‘Achcharu’ is a Sinhala term to describe a ‘mix of ingredients’ and is used to add flavour to a main meal especially lunch. Achcharu is made in various ways in different parts of the island and varies in taste from region to region. Some favourite bases include mango, lime, onions with chilli, olives and amberalla (Malay apple). Bottled versions of achcharu are also available.
Sri Lankan sour-fish curry is a hot favourite among the locals as well as brave visitors. You will be hooked if you ward off the spicy-hot chilli initially. Local chefs prepare this mouth-watering dish by mixing and cooking tuna fish or any other blood-fish with ground goraka (Gambooge) together with pepper, salt, cardamoms and cloves.
The world-renowned crabs from the lagoons of Sri Lanka are exported especially to Singapore, and to the rest of the world. Sri Lankan crab can be prepared in a multitude of ways and is a sought after seafood dish, thanks to its tender ‘melt in the mouth’ experience.
The most popular breakfast dish in Sri Lanka is hoppers (appa, in Sinhala). The wafer-thin, cup shaped pancakes are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy. A hopper is crisp on the outside, yet soft and spongy at the centre – and it comes in egg and sweet varieties.
This delicious ‘oil cake’ is symbolic of the local New Year; and with kiribath (milk rice) and other sweet treats, it ranks among the most important auspicious fare during this time. Kavum is prepared from fine rice flour in coconut oil.
This Sri Lankan all in one meal was probably invented by someone who had leftover godamba roti (a thin bread) and curry. Kottu is prepared by chopping the ingredients with two blunt metal cleavers on an iron tray over a fire.
Pittu probably came to Sri Lanka with the Malay regiments of the European colonial period. It is now an integral part of Sri Lankan cuisine and is made by mixing fresh rice meal with roasted and freshly grated coconut and steaming the mixture in a bamboo mould.
Milk rice (kiribath) is a traditional speciality food that is cooked on special occasions. Some Sri Lankans believe it brings luck. Rice is cooked in a thick coconut cream for this unsweetened rice-pudding which is accompanied by a sharp chilli relish called ‘lunumiris’ or a tacky coconut and treacle mix called ‘panipol.’
Jackfruit is a very large fruit that can be eaten fresh or cooked as a curry. Within its coarse, green skin, there are hundreds of succulent yellow segments. Fresh polos (young green jackfruit) curry is a firm favourite among Sri Lankans, which is now canned and exported.
Another popular breakfast dish is a rice preparation known as indiappa or string hoppers, which is also found in India, Singapore, Malaysia and many other Asian countries. These are spaghetti-like strings of rice flour dough squeezed through a sieve onto small woven trays which are steamed one atop the other.