The southern province carries an insurmountable cultural significance in Sri Lanka. The legacy of south runs deep and strong throughout our history. Since the time of King Mahanaga establishing the Kingdom of Magama and until the English invasion, many culturally and historically significant events took place here. Viharamadevi’s arrival, the start of Prince Gemunu’s movement to unite the country are just a few of those incidents.
And it's not uncommon to find a friend or a relative that hail from south boasting that they are from there, and rightly so. Here we have listed a few dishes that anyone should at the very least try out before they lay claim to their southern heritage.
This is one of the methods to preserve fish, but one can get a unique taste from incorporating it to a meal. Usually, you can use Thora (Spanish mackerel), Balaya (Skipjack Tuna), Hurulla (Trenched Sardinella), Kumbala (Indian Mackerel), Alagoduwa (Frigate Tuna) in the making of this.
Firstly, you clean the fish from salt water and remove the intestines and such. Then you apply a layer of goraka (Malabar Tamarind) along with the thick layer of salt, to a bottom of a well-cleaned pot which is used as a bed for a layer of fish. These layers will be repeated until the clay pot is full and then it should be topped off with another layer of salt and goraka. This pot is carefully sealed - so protect it from water and contaminant from outside, may it be insects or otherwise, and kept aside for a good few weeks.
After a month or so, all the moisture from the fish gets drawn out form the salt while the fishy and salty flavours get mixed up together. Using this as the main ingredient and a number of other spices you can whip up the jaadi hodda that would give a blast of flavour.
This dish is another proud creation that you can find in the southern lands. Balaya (Skipjack Tuna), Kelawalla (Yellowfin Tuna) serves as prominent fish varients in creating this. The fish is basically smothered with spices such as, goraka (Malabar Tamarind), black pepper, ginger, garlic which will end up giving flavour combination that will catch you off guard and will make you stuff your face with it.
The fish is cooked with little water until it is evaporated to let the fish absorb all the flavours. This too was a method of preserving fish back in the day that is mainly now used to get the unique flavour that you seldom find elsewhere. Pair it up with a good pol sambol and you can finish up a whole pot of rice by your self.
We at YAMU gave a shot at creating Ambul Thiyal a while back. While this might not be the original one, you can still enjoy the making and get a taste of what you can expect from the beloved Southern Ambul Thiyal.
This is the one to try when you want to get a good pucker face from a combination of citrus and creamy flavours. The main ingredient is ripe lime and plenty of it sliced to pieces and boiled. Then you couple that with a mix of items like onions, garlic, green chilli, goraka, rampe (pandan), karapnicha (curry leaves), kurundu (cinnamon), sera (lemongrass), uluhal (fenugreek) and chilli flakes that are tempered in oil and made to a paste.
You mix them together enhancing the flavours as per the taste preference and boil until almost all the coconut milk in the mix is gone. If you didn’t get from the list of spices, believe us, this gives rise to one of the most flavourful dishes that you can come across.
While it is customary to eat rice with a five or so side dishes in Sri Lanka, when it comes to this, paring it with something like parippu (dhal curry) is more than enough to give you the flavour to enjoy your meal. This is made with rathu luunu (red onions), papaya, kochchi miris, aba (mustard) and haalmasso karawala. The mix is cooked in oil and then tempered using vinegar while adding salt and sugar to taste.
This is a dish that is bound to give you more than enough heat once you consume it. Many in south pair it with something to counteract the heat such as a cucumber curry in their meals.
Sunu Saal Buth this is procured from the broken rice grains that accumulate while de-husking the grains of rice. Normally this rice is eaten with a combination of umbalakda sambol and coconut sambol.
Another flavourful dish that pays homage to the complex of flavours in the south is fried coconut mixed fish curry. This is a combination of raw and dried chilli, goraka, curry leaves along with grated coconut fried in the pan together to make a blend of flavours and then mixed with a fish curry to bring the flavours to the next level. The sourness from the goraka, and the heat from the chilli pair well with a hot bowl of rice to pull off flavours that are quite frankly out of this world. Or you can dunk some kadey paan in that rich gravy.
Many believe that some of our Lankan food is quite heat-y (ඌෂ්ණ) to the body. Papaya is believed to be able to counteract the buildup of that. So this curry made from papaya and coconut milk can be flavourful and healthy while being excellent to be coupled with a bowl of red rice.
We are positive that there are more of the authentic, southern cuisines out there. So share this with a friend or let us know what you think should be in the list down in the comments.
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