Rice and Curry in Sri Lanka

Rice and curry in Sri Lanka is a completely unique experience compared to the food of other countries. The food in Sri Lanka in general is flavoursome and delicious but still one of the most simple foods I’ve had anywhere. Sri Lankan rice and curry is a perfect example of that.

Rice and Curry in Sri Lanka

Note the order of the words. In India, it’s curry and rice. In Sri Lanka it’s rice and curry. This is not just an orthographic distinction; it’s a completely different kettle of fish, despite the geographical proximity of the two countries.

Sri Lankan rice and curry has no relation whatsoever to your Indian jalfrezi and rice or chicken vindaloo and rice.

In fact, there are a million dishes in India which come under the category of curry and rice but in Sri Lanka, rice and curry describes just one dish. The curry itself hardly varies from place to place.

In Sri Lanka, rice and curry is usually served at lunch time though you can often get it in the evening too.

It’s all about the rice

In Sri Lankan rice and curry, the rice is the central ingredient and is served in the centre of your dish. The rice is like the anchor and it ties everything together. There is always loads of rice and more if you want it.

The curry part of the dish actually refers to several curries (normally around six) which are served in small portions either around the outside of the rice on the same dish or in separate small dishes.

The way they do the curries in Sri Lanka is the same wherever you go in the country and, in my experience, doesn’t vary from region to region.

Elaborate yet simple curry

Let’s say your rice and curry dish contains six of these different curry dishes around the edge of your plate. Each dish is prepared in a certain way according to which ingredient the curry is based on. And each curry dish contains just one main ingredient.

For example, you won’t get one curry dish with potato, onion, green beans and chicken as ingredients. You will get one curry dish with the potato (or more often than not delicious yams), another curry dish with green beans, etc.

And everywhere you go in the country, each vegetable (usually the main ingredient of a Sri Lankan curry is a vegetable, not meat) will be prepared in the same way: the green beans will be prepared with red chillies, the potatoes (or yams) are always prepared with mustard seeds…

There is the odd variation to Sri Lankan rice and curry in different places but you will always be served the nation’s staples: dhal curry (my favourite), coconut sambal (my favourite too) and spicy sambal sauce (okay, they’re all my favourites!).

Mostly the Sri Lankan rice and curry is vegetarian but sometimes you will have the option to have a chicken curry too. This is normally served on the bone and generally consists of a chicken leg dumped on the top of the whole concoction!

The Best Rice and Curry

The places where I ate the most memorable rice and curry in Sri Lanka were:

  1. The curry buffet at our guesthouse in Haputale.

The curry buffet at Leisure Mount View in Haputale, which we ate each night we stayed there, was made fresh every day by the owner’s grandmother. It was always tasty and varied and there was always more if you wanted it. As the meal was for about twenty people, there was the opportunity to include many more dishes than if it were just a meal for two.

2. Rice and curry at our guesthouse in Ella.

At our guesthouse in Ella we were the only two guests. Indeed, there was only one room. On the afternoon we arrived in Ella we asked our sweet owner if she could make us dinner that evening. It was a fantastic spread of fresh ingredients prepared in the typical dishes that constitute Sri Lankan rice and curry. And it cost us peanuts too.

And the winner is…

3. Rice and curry at Mettha’s Restaurant in Unawatuna.

I had read about Mettha’s Home Cooked Meals on another blog when I was planning our trip to Sri Lanka and decided that I had to try it when we reached Unawatuna. It’s true that the best rice and curry is served usually at people’s houses or at guest houses, but this ‘restaurant’ was also kind of that: Mettha, the owner, had basically opened up her home, put out tables and chairs and started cooking! You have to book a few hours in advance if you want to eat rice and curry here like you would at a guest house.

We had some marvellous rice and curry meals in Sri Lanka. Above I have picked my top three but I think that if you stay at small guest houses and ask them to cook you rice and curry then you will be on to a winner.

Have you had rice and curry in Sri Lanka? Do share.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedfood and drinkSri LankaStreet Food


About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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