Rice and curry

Rice and curry is the de facto national dish of Sri Lanka, and as a generic term for how curry is served in parts of India & South Asia. The banal name hides a range of delicately spiced dishes.

A typical Sri Lankan rice and curry dinner will comprise the following:

  • A large bowl of rice, most often boiled, but frequently fried. Sometimes Kiribath, rice cooked in coconut milk, is served.
  • A curry of meat, most often chicken or fish but occasionally goat & lamb
  • Dahl, spiced lentils
  • A vegetable curry, perhaps of green beans, jackfruit or leeks.
  • Papadums, a thin crisp wafer made from legume or rice flour and served as a side dish.
  • Sambals, which are fresh chutney side dishes; they may include red onion, chili, grated coconut or lime juice, and are often the hottest part of the meal.

Apart from the rice, each bowl contains small portions, but as in most of tropical Asia, if a bowl is emptied, it is immediately refilled.

Although Sri Lankan food is similar to south Indian cuisine in its use of chilli, cardamom, cumin, coriander and other spices, it has a distinctive taste, and uses ingredients like dried Maldive fish which are local to the area. It is also much hotter than most south Indian cuisine, and many spicy Sri Lankan preparations are believed to be among the world's hottest in terms of chilli content. While native Sri Lankans are born into this cuisine and develop a healthy tolerance to spicy food, many visitors and tourists to the country often find the spiciness excessive. As a result, many local restaurants in developed and tourist areas offer special low-spice versions of local foods to cater to foreign palates, or have an alternative western menu for tourists.

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