Dining

3 Traditional Dishes from Sri Lanka You Need to Try Now

Add hoppers, lampries and frikkadels to your must-eat list
3 Must-Try Sri Lankan Dishes
Photo: bonchan/Getty Images

We've witnessed Indian and Asian cuisines continually evolve, with restaurants like Indian Accent and Chinese Tuxedo, two modern joints that redefine classic dishes through unique plating; nontraditional ingredients; and contemporary, high-design settings. Comparatively, the food of Sri Lanka—a neighboring country to India—is an untapped cuisine for most of New York City's food enthusiasts. Luckily, you won't have to venture far: Staten Island, known as Little Sri Lanka, is just a free ferry ride away. Here are three Sri Lankan foods worth trying the next time you visit SI.

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Appa

A popular morning item, hoppers—appa in Sinhaleseare curved crepes consisting of a handful of simple ingredients: rice flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs and coconut milk. Made plain or topped in the center with a sunny-side up egg, the crispy-edged, edible "bowl" is typically served with a choice of curry; the savory notes of clove and coriander, and a slight heat from the sambal, creates a satisfying balance.

Try appa at Ceylon Curry, just off Victory Boulevard, the main artery of Sri Lankan food in Staten Island. Measuring about 250 square feet, the restaurant is a go-to breakfast spot for Sri Lankan regulars and tourists alike. To complete the dish, chef Vijitha Dombagammana adds a side of katta sambol, a fragrant and flavorful household condiment made of crushed chile, onion, tomato, salt, pepper, vinegar and lime.

Lampries

Lampries, or "lump rice," was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Dutch Burghers, a small group of European settlers who have called the island nation home since the 16th century.

The dish consists of a bunch of ingredients—seeni sambol (sweet onion relish); pickled eggplant; cashew curry; caramelized onions; a choice of lamb, chicken or pork curry; a deep-fried boiled egg; and frikkadels—which are first cooked separately. Then, they're infused with spices like cinnamon, clove and cardamom; wrapped in a banana leaf; and baked in the oven, a technique that allows the flavors to meld into an all-in-one-meal.

 

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Often served during celebrations and large gatherings of family and friends, lampries is a menu staple for groups both small and large to enjoy at Lakruwana, a vibrantly decorated joint located on Bay Street a bit closer to the water. Cooked by Jayantha Wijesinghe, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Lakruwana, the meals are a genuine reflection of true "mama's food" often referred to by Sri Lankans.

Frikkadels

Though they're often served inside lampries at restaurants, frikkadels, crisp meatballs, are a specialty all their own and often enjoyed as an appetizer or side dish in Sri Lankan households. Although they're made with ingredients you'd find in a traditional meatball—minced beef, fresh bread crumbs, egg, onion, garlic, pepper and Worcestershire sauce—frikkadels tout a fragrant twist, thanks to spices like saffron, cumin, green ginger and cinnamon. Do as the the Sri Lankans: Lightly fry frikkadels in a cast-iron pan with ghee, spear with a toothpick and serve with rice.

Shanika Hillocks is an NYC-based creative with a knack for storytelling and a passion for food, wine and spirits. Follow her on Instagram @shanikahillocks.

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