped garlic, onion and other veggies, added chilli and turmeric powder and two eggs all the while stirring and frying. He then added several handfuls of shredded roti bread and went to work furiously chopping with two flat metal blades about 20 cm square. Makes a hell of a racket, tastes great. Too tired to take it out of the plastic, we dug in with forks after tipping on some of the black peppery sauce that came with it.

8C21AB1F-E6E4-42B1-995D-53CD2A02092E.thumb.jpeg.13a9f8a44d073a223aceb97b63373d09.jpeg

 

Passing by the next morning on our way out of town,  the closed restaurant showing the cooking stations out front. The families who own the business live above it.

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Breakfast in our resort (I use that term loosely there were only three cabins and a total of two staff) was another new Sri Lankan specialty.  Milk rice is made by cooking rice with coconut milk then pressing it into a tray to set, usually overnight. It’s cut into shapes, maybe a diamond maybe rectangular. Here it’s served with coconut sambal, onion relish, dal and roti. Amazing what this one young cook (who was also the receptionist and waiter) could prepare in a very basic kitchen. Sorry no photos of the kitchen.317D65C7-C918-4A0E-AB6F-2B6DFE8B9DB0.thumb.jpeg.ce1c856650859658df72f95575e347ab.jpeg

 

On our drives through the countryside we could pull into almost any thatched roof shop for tea or coffee. Someone would put the kettle on, someone else would rustle up a few plastic chairs and we’d sit under the shade of a tree. Handmade sweetmeats were sometimes offered. Sorry no photos I’m in them all !

 

Trincomalee is a beachside city on the east coast of Sri Lanka. The population is largely Tamil rather than Sinhalese like most of the rest of the country. The food is much closer to South Indian in style and spice. The temples are Hindu rather than Buddhist. 

There’s a smattering of backpacker type beachfront bars where we devoured  a snack of fried cashews with garlic and curry leaves. The locally brewed Lion beer is an easy drinking lager and I like the artwork.

B71C51BB-F38F-448B-A408-9CA4859F0200.thumb.jpeg.b2b40a95fcb98004e743370ef5567923.jpeg94704080-1010-4794-A505-9DEFA7913008.thumb.jpeg.52157932bb6e0c4d1566c7df49948e77.jpeg

 

Here’s a familiar dinner, for me masala dosa filled with spicy potato, served with coconut chutney, tomato chutney and dal. For husband M, flaky paratha with chicken curry. Very South Indian and perhaps the spiciest food we had in Sri Lanka.

D65D6F6B-4A2D-405D-9405-3147FCBDC3AE.thumb.jpeg.59c45b04377f2d2c5ab5a95e45ea83d2.jpeg

 

This restaurant is huge, seats at least 200, it’s next door to the Haryana Kovil (Hindu temple) just north of Trinco. The food was divine, and so cheap, less than $2.50 with a big bottle of water.

20FF1845-DCDD-4AB5-8376-8458D19AC4DD.thumb.jpeg.13b4ea13cb7f498eb5f8a23578cd3dce.jpeg

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Thanks @Kerala. Not as many photos this time...but some will really make you hungry later !

 

We stayed in a large beachfront hotel at Uppavalli beach a few kilometres north of Trinco. To my surprise on our second morning they provided only western breakfasts. I shamed them into providing Sri Lankan food, so they found some milk rice, dal, chicken curry and coconut sambal, probably left over from the staff brekkie. It was good anyway.

53619FF5-5F92-46F5-B9CA-D2AAF1E43FEB.thumb.jpeg.79f5335d14f338353106012c897b344f.jpeg

 

Trinco has a fish market, a fruit and veggie market, and lots of these shops selling dried fish and chillies.

C1A9A4FE-0FAA-4582-9870-6867CC31654C.thumb.jpeg.d25127b4712bcd4747d8020d20b12d4f.jpeg

 

 

Our driver arranged dinner at a fisherman’s house in a village about 30 minutes drive away. This turned out to be the worst meal of the trip and was relatively expensive. We had special dispensation to take beer to this Muslim home,. On arrival, I realised I’d forgotten it (she who must remember everything). The food was awful, a whole steamed fish with flesh the colour (and taste) of mud, some over cooked fried white fish cutlets, stir fried and tasteless unshelled small prawns, rubber band-like calamari, okay crabs (but small, so fiddly and not nearly enough oomph in the sauce), pretty good rice and a bunch of bananas. We were surprised when the guy asked for 5000 rupees, but handed over the cash not wanting to offend . We knew we’d paid too much, and on the drive home consoled ourselves with thoughts of a cold beer waiting in our mini fridge. Except M had turned the temp control down low to get it really cold, a couple hours before dinner. The beer was frozen, bugger.

