The Art of Sri Lankan Cooking


The Art of Sri Lankan Cooking

Did you know that every curry is interconnected? Learn how to create the perfect balance of colours, flavours and textures in your curries.

Traditional Rice and Curry

Although common place in Sri Lanka, serving traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry can be a daunting task to a novice; reason being that traditional Sri Lankan cooking is about achieving the perfect balance of flavours, colours and textures.

The base starch in Sri Lankan meals is rice. The typical rice used in Sri Lanka is samba or kakulu. Rice can be either in its original fibrous format referred to as red rice or in the refined version of white rice. Well cooked Sri Lankan rice is fluffy and not sticky in texture. 

What makes even the most basic of Sri Lankan meals glamorous is the number of accompaniments. An ideal Sri Lankan meal has a minimum of 5 accompaniment categories referred to as ‘Kirata’, ‘Mirisata’, ‘Thel Dala’, ‘Badumak’ and ‘Mallum, sambola, salada’.

Kirata’ –something to soothe your taste buds and to neutralize the spiciness such as a dhal curry 

 ‘Mirisata’ – to add that spicy tingle to a mouthful with a dish such as spicy chicken curry

Thel Dala’ – slow cooked in oil and selected spices, it never goes wrong with a bit of Ala Thel Dala

Badumak’ – keep the munchies going at the table with fried sprats mixed in curry leaves

Mallum, sambola, salada’ –balance it out with greens with a hint of lime, salt and pepper

When preparing a Sri Lankan meal it’s important to ensure:

  1. Variety rather than duplication in the accompaniment categories. For example if you’re preparing 3 accompaniments they could be Kirata, mirisata & thel dala but never two dishes made kirata and one thel dala.
  2. In one single meal the core ingredient is not replicated. For example you would not serve Potato kirata (light spiced curry) and potato thel dala (tempered)
  3. The badum or crispy elements must be freshly fried in order to add that texture
  4. Mallung , Sambol or Salads add the fresh element and therefore must not be made too early. Be generous in the lime or lemon you add to these dishes, the acidity is an important element in balancing the overall flavour of the meal. 

Biriyani on Special Occasions

Biriyani although technically is of Indian origin is a dish Sri Lankans have claimed as their own. Chicken Biriyani being the favourite is often a dish made for special or festive occasions. Chicken Biriyani is a dish oozing with spices and flavour and is often paired with equally rich dishes like Vegetable Korma, Masala Chicken Curry, Cashew and Green Pea Curry, Mint sambol, and Malay Pickle. This menu may at first seem very rich and quite filling, but given that Sri Lankans make an average of 3-4 accompaniments for a normal meal, you can’t expect anything less for a special occasion. 


This is a Sri Lankan-Dutch Burgher delicacy that stands out as a favourite even today. The usual versions of this meal includes yellow rice, lampara curry (mutton, beef, lamb, pork, chicken), seeni sambol, a cutlet, fried ash plantain curry, brinjal pahi and a fried boiled egg. Although the original version includes a combination of meats, this meal can also be prepared using one meat or even a vegetarian dish such as soya meat. For that extra bit of flavour, a tip would be to serve less of rice and more of the other dishes onto a banana leaf and bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.

Sri Lankan Fusion Cuisine

International cuisines like Chinese and Italian are often fused with the Sri Lankan love for spiciness and pungency to create a new form of Sri Lankan fusion. From well known Chinese dishes like Sweet & Sour Prawns being spiced up to cater to the Sri Lankan palate to signature Sri Lankan Chinese dishes like Hot Butter Cuttlefish, the Sri Lankan Chinese fusion food is well loved in Sri Lanka. 

Pasta, the Italian staple, is the latest international food trend in Sri Lanka. Again Sri Lankans have localized this Italian favourite by adding some chilli. An unlikely combination that is sure to be a hit in a Sir Lankan home is Macaroni and Cheese with Sri Lankan Chicken Curry – probably the ultimate epitome of fusion cooking.