The cuisine of Sri Lanka draws influence from the colonists and foreign traders. Rice, which is usually consumed daily, can be found at any special occasion, while spicy curries are favorite dishes for dinner and lunch. A very popular alcoholic drink is toddy, made from palm tree sap. Arrack is the de-facto distilled national drink. Rice and curry refers to a range of Sri Lankan dishes.
Sri Lanka's cuisine mainly consists of boiled or steamed rice served with curry. Another well-known rice dish is Kiribath, meaning "milk rice." Curries in Sri Lanka are not just limited to meat- or fish-based dishes, there are also vegetable and even fruit curries. A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a "main curry" (fish, chicken, beef, pork or mutton), as well as several other curries made with vegetable and lentils. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and "sambols" which can sometimes be fiery hot. The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of ground coconut mixed with chillies, dried Maldive fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice, as it gives zest to the meal and is believed to increase appetite.
In addition to sambols, Sri Lankans eat "mallung", chopped leaves mixed with grated coconut and red onions. Coconut milk is found in most Sri Lankan dishes to give the cuisine its unique flavor.
Kiribath with lunumirisSri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. In the 15th and 16th centuries, traders from all over the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. Lamprais--rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied by "frikkadels" (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked--is a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish. Dutch and Portuguese sweets also continue to be popular. British influences include roast beef and roast chicken.
Sri Lankans use spices liberally in their dishes and typically do not follow an exact recipe: thus, every cook's curry will taste slightly different. Furthermore, people from different regions of the island (for instance, hill-country dwellers versus coastal dwellers) traditionally cook in different ways while people of different ethnic and religious groups tend to prepare dishes according to their customs. 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.
Sri Lankan food is generally much spicier 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. There is a liberal use of different varieties of scorching hot chillies such as amu miris, kochchi miris, and maalu miris (capsicum) among others. 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. It is generally acceptable for tourists to request that the food is cooked with a lower chilli content to cater for the milder Western palette. The chili content in food cooked for public occasions is typically much less than home-cooked food.
HoppersHoppers (appa) are another food native to Sri Lanka, served mainly for breakfast or lunch and often accompanied by Lunu miris, a fiery hot mix of red onions and spices. Hoppers are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy, which lends a sour flavor and fermentation ability. If toddy is not available, yeast is often used. The batter is left to rise, then cooked in a hemispherical wok-like pan. There are many types of hoppers including egg hoppers, milk hoppers, and sweeter varieties like vanduappa and paniappa.
Koola'ya is a dish made of a variety of leftover curries, mixed together with rice and often served at temples, with chapati. It's also served in a ball form, or even mixed in a blender.
"Wattalapan" - a steamed pudding made with coconut milk, eggs, and jaggery (a sort of solidified treacle extracted from the kitul palm) has become a staple Sri Lankan dessert, although first introduced by the Malays. Another well-known sweet is "Kavun", a cake made with rice flour and treacle and deep-fried to a golden brown. A variety of "Kavun", called "Moong Kavun" is made from green gram - a type of pulse - which is then ground to a paste and shaped like diamonds before frying. Many sweets are served during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year with "kiribath". Most Sweets eaten by Sri Lankans have been adopted from Tamil Nadu (South Indian), for example Pongal.