F94ACBD3-8F06-4425-9845-D8DD33184E65.thumb.jpeg.504dd056b94cc8f1cabd00fa8c47b266.jpeg

 

 

On the drive to Sigiriya there are road side stalls selling fresh curd with honey (actually palm treacle). It’s a buffalo milk curd served in a single use terracotta pot drizzled with dark brown gooey sweet stuff, absolutely delish.

 

Lunch in Sigiriya was rice and curry, a good one. We were on our own and found a restaurant in the main street that also sold beer, bonus. On the table today, two fried spring rolls (a Chinese influence) pappads, bean curry, potato curry, mallum of the day, mango curry, dal and of course rice. Mallum is made with shredded leaves, coconut, onion and spices including chilli, Maldive fish and turmeric. Any of a variety of leaves are used for this dish, these are gotukul, a type of cress and said to be good for health. This was a yummy meal for 1600 rupees (not including beer).

25B5FBEE-D855-4958-A715-E9F663CE7532.thumb.jpeg.be425dc0e9c57c00d460edf4730f9309.jpeg

 

 

Our driver picked us up in town in a jeep with another guy driving.  We saw these guys, a fantastic day.

CE2969AF-4749-4B01-AC96-DCD4CB9BF66F.thumb.jpeg.0f4bea9e5cdd378af3289d5315d3cdbb.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks @kayb.

 

Our accomodation in Sigiriya was suggested by D (D for driver) and was terrific in many respects, a fabulous view of Sigiriya (lions) rock, modern comfy room and the best breakfast yet. On our second mornings breakfast there we had to move to a larger table to accommodate all the dishes. There were string hoppers, fried eggs, green onion roti, coconut sambal, potato curry, chicken curry, green bean curry and some fresh fruit. There’s hot water in the pink thermos and tea or coffee bags.

FE344A2D-8BE5-4180-8619-430D5012FFB7.thumb.jpeg.e0d9bfe2912bc2a8eb7a981073042faf.jpeg

 

We ate here one night as well, Chinese influenced noodles with veggies and an egg on top, plus homemade spring rolls, no photo. The kitchen was gleaming stainless steel any chef would be proud of, again no photos.

 

Dambulla has the largest wholesale fruit and veggie market in the country. There’s 3 huge industrial spans covering rows of shop fronts, room for the trucks to get in, unload and get out, gaunt men carrying 40 kilo sacks on their backs and all manner of interesting produce. We wandered for close to an hour trying not to get in the way of men working and trucks moving. Buyers and sellers were clearly negotiating hard, yet still happy to engage the foreign tourists. Sri Lanka is one of the friendliest countries we’ve been to.

0076A74C-CEB8-40CF-A104-090228C938FC.thumb.jpeg.d94bcfd315caf5c08a06a1a9b22dd8d2.jpeg

152A5D66-CACD-4215-9E2C-8506182A5F93.thumb.jpeg.82e1ecfce9a3381be9da4758c0e4e607.jpeg

 

How’s the size of these long gourds ?

F641E677-CECF-472E-9376-79B033CECC68.thumb.jpeg.9de5eb834202c986ee8b8c2fd22c8932.jpeg

 

Anyone know what these are ? I did ask D, his answer was vague and I’m not certain correct.

C287AC7D-CD10-4977-B151-E3B303A572F3.thumb.jpeg.3934a567fc97af3b0b7371d06b3cdd2c.jpeg

 

Can you guess what those things in the sack are ? I got a taste, (clue, they’re not olives).

E76F8D3C-3FD2-4C3C-9733-963393BB5829.thumb.jpeg.fae550616b66e8c6b64917b0f580239e.jpeg

 

 

Dambulla also has a famous cave temple https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dambulla_cave_temple dating from the 2nd century BC. It’s stunning - 332 steps later. Yes, I counted them. Great views of the surrounding countryside too.

