Top 10 Secrets behind the Sri Lankan kitchen

/ By Nimnaka / Food Guide


Sri Lankans typically eat rice and curry every single day. This seems boring, right? but it’s actually not. What are the Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen? There are thousands of different types of curries in Sri Lanka, for which a vast variety of cooking techniques and ingredients are used. Sri Lankans are experts at using different cooking methods to produce totally different tastes. Sometimes, even locals can be confused by the cooking style if it is not easy to recognize by the usual color, aroma and taste. With the exception of dhal curry, Sri Lankans won’t eat same curry in the same day. Additionally, when Sri Lankans say ‘rice and curry’, they use it in a broader sense – it’s not literally just rice and curry. It also includes items such as leafy salads, papadam, badum, etc.. these are the Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen. There are countless blog posts and articles that discuss a Sri Lankan kitchen, but these are rarely written by locals. There are hidden traditional practices that are used but often unspoken of. It must be remembered that Sri Lanka is an island located on ancient sea route of economic belt, and a society based on agriculture. Most of the traditional dining practices have evolved based on these two factors. Lets see Top 10 Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
1. Kitchen is considered to be sacred

Kitchen is the heart of the house; similarly, Sri Lankans consider the kitchen to be a place of sacred and prosperity, giving energy to the family.

Sri Lankans often worship the kitchen and pray for blessings to have a fruitful life. Preparing the hearth for the new year is also an age-old custom.

Usually, clay mixed with cow dung is applied over the hearth for a fresh start for the next year. There are certain customs and practices related to the kitchen in Sri Lanka. 

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
2. Dining is a ritual

This is often confusing for European guests – most of the time, they are confused when locals do not join them at the dining table. Unlike the West, Sri Lanka is one of few countries in which dining is considered to be a ritual. First, cooked rice is dedicated to Buddha. Food is eaten with the right hand, never the left. Eating and walking at the same time is considered disrespectful. The guests are served first, and family members are taught to ensure others have enough food and drink. 

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
3. Kitchen is hopeless without coconut

Coconut is considered the most worshiped ingredient in all Sri Lankan kitchens. Sri Lankan cuisine uses scraped coconut and coconut milk for the majority of dishes. In addition, coconut water is used as a leavening agent when making baked food. Further, the coconut shell is used to make kitchen utensils and charcoal.

Best Kept Secrets in Sri Lankan Kitchen
4. Clay pot cooking

Sri Lankan cooking artistry has mastered the technique of cooking food in clay pots, and clay pottery has been one of the oldest crafts in the country. A technically made and well-seasoned clay pot makes food tender and flavorful. The porous walls absorb water, which prevents food from going dry – therefore useful for long slow cooking. In addition, since less oil is needed to retain moisture, food cooked in clay pots are naturally low in fat. Researches have proved, food cooked in clay pots can be preserved for longer as it has antibacterial acidic moisture.

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
5. Traditional kitchen tools

In order to get the best taste and aroma, traditional tools should be used, as there are no better alternatives. Even modern houses have traditional tools, such as grinding mill, pestle and mortar, etc. Although there are hundreds of products available at the market, they do not give the same taste and effect that traditional cooking tools give.

Traditional Kitchen Tools, Top 10 Secrets in Sri Lankan Kitchen
6. Spicy

Sri Lanka is the island of spice. Just a teaspoon can change the whole taste and aroma of a dish. Sri Lanka’s traditional spice is Ceylon cinnamon, accounting for 56{a70958d73c2c63f0efc5c3e9b58dc8cbd0b6080af05020780575ffb823d5c3fa} of Sri Lankan exports. Sri Lankans use spices in their own style: for daily use, they have a ready-made mixture called ‘Sri Lankan curry powder’; otherwise, Thuna-paha means ‘3-5.’ There are two varieties of curry powder: raw and roasted. They are used for different varieties of curries.

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
7. leafy salad & Mallum

Mallum or leafy salad is a must-have side dish along with other curries. There are over hundreds of varieties of leaves available in Sri Lanka. Mallums are usually made with a variety of finely chopped leaves, scraped coconut, tomato, lime, and spices. Sri Lankan parents usually encourage their children to eat fresh mallum and salad, as fresh leaves have vitamins and minerals 

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
8. Badhum (tempering)

Tempering is a cooking technique that is not found in the Western or Eastern cookbooks, but it is typically used to make Sri Lankan curries. The origin of the term is from the Portuguese during the colonial period. In Portuguese, ‘temperadu’ means ‘to fry and season.’ This is a shallow frying of onions, curry leaves and other condiments to release the flavor or accentuate it. Generally, the oil is heated to a very high temperature to bring about instant browning and release the aroma. This aroma helps in the secretion of digestive juices and whets the appetite.

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
9.Regional difference (taste and techniques)

Cooking patterns and techniques are unique to the region they originate from. So that means even the same curry has a regional taste – locals can identify if it is from the north, south, west, east or hill country. Also, there is a huge variety of rice throughout the different parts of Sri Lanka. Different regions use different types, and the taste and aroma is often different.

Secrets Behind the Sri Lankan Kitchen
10. Oral traditions instead of cookbook

Sri Lankan cooking techniques and recipes are passed from generation to generation through word of mouth. Family recipes are never written in cookbooks, as the taste is unique to the family and their practices. They use traditional measurements for ingredients and cook to taste.

Best secrets of Sri Lankan Kitchen
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About The Author


Nim is a licensed Gourmet excursion guide, Flavor connoisseur, and countrywide tour guide. With a collective experience of 13 years, Nim is a graduate and field researcher deeply passionate about food and culture. Before becoming a Rustic Flavor connoisseur, Nim worked for prominent travel companies for 10 years, organizing tours across the country and abroad.

Blog Comments

This is a lovely recipe, thank you for taking the time to write the article.

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Such a great information about Sri Lankan kitchen. I am a fan of Asian spicy. The hard part is to figure out the best receipt for each dish. Thank you very much for sharing secrets behind Sri Lankan kitchen. Keep it up.

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A couple of things about Sri Lankan food can be said with certainty: Sri Lankans completely love flavors, they adore food that detonates with season, and numerous appreciate pan fried, and exceptionally scrumptious, snacks. Whatever you eat in Sri Lanka, your mouth is going to celebrate with happiness.

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