Thursday 13 January 2011

Foodie highlights from Sri Lanka: Part 1

{pineapple and chilli at Galle Face}

Honey, I'm home...

Sri Lanka was one of those places I never thought I'd go to.  But boy oh boy am I glad I did.  The food was incredible, the landscape breathtaking and most of all the people were truly amazing.  Massive smiles everywhere you went.  Tuk tuk drivers that said you're welcome when you said no thank you.  It really was a piece of paradise.

{the crew at a beach in Yala National Park}
I took over a thousand photos on our two week holiday but instead of boring you with a typical post holiday slide show (which my very lucky family members will have to sit through) I thought I'd give you the Top 10 Foodie Highlights from Sri Lanka.

1. Curd and Treacle

Introducing the newest addition to my favourite dessert list: Curd and Treacle.  The curd is buffalo milk yoghurt - think of the creamy lusciousness of greek yoghurt then times that by a million and you have curd. Just as good as ice cream, I tell ya (and coming from someone who can eat ice cream for breakfast that's saying something!).  The milk is from water buffalo, so common in Sri Lanka, especially in the Tissamaharama area.  Buffalo milk has a much higher fat content than cows milk and more protein but is lower in cholesterol.  The milk is heated and mixed with some curd from an earlier batch to act as a culture.  Then it is set in earthenware containers and covered in paper.  It's sold in stacks along the side of the road for Rs150 per pot (that's USD$1.50!!).

The treacle isn't the normal treacle made of inverted sugar that you can get in the supermarkets, rather its Kithul Treacle made from palm sugar from the Kithul palm.  It's thick and syrupy with a hint of smokiness.  Kicks the butt off maple syrup.

The combination of tangy velvety curd with thick smoky treacle is simply heavenly.

I ordered it with every meal.  I wish I could've taken some home. Pet buffalo for next Christmas prez maybe?

Best curd and treacle: random road side restaurant in Tissa, curd made that day from water buffalos in the very fields we drove past.

2. Chilli Crab

Sri Lankan crabs are world famous for being meaty, succulent and sweet fleshed. I made it my personal mission to make sure I had crab on my trip.  Unfortunately, it wasn't crab season but I did manage to have this amazing crab dish from Park View,  a Sri Lankan-Chinese restaurant just outside our apartment in Colombo.

This was one of the very first meals I ate in Sri Lanks and one that I literally dreamed about for the rest of the trip.  The sauce was spicy and garlicky and the crab was sweet and utterly delicious.  I got sauce all over my face and up my arms, chowing in to this dish.  I woke up craving this dish.  Since I've come home I've spent hours googling possible recipes.  Hello, new food crush.

The dish was called Devilled Crab on the menu but having since ordered "devilled" everything throughout Sri Lanka and getting a very different sweet and sour sauce I'm not sure devilled is the most accurate name for it.  Therefore I am calling this Chilli Crab, since it's what I imagine Singapore Chilli Crab to be like.

Best Crab: If you ever go to Sri Lanka, or if you are in Colombo now, go to Park View, order this dish, and be happy.  Park View Chinese Restaurant, De Saram Place, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka.

3. Pineapple with Chilli

What a weird sounding combination right? Pineapple with chilli and salt?!  But trust me it totally works!

This little snack is sold in little stalls all along Galle Face (the main beach in Colombo) and all over Sri Lanka.  The heat and the saltiness just brings out the sweetness of the pineapple and in turn the sweetness and juiciness of the pineapple mellows out the chilli.  And all for around Rs20 a bag (USD$0.20)!

Best pineapple and chilli: From a street vendor while walking along Galle Face in Colombo.

4. Iced Coffee/ Nescafe

C and I are coffee addicts and just a bit coffee-snobby when it comes to a good espresso.  However, on our travels we've discovered that coffee by any other name is just as sweet.  Each place we travel to seem to have their own version of the humble cup of joe.

In Bali, it was thick sludgey Kopi served with evapourated milk, in Vietnam it was the drip coffee contraption with condensed milk, in Hong Kong it was the crazy blend of coffee and tea called Yin Yang.

And in Sri Lanka, the coffee beverage of choice was iced coffee.  Iced cold, tooth-achingly sweet with condensed milk and with enough of a caffine hit to kick start your day.  It was most easily found in Colombo but pretty much unheard of in smaller areas.  Not at all surprising in a tea-centric country previously known as Ceylon!  In fact, in Haputale (in the hill country) the waiter kindly put ice cubes in a pot of filter coffee when C ordered iced coffee!

Best iced coffee: Galle Face Green hotel in Colombo - ice cream just makes everything good.

5.  Kottu/Kothu

Or as we called it Sri Lankan Pad Thai.  Kothu is made of chopped up veges, meat and roti, all stir-fried and mixed together and served with a curry sauce/gravy.  You can hear the places that make kothu by the chop chop chop noises of metal hitting metal as the kothu is being cooked.  It's crammed with spices, flavoured with curry and very very tasty.

Best Kothu: Fish Kothu with fish gravy, at dinky little Eatmore restaurant, on a small side street in Galle Fort - humongous plates for around Rs140 (USD$1.40).

To be continued...


  1. I would totally recommend it! Had it not been for my friend's wedding we never would have gone but we had an amazing time!

  2. Singapore chilli crab is not like the dish you ate. Or rather, does not look like the dish you ate. It is also most often cooked with Sri Lankan crabs (ironically) but the gravy is more viscous, and more orangey in color. It goes real nice with the fried buns we call (man tou) as a side dish to dip the chilli sauce with. The sauce itself is sweet and spicy. You should try it in Singapore.

  3. I'm so glad you all enjoyed Sri Lanka. born and bred, now living in Belgium, if i dont go home every year, i itch and scratch :). all the food mentionned and also the simple "Rice and Curry" (you can either ask fish or meat if you like) is a mind opener for anyone who's dreaming of spicy yet simple food. from North to South you get a series of different food influenced by differnt cultures.
    we Sri Lankans are very hospitable, simple minded folk, who are protective of our culture and heritage, and are happy to help visitors. ok, there are some crazy idiots too :). but isn't there always?..



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