Asia, Newsletter, Restaurant Reviews, Sri Lanka

An Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine. 

14/11/2023 by .
Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine

Watched by monkeys, Michael Edwards offers an Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine when he takes a cookery lesson at Rosyth Estate House

“What did you have for breakfast?” We politely ask our driver as we begin our daily weave through cattle, cyclists, goats, tuk-tuks and even the occasional car on our Sri Lankan road trip.

“Curry and rice,” he answers. As he does after every meal. It has become a humorous ritual, part of our getting to know Sri Lanka.

Appropriately, Ruwan is driving us past acres of flooded paddy fields. White egrets paddling through the embryonic green shoots of rice plants in search of their lunch.

On our flight to Sri Lanka, when one of the breakfast options was fish curry and rice, I became aware that curry is Sri Lankans’ anywhere, anytime option. Flicking through the Rosyth Estate House recipe book it seems that Sri Lankans curry anything that exists: mango, prawn, carrot, beef, pumpkin, egg, cashew, beetroot and an intriguing combo of red lentil and spinach.

Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine

Though breakfast at Rosyth Estate House, looking out over a lushly green tea plantation, had already taught us that there are alternatives to curry. Crisp fried rice-flour shells have a satisfyingly gooey egg fried in the base of the shell. Hoppers – the classic Sri Lankan breakfast. There are some spicy side accompaniments too. For western tastebuds, not yet attuned into the Sri Lankan culinary clock, there are some traditional English offerings. Even toast.

As we head into Rosyth’s kitchen for our insider guide to Sri Lankan cuisine, the chef is manoeuvring two chicken breasts into position for our cookery lesson. A chicken curry will be at the heart of the lunch that we are about to cook. But that is only one bowl of the story.

If small plates has become a European fashion, then small bowls has always been a Sri Lankan tradition. Alongside the chicken curry there will be curried veg, sambals, salads, dahls, rice and bread. If you forego the chicken, it is a perfect lunch for vegans, often gluten free too. Some Sri Lankan foodies claim that it is a diet for longevity.

Remembering the Indian adage that the heat of the spices becomes hotter as you travel south, I wonder how hot the cuisine will be on this tear of an island that drops from the southern Indian coast. Nervously, I cast my eye over the ingredients. Surely, those innocuous looking green chillis won’t register too highly on the Scoville Scale that measures heat?

Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine

In the kitchen a mixed spice aroma hangs in the area. It’s like walking through a spice souk. A colourful collage of ingredients cover the table: black pepper, cardamom, chilli, cumin, dried gamboge, ginger, fennel, fenugreek, nutmeg, pandan and probably another half dozen that I have forgotten. This isn’t minimalist pared back cooking. Multi-purpose coconut contributes coconut water, coconut milk and even coconut vinegar.

Having taken a walk through the Rosyth Estate we know that it’s not just the coconuts that grow locally. Fresh ginger roots have an amber almost golden glow and there are swathes of wild pandan leaves. But Rosyth’s organic kitchen garden has to be protected like Fort Knox. Netting keeps the birds at bay.. Electric fencing attempts to deter monkeys. The monkey population is growing. From the hillside they look down into the kitchen, ready to pilfer if a window is left open and the kitchen unattended.

Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine

Creating complete, we head for Rosyth’s dining pavilion. When Farzana Dobbs inherited the 1926 planter’s bungalow from her father, she and husband Neil, added on a glass structure giving views through the valley.

My moderately spicy chicken curry, I’d gone easy on the chilli, was accompanied by Brinjal Pahi, deep fried aubergine julienne with a huge array of spices. MasterChef judges would have sought more precise julienne knife work from this contestant. Though they may have been impressed by cardamom pods that were bruised rather than split. And I’d also rustled up a coconut sambal.

With the chef adding rice and naan bread, the meal, the cooking experience, and the view across a valley cloaked with tea bushes was the very essence of Sri Lanka.

Tell Me More About This Insider Guide to Sri Lankan Cuisine Cookery Course At Rosyth Estate House.

Rosyth Estate House, Pusella, Kegalle, Sri Lanka.


P: +94 715 337765 Sri Lanka

P: +44 207 2251483 UK

The insider guide to Sri Lankan cuisine course costs around £50 per head including the lunch that you cook.

A three-night stay in low season begins from £390 per person, based on two sharing a Classic Room, excluding flights and transfers.





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