Sri Lankan traditional kitchens have a rich history dating back to ancient times. The traditional kitchen, known as a “dum-bokka” in Sinhalese, was typically located outside of the main house and was constructed of materials such as clay, brick, and thatch.
One of the most distinctive features of Sri Lankan traditional kitchens is the use of clay pots and utensils, which are still widely used today. These pots are made by hand and fired in kilns, and are used for cooking traditional dishes such as curries, soups, and stews.
Another important feature of Sri Lankan traditional kitchens is the use of spices and herbs. Sri Lanka has a long history of spice cultivation and trade, and the country is known for its wide range of flavorful spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. These spices are used in various dishes, giving them a unique and delicious flavor.
In addition to clay pots and spices, Sri Lankan traditional kitchens also feature traditional cooking methods such as open flame cooking, which involves cooking food over an open fire. This method is still widely used today, especially in rural areas.
Over the years, Sri Lankan traditional kitchens have evolved with the introduction of modern appliances and cooking techniques. However, many Sri Lankans still prefer to cook traditional dishes in traditional kitchens, as they believe that the flavors and aromas of the food are enhanced by cooking in clay pots over an open fire.
Traditional cooking methods in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a rich culinary heritage that reflects its diverse cultural and historical influences. Traditional Sri Lankan cooking methods are deeply rooted in the country’s history and culture, with many dishes prepared using locally sourced ingredients and unique techniques. Some of the most common traditional cooking methods in Sri Lanka include,
Clay pot cooking.
Clay pot cooking is a traditional method of cooking that has been used for centuries in Sri Lanka. It involves cooking food in a clay pot, which is made from natural clay that is found in the region. Clay pot cooking is believed to be a healthier way of cooking because it allows food to cook slowly and evenly, without the need for added fats or oils.
In Sri Lanka, clay pots are commonly used to cook rice, curries, and stews. The pots are usually unglazed and have a porous surface, which allows moisture to evaporate slowly and helps to retain the natural flavors and nutrients of the food.
To prepare a dish using clay pot cooking, the pot is first soaked in water for several hours to prevent it from cracking when heated. The ingredients are then added to the pot, along with spices and seasonings, and it is placed on a stove or in an oven. The pot is cooked over a low heat, allowing the food to simmer and cook slowly. The lid of the pot is typically sealed with a dough made from flour and water to prevent steam from escaping and to create a pressure cooker effect.
Clay pot cooking is not only a traditional method of cooking but also a sustainable one. The use of clay pots is environmentally friendly, as they are made from natural materials and can be reused many times. Additionally, because food is cooked slowly and at a lower temperature, it can save energy compared to other cooking methods. Overall, clay pot cooking is a great way to preserve the traditional culinary heritage of Sri Lanka while also promoting sustainable and healthy cooking practices.
Clay pots are commonly used in Sri Lankan cooking to prepare a range of dishes, including curries and rice. The pots are believed to enhance the flavor of the food and help retain the nutrients. They are also great for slow-cooking and creating tender, flavorful dishes.
Firewood cooking is a traditional method of cooking in Sri Lanka that has been used for centuries. In many rural areas, families still use firewood as their primary cooking fuel due to limited access to modern energy sources such as electricity or gas.
Firewood is typically collected from local forests and used in traditional stoves made from clay or metal. These stoves are designed to efficiently use the heat generated by the burning wood, and are often placed outside the house in a designated cooking area.
Cooking with firewood requires some skill and knowledge to maintain the fire at the right temperature and to avoid burning the food. However, many Sri Lankan dishes, such as curries and roti, are ideally suited for this method of cooking and are renowned for their unique smoky flavor.
Despite its traditional roots, firewood cooking has some drawbacks. It can produce harmful smoke, which can cause respiratory problems and contribute to air pollution. It also requires significant amounts of wood, which can contribute to deforestation and environmental degradation.
As a result, there is a growing push towards promoting cleaner and more sustainable cooking methods in Sri Lanka, such as using LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or biogas. However, firewood cooking remains an important part of Sri Lankan culinary heritage and is likely to continue to be used in many households for years to come.
Grinding and pounding
Grinding and pounding are important traditional methods of food preparation in Sri Lanka. These techniques are used to prepare a variety of ingredients, including spices, herbs, grains, and vegetables.
Grinding is the process of using a mortar and pestle to crush and grind ingredients into a paste or powder. This method is commonly used to prepare spices and herbs for cooking. For example, in Sri Lankan cuisine, spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves are often ground into a fine powder before being added to dishes.