4B8AC037-609B-482A-BA00-1E915EAD33C9.thumb.jpeg.d5ef03ac363a1396245d56528402933c.jpeg

 

 

 

Edited by sartoric
Fix gaps. (log)
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3 hours ago, sartoric said:

Thanks @kayb.

 

Our accomodation in Sigiriya was suggested by D (D for driver) and was terrific in many respects, a fabulous view of Sigiriya (lions) rock, modern comfy room and the best breakfast yet. On our second mornings breakfast there we had to move to a larger table to accommodate all the dishes. There were string hoppers, fried eggs, green onion roti, coconut sambal, potato curry, chicken curry, green bean curry and some fresh fruit. There’s hot water in the pink thermos and tea or coffee bags.

FE344A2D-8BE5-4180-8619-430D5012FFB7.thumb.jpeg.e0d9bfe2912bc2a8eb7a981073042faf.jpeg

 

We ate here one night as well, Chinese influenced noodles with veggies and an egg on top, plus homemade spring rolls, no photo. The kitchen was gleaming stainless steel any chef would be proud of, again no photos.

 

Dambulla has the largest wholesale fruit and veggie market in the country. There’s 3 huge industrial spans covering rows of shop fronts, room for the trucks to get in, unload and get out, gaunt men carrying 40 kilo sacks on their backs and all manner of interesting produce. We wandered for close to an hour trying not to get in the way of men working and trucks moving. Buyers and sellers were clearly negotiating hard, yet still happy to engage the foreign tourists. Sri Lanka is one of the friendliest countries we’ve been to.

0076A74C-CEB8-40CF-A104-090228C938FC.thumb.jpeg.d94bcfd315caf5c08a06a1a9b22dd8d2.jpeg

152A5D66-CACD-4215-9E2C-8506182A5F93.thumb.jpeg.82e1ecfce9a3381be9da4758c0e4e607.jpeg

 

How’s the size of these long gourds ?

F641E677-CECF-472E-9376-79B033CECC68.thumb.jpeg.9de5eb834202c986ee8b8c2fd22c8932.jpeg

 

Anyone know what these are ? I did ask D, his answer was vague and I’m not certain correct.

C287AC7D-CD10-4977-B151-E3B303A572F3.thumb.jpeg.3934a567fc97af3b0b7371d06b3cdd2c.jpeg

 

Can you guess what those things in the sack are ? I got a taste, (clue, they’re not olives).

E76F8D3C-3FD2-4C3C-9733-963393BB5829.thumb.jpeg.fae550616b66e8c6b64917b0f580239e.jpeg

 

 

Dambulla also has a famous cave temple https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dambulla_cave_temple dating from the 2nd century BC. It’s stunning - 332 steps later. Yes, I counted them. Great views of the surrounding countryside too.

4B8AC037-609B-482A-BA00-1E915EAD33C9.thumb.jpeg.d5ef03ac363a1396245d56528402933c.jpeg

 

 

 

 

I'll never again feel bad when I leave a zucchini to get too big in the garden.  Those gourds are huge!

 

I stared at the olive-like things for a long time....some kind of grape came to mind, but I know that's not right.  

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I just realized that on our last trip to Singapore, I had string hoppers for breakfast!  They were part of the hotel's breakfast buffet - but they weren't labeled -I didn't know they were Sri Lankan - I actually thought they were like Thai khanon jeen or something - but they were always served with an Indian veg curry or something else.  I loved them!

 

But, personally, if health was not a concern, I'd be having roti with chicken curry every day... it's too bad roti are so bad for you... but oh are they good!

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The gourds are snake gourds, I think.  I don't know what the little green things are. My wife and I lived in Sri Lanka in the early seventies, when the country was economically depressed, and no foreign products were available.  We were students and living on a shoestring.  We did splurge on a jar of Polish cherries at Xmas.  They weren't very good, but they seemed like something special. I remember going to the market one day and seeing a barrow piled high with huge green things, not quite the size of unhusked coconuts, but getting there. I asked the vendor what they were, and received the unintelligible reply "bataprut".  Not knowing what that meant or what to do with them I passed them by. Years later we were talking about local fruits to a friend in India & we were surprised to learn that avocados were grown there. We LOVE avocados.  Our friend told us that they have them for dessert with cream and they called them "Butter Fruit".

