The Srilankan cuisine is seasoned with the hospitality of this island’s people and diversity of the landscape with the tropical environment. The soil is fertile so that almost anything can grow in this sacred land. If you eat something and throw the seed out, you will see the sprout growing there after some time. For the germination process, Sri Lanka has a wonderful climate and soil. The climate consists of the wet zone, dry zone, semi dry zone and the Highlands. Fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices, all of them have endless varieties. Because of this, you can find lots of ingredients, flavours and aromas here. All things are locally grounded. In this small island, mild climate vegetables are coming from the highlands, fresh fish from the coastal areas, tropical fruits from everywhere to be served on your plate while they are fresh.
The typical Srilankan cooking is mainly based on rice (bath – බත්) accompanied with several different dishes. In Western countries, people have adopted their food habits according to their busy lives. Their food is often processed, microwaved or canned. But the Srilankan cuisine shows the slow pace of its people’s lives. Cooking in Sri Lanka takes a bit more time and demands planning. However, not many foreigners who visited Sri Lanka have tasted real Srilankan local food. Why is that? Most of the restaurants and cafes on the beach or Highlands, or even large hotels, are catering to the western taste.
The local population in Sri Lanka does not have the dining culture to eat out. They are used to eating at home. But the modern society is changing our habits. Little by little, we go to eat out and taste food in a restaurant or a cafe. Nevertheless, it’s only reserved to those who can afford it.
In Srilanka it is natural that you share your food with your friend or with the person who you are with. If you are having some food, you normally offer a piece to everybody who is with you. Sharing is deeply rooted in the culture of Srilankans. Even at school, young children are taught to share. When in public, typically in a bus or train, it is very rare to see somebody eating. The reasons are people are a bit shy to eat in public, especially girls, it is not polite to the people around you who might be hungry, and you don’t want other people watching you while you are eating.
If there are schoolchildren in a household, mothers usually wake up very early and make the lunch in a parcel wrapped up in a banana leaf for the children to take with them to school. When the interval comes, groups of students in the class get together and eat everybody’s lunch. Sometimes it’s fun, especially among boys. When they open the rice parcel and see an egg or a piece of meat, one guy jumps in and captures that piece. Srilankan moms make the food while husbands and kids are still asleep early in the morning. But now, in modern society husbands also help their wives to cook in the morning.
In most of the families, they eat rice three times a day. Even in the morning they eat rice with chillies and vegetables or milk rice with katta sambal or fish curry and seeni sambal. Most of the people eat this type of breakfast when they don’t go to work and are at home around 10 o’clock in the morning.
Between these tea-with-milk times, Srilankans drink plain tea three or four times.
Most families have a dog like a security, or at least a cat. They feed them the leftovers or if the dog is a special breed and doesn’t eat rice and curry, they cook meat for them. But most dogs and cats eat everything. Some people give the food to the pets while they are eating; some give them a bit from their own portion before they eat.
Srilankans usually don’t keep food in the refrigerators to eat the next day. They just cook it fresh and eat it the same day.
If some person comes to a house without an appointment or even a stranger, the owner of the house or the mother invites them first to have tea with biscuits or banana or cake. Then the second question is whether they have food. Have some food please. But they will not eat with you. They will supply you with what is missing on the table and wait around the table to bring more if something threatens to be almost finished. They keep asking you to take more and more even if you have had enough. Even if you have enough, please take more. Don’t be shy.
Srilankans do not spend hours around a dining table. They just finish fast and start the conversation after.
Srilankan food is mostly spicy, but delicious. All the food in Srilankan is prepared with the taste of chilli. Even a pizza Margarita can be delicious with chilli flakes on top.