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 Post subject: Sri Lankan Food
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:39 pm 
Sri Lankan Food

Sunday, January 22, 2006
@ Indian experss

Coconut gravies meet heady spices in the fiery Jaffna cuisine

By Jharna Thakkar

IF you’ve travelled the beaches and tea plantations of Sri Lanka, you’ve probably sampled the tastes of Jaffna. This spicy cuisine began its invasion of the island country as early as the 15th century, from its motherland, Tamil Nadu. Tamils, in fact, make up 18 per cent of the Sri Lankan population. Tamil is also one of the official languages of the country.

On the Jaffna peninsula (Yaalpaanam), in northern Sri Lanka, food traditions are characterised by an astonishing amount of resourcefulness. The soil is generally harsh and only arable in pockets. So, using local ingredients, Jaffna cuisine came into existence with Sri Lankan-Tamil influences.

Everywhere, from the arid fields of the peninsula to the concrete jungles of Colombo and hilly regions of Kandy, Sri Lanka exudes the smells of hot coconut chutneys, curries and saffron kheers.

A typical Jaffna meal consists of five components including rice—a Sri Lankan staple. Be it boiled or steamed, it is always served with a host of curries (most of which are coconut-based), starting with a main curry of fish, beef, chicken, mutton or vegetables
Non-vegetarian Sri Lankan curries are not confined to curried meat, but also include vegetables, pulses and lentils. Side dishes include pickles, chutneys, hoppers and sambols. Spicy sambols are made of ground coconut or onions, mixed with chillies, dried fish and lime juice. This pasty accompaniment gives an extra zing to the meal. It is also believed to increase the appetite.

To counteract that fiery aftertaste, there are the white curries. Mild and subtle in flavour, these are known as mallung. They’re made with finely shredded leaves mixed with grated coconut, chopped red onions and lime juice, all lightly cooked over gentle heat. A variety of leaves, including mint, cilantro and common curry leaves, are used to prepare a mallung, and each has its own distinct flavour.

The most unique of all the accompaniments are the hoppers, which are equivalent of our rotis or appams. A regular hopper is quite small and shaped like a bowl, fired over a high flame and served with various accompaniments in the middle—an egg, milk, honey or yogurt, even processed cheese. Another type is the steamed vermicelli-esque string hopper made of rice flour.

Sri Lanka’s best sweet satiator is kavun. It is a delicious oil cake made with rice flour and treacle, deep-fried to a golden brown. They also do their version of kheer—kiribath is made from boiled rice soaked in sweetened milk, and is served on auspicious occasions.

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