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3 hours ago, KennethT said:

But, personally, if health was not a concern, I'd be having roti with chicken curry every day... it's too bad roti are so bad for you... but oh are they good!

 

Are they that bad really ? They’re only rice flour, coconut and water...cooked in a smear of ghee.

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2 hours ago, KootenayCook said:

I would say the one above is betel nuts. Cf. http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Betel_Nut_10564.php

 

 

I think you’re right @KootenayCook. When I asked the driver that’s what he said, but when I googled betel nuts they looked different. It makes sense, to the left are bundles of the leaves they use to wrap the chewing package. Well done. 

 

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2 hours ago, KootenayCook said:

The gourds are snake gourds, I think.  I don't know what the little green things are. My wife and I lived in Sri Lanka in the early seventies, when the country was economically depressed, and no foreign products were available.  We were students and living on a shoestring.  We did splurge on a jar of Polish cherries at Xmas.  They weren't very good, but they seemed like something special. I remember going to the market one day and seeing a barrow piled high with huge green things, not quite the size of unhusked coconuts, but getting there. I asked the vendor what they were, and received the unintelligible reply "bataprut".  Not knowing what that meant or what to do with them I passed them by. Years later we were talking about local fruits to a friend in India & we were surprised to learn that avocados were grown there. We LOVE avocados.  Our friend told us that they have them for dessert with cream and they called them "Butter Fruit".

 

Yes, snake gourds or long gourds. Sri Lanka would have been frontier like in the 70’s, what an amazing experience. 

 

Later in the trip we heard butter fruit mentioned. We were with a young woman who quickly googled and translated it to avocado. Butter fruit makes sense, no ? Ties in nicely to the answer to my mystery sacked object....they’re tiny avocados.

 

 

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I was under the impression that roti are a form of laminated dough - where there the flour and water are stretched very thinly, then margarine applied , then rolled into a snake, then coiled into a disk.  This disk is then fried on a flat top (in ghee or margarine) or sometimes grilled... but any type of dough type thing that is that flaky always has lots of fat - that's how you get that flakiness - during cooking, the fat melts, and the water in the dough turns to steam separating into layers.

 

ETA: Sorry, after some research, I realized that I incorrectly assumed that the roti typical in Sri Lanka were the same as the roti prata found in Singapore - they looked similar from the pictures... but I now realize that they are very different, with totally different ingredients and methods...

Edited by KennethT (log)
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        "Grazie!" I thanked her for the reminder. The midday sun started to become unbearable. The streets had cleared with only a few tourists braving the midday heat still around. I thought about the strawberries I bought from the market earlier that week. Strawberries for lunch on my shaded balcony and maybe a nap afterwards sounded like my perfect riposo. The pasta will have to wait till 4.
               
           
    • By KennethT
      OK.... here we go again!!!  While this post is a bit premature (we don't take off until around 1:30AM tonight), I am extremely excited so I figured I'd just set up the topic now.  As in previous foodblogs, I may post a bit from time to time while we're there, depending on how good my internet connection is, and how much free time I have... but the bulk of posting will really get started around July 9th - the day after we get home (hopefully without too much jetlag!!!)
    • By KennethT
      Happy New Year!  I'm sitting at the gate waiting for my flight from Saigon to NYC connecting through Taipei so I figured this would be a good opportunity to get started... But this is just the intro- the rest will gave to wait until I land about 22 hours from now, sleep for about 12 hours, then get my photos in order! We had a great week enjoying beautiful weather, taking in the frenetic yet relaxed street life and eating some amazing local food...
      Our flight here was on EVA Airline and was very pleasant and uneventful. Our flight from Nyc to Taipei left around 12:20 AM on the 24th. I love those night flights since it makes it very easy to get a decent amount of sleep, even in coach. EVAs food is quite good eith both Chinese and western choices for dinner and breakfast, and they came through several times with snacks such as a fried chicken sandwich with some kind of mustard. I think I had 4 of them!
      Once I get home, I'll continue posting with pics from our feast in the Taipei airport.... Spoiler: those who have read my Singapore foodblog from July may see a slight trend...

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