Pounding is a method of using a wooden or stone pestle to crush and flatten ingredients, such as grains or vegetables. This technique is used to make dishes like hoppers and string hoppers, which are popular Sri Lankan breakfast items. The rice flour dough for these dishes is pounded to a smooth consistency before being steamed or fried.
In addition to being an important part of Sri Lankan cuisine, grinding and pounding are also cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations. Families often have their own unique techniques and equipment for these methods of food preparation, which can vary depending on the region of the country.
Coconut milk extraction
Coconut milk is a popular ingredient in Sri Lankan cuisine, and the extraction process varies depending on the desired thickness of the milk. Here is a general overview of how coconut milk is traditionally extracted in Sri Lanka:
First, the outer shell of the coconut is removed, and the white meat of the coconut is scraped out using a special tool called a “hiri-gutti.”
The coconut meat is then grated into small pieces using a manual grater or a machine.
The grated coconut is mixed with a small amount of warm water, and the mixture is kneaded and squeezed by hand to extract the coconut milk. This process is repeated several times to extract as much milk as possible.
The first extraction, which is the thickest and richest in coconut oil, is known as “thick milk” or “first milk.” The second and subsequent extractions, which are thinner and less creamy, are known as “thin milk” or “second milk.”
The coconut milk is typically used in curries, soups, and other dishes. It can also be used to make coconut cream, which is made by simmering thick coconut milk until it thickens and the oil separates.
In Sri Lanka, many households still use traditional methods to extract coconut milk, although some also use modern machines to speed up the process. Additionally, coconut milk is also widely available in cans or cartons in supermarkets and grocery stores.
Banana leaf cooking
Banana leaf cooking is an important part of Sri Lankan cuisine and is deeply rooted in the country’s traditional cooking methods. The process involves using banana leaves as a natural wrapper to cook food, usually rice and curries, resulting in a unique and distinctive flavor.
To prepare the banana leaves, they are first cleaned and trimmed, and then heated briefly over an open flame to soften them and make them more pliable. The food to be cooked is then placed on the leaf, which is folded to create a neat and tight packet. The packet is then tied with twine or secured with toothpicks or bamboo skewers, and placed on a grill or over a fire to cook.
One of the most popular dishes cooked in banana leaves in Sri Lanka is known as “lamprais,” which is a combination of rice, meat curry, and sambol (a spicy condiment made from grated coconut and chili peppers), all wrapped together in a banana leaf and steamed. Lamprais is traditionally eaten with a fork and spoon, as the banana leaf packet is unwrapped and the contents are served onto a plate.
In addition to lamprais, other Sri Lankan dishes that are commonly cooked in banana leaves include fish curry, vegetable curry, and coconut sambol. The use of banana leaves not only adds a unique flavor to the food, but also helps to retain moisture and flavor during the cooking process.
Banana leaf cooking is not only an important part of Sri Lankan cuisine, but it also has cultural and religious significance. It is often used in religious and cultural ceremonies, such as weddings and New Year celebrations, and is believed to bring good luck and blessings to those who partake in the food.
Charcoal grilling is a popular method of cooking in Sri Lanka, especially for outdoor gatherings and special occasions. Here are some things to keep in mind when charcoal grilling in Sri Lanka:
Choose the right type of charcoal: There are different types of charcoal available in Sri Lanka, including coconut shell charcoal and wood charcoal. Coconut shell charcoal is a popular choice because it burns hotter and longer than wood charcoal.
Use a traditional grill: Many Sri Lankan households use a traditional grill made of clay or metal. These grills are usually placed on the ground and charcoal is placed in the bottom. The grill rack is then placed over the charcoal.
Use local spices and marinades: Sri Lankan cuisine is known for its use of local spices and marinades, so be sure to incorporate these into your grilling recipes. Some popular marinades include tamarind, ginger, garlic, and curry powder.
Grill seafood and meats: Sri Lanka has a rich seafood culture, so grilling fish and shrimp is a popular option. Chicken and beef are also popular choices for grilling.
Serve with rice and curry: Grilled dishes are often served with rice and a variety of curries, such as dhal curry, chicken curry, and eggplant curry.
Be mindful of safety: Charcoal grilling can be dangerous if not done properly. Always use a grill in a well-ventilated area, keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and never leave the grill unattended.
Overall, traditional cooking methods in Sri Lanka are varied and deeply rooted in the country’s cultural heritage. They help to create flavorful, nutritious dishes that are enjoyed by people all over the world.
Traditional kitchens often use cooking methods that are unique and different from what is used in modern kitchens. Some people are interested in learning about these traditional cooking methods and how they can be applied in modern cooking.