Want to learn about Sri Lankan cuisine? Take a virtual trip to this South Asian country with Eroshan Meewella, co-founder of Kolamba in London’s Soho. Try Kolamba’s parippu recipe here, then read our review of Kolamba.
Eroshan and Aushi Meewella, co-founders of Kolamba in Soho, raided the recipe books of friends and family members back in Colombo (Kolamba), where they grew up, for their restaurant. Their dishes are a mixture of multi-cultural recipes from Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Dutch and Malay influences, just as you’d find on the island itself.
The famous crispy pancake. These savoury bowl-shaped pancakes are usually eaten for breakfast. They come plain, with an egg cracked into the centre (we love ours runny rather than hard) or even sweet with coconut milk and treacle. They are messy – rip and dip – enjoyed with traditional curries (such as chicken), and are also immensely tricky to make. Don’t be fooled by the ready-made mixes, there is an age-old process to making these small crispy delights, starting with sifting and pounding the rice to make it into rice flour.
2. Iced coffee
It’s 30C and constantly humid in the tropics, and this drink is a decadence in a glass – sweet condensed milk flavoured with coffee and a splash of rum (we are a tropical island after all!) makes the best afternoon pick-me-up. Look out for those that use local coffee brand Tusker.
3. Vegetable curries
These range from gotu kola (aka centella, a round-leaved leafy green common in Sri Lanka), bitter gourd and snake gourd to mango curry. The Sri Lankan diet is heavily vegetarian (and often naturally vegan) as that’s just how we eat, given we are a predominantly Buddhist island nation and most people either can’t afford meat or don’t eat it. We often eat them with accharru, a pickled mix of fruit and vegetables with chilli.
King coconuts, a variety native to Sri Lanka with a yellow-orange exterior that are freshly harvested, cut open at the top, and served with a straw. Trips to local beach clubs are not complete without one of these, and they are sold from roadside stalls.
5. String hoppers
Not be confused with hoppers, a lot of people don’t know about these but they are an absolute favourite of ours. A delicate rice-flour noodle piped into lacy discs and steamed. They offer a lighter alternative to rice and the other carbs we eat, and are perfect to pair with any curry.
These wax apples are a childhood favourite and grow on trees everywhere. Like apples they have a shiny skin and come in a range of colours, from white to varying shades of red. But they are nothing like apples and have a high water content which makes them very refreshing – perfect eaten with salt and chilli.
I don’t think any aunty’s house is quite right without an offering of cutlets. These are arancini-style balls of spiced potato and fish (usually), breadcrumbed and deep-fried until golden. They appear at afternoon teas, on birthday party tables or are eaten as a ‘just come home from school’ treat.
8. Milk toffee
This is like a kind of fudge, again made with condensed milk and often flavoured with cashew nuts. Loved by kids and adults alike, and gifted particularly during Sinhala and Tamil new year.
9. Parippu (dahl)
We make ours with red split lentils cooked in coconut milk with a range of spices and curry leaves – a good dahl is a life-changing experience. So easy to make but so difficult to get right.
10. Pol sambol
This is our soul sprinkled on everything! It is sunshine on a plate and Lankans eat it for all three meals if given a chance. It is a muddle of freshly ground coconut, ground red chilli, salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.