3 Traditional Dishes from Sri Lanka You Need to Try Now
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.
A popular morning item, hoppers—appa in Sinhalese—are 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, 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.
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.
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.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.