"Anna you like Sri Lanka food?” "Yes, I like food here.” “Anna you first time coming Sri Lanka very thin, now you big.” - Suresh, tuk tuk driver & coconut tree climbing master. I just laughed.
The lifestyle at Sunshinestories is built around treating your body through yoga, surf, and good food. There was always a lot of good food!
In the mornings I’d wake up to the sound of the "Bread Car" playing Beethoven's Fur Elise as it drove past our open-air villa selling bread loaves and Buddhist monks chanting on the town’s loudspeaker. Semi-sleepy I’d make my way through the courtyard sprinkled with freshly fallen frangipani flowers to the candle-lit patio covered in colorful yoga mats. As incense filled the room and the sun peeked over the palm trees we’d slowly wake as we stretched our bodies. By breakfast time, the monkey chatter was a sign that everything in the jungle was a awake. While the monkeys in the trees munched on the mini bananas, I'd enjoy a bowl of toasted coconut muesli and tropical fruit. Then we’d all jump in the cute little tuk tuks with our surfboards on top and head for the waves. Each day on the island was a new adventure.
Before coming to Sri Lanka, I assumed Sri Lankan food was like Indian food due to the island’s proximity. But, the two countries make food with quite distinct flavors. Coconut milk, coconut flesh, red chilis and curry leaves are essential ingredients in Sri Lankan cuisine. Curry leaves are small, dark green leaves with a unique, smokey scent used in almost every Sri Lankan curry. Curry powder on the other hand is a blend of spices and is all together quite a different thing.
Sri Lankans are proud of their rice and curries — they’re flavorful, coconutty, spicy, and often vegetarian. It's a Sri Lankan's typical breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, I knew I had to share Sri Lankan Rice & Curry with my family back home. I watched our Chef Bandula’s cooking class once and I made sure to fill my suitcase with spices and to bring home a coconut grinder to make fresh coconut sambals (shredded coconut salad). Yum!!
There are a lot of Sri Lankan curries! I made plans to whip up 14 of my favorites, but on the day of the feast, I decided to stop at nine. (I cut out the red rice, papadams, pumpkin curry, ladies fingers (okra) curry, and white sweet potatoes.
Red Lentil Dahl
Cabbage Mallung Curry
Garlic Green Beans
Carrot, Coconut & Lime Sambal
Red Beet Curry
Manioc (Cassava) w/ Onion & Chili Flakes
Bite Sized Cucumber Salads
Eggplant (Aubergine) Sambal
Mango Curry "Amba Maluwa"
My dahl wasn’t quite as good as Chef Bandula’s or Sulani’s, but the feast was a success! Each dish got a “terningkast,” a score from one to six, and the eggplant sambal and mango curry definitely won. My brother said he hates eggplant but that he thought the sambal was “magisk” which directly translated means “magical.” My uncle loved all the new and exciting flavors inspired by three months in Sri Lanka.
If you can find almost all the ingredients for Sri Lankan food in rural Norway, you should be able to make these dishes anywhere. (We made one run to the international grocery store for those hard to find things like coconuts and cassava.)
400g (1lb) Eggplant (I used classic eggplants. In Sri Lanka eggplants look more like Japanese Eggplants)
2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp salt
200g (½lb) Tomatoes
150g (⅓lb) Red Onion
1 ½ tsp black pepper powder
500ml (2 cups) Coconut oil
Juice of two limes
Wash the eggplant and cut into thin (¼ inch) slices. Cut again in half to make full moons or quarters depending on the eggplant diameter. Season the eggplant with 1 ½ tsp salt and 2 tsp turmeric powder. Mix together and let it marinate for 10 minutes.
To deep fry, heat 300ml coconut oil in a pot for about 10 minutes or until really hot. Or put a one inch layer of oil on a frying pan. In several batches fry the eggplant in the oil until slightly browned.
Chop the tomatoes and the red onion. Mix the fried eggplants, tomatoes and red onion in a bowl and season with 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 ½ tsp black pepper and lime juice. Serve at room temperature.
3 Green Mangos (I used a mix of unripe and ripe mangos)
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
2 inch (5cm) piece of Cinnamon
3 Cardamom pods, crushed
2 Cloves, crushed
1-2 tsp of Chili Powder
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Curry Powder
1 Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
½ inch (1 ¼ cm) piece Ginger, chopped
Curry Leaves (optional)
½ cup of Coconut Milk
2 tbsp (2ss) Coconut Oil
Pepper to taste
Heat a medium size saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and coconut oil. Cover and let the seeds pop. Reduce heat add cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves, chili powder, turmeric, curry powder and heat for about 20 seconds.
Add onion, garlic, and ginger and curry leaves (if using) and sauté until onion is slightly translucent and everything is fragrant. Add the mangos and coconut milk and cook until bubbling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. (some recipes say add coconut milk last and only cook in the last three minutes, but adding everything earlier worked for me).