It doesn't matter if you're on a diet or if you're the king of fitness; every now and then the blues hit you and you crave something that'll quell the sadness. Unlike most comfort foods worldwide, ours are a bit more vibrant in terms of flavour. So move over bland chicken soup, here's a list of local comfort foods that keep us going.
You could be a white rice enthusiast or a red rice aficionado but either way you won't find yourself in the pit of despair once you've gorged on a full plate of buth. Whether you enjoy the occasional dollop of spicy potato curry, oodles of mallum with a nice chunk of chicken or if you're into a portion of bathala and crumb fried fish; nothing beats the absolute satisfaction and reassurance that a plate of rice and curry provides.
"We grow up eating this and being fed it by mum when you're podi and come home tired from school. This is what makes r&c so endearing even decades later, the memory of being fed it with love and care."
Traditional beef kanji (porridge) is hands down my go-to comfort food for when I'm hit with the gloom. There's only a handful of things better than diced chunks of beef seeping in coconut milk infused rice. If you aren’t lazy like I am, you can make your own with this recipe for chicken kanji. If you’re more of a beef person, just substitute the meat and you’re good to go.
This falls under the rice and curry category but it deserves a special mention. The mere sight of a sawan piled to the top with steaming saffron infused rice is enough to soothe even the most savage breast.
"First memories of biriyani are the huge sawan our neighbour, a Malay aunty, used to send over for Eid. It was delicious and different to the food we'd eat on the regular plus we would end up eating it for a week because it was so huge. She moved but still think of her/those sawans whenever I eat biriyani now."
These bad boys put lacy lingerie to shame. What is a flimsy bit of cloth in comparison to a plateful of idiyappam?
Whether they're presented in the form of biriyani or kotthu, or simply on their own; these stringy delights are the original sexy. Pair them with a hefty helping of pol sambol for an instant explosion of flavour.
Nobody knows for sure how this miracle-dish sprung up but it's certainly thriving in almost every saivar kade and fancy chophouse alike. Probably one of the most diverse items on this list, kotthu can be served with a myriad of toppings. You can also substitute the traditional godhamba roti for any roti of your choice or even paan (bread)!
These packeted, MSG infused budget noodles have been the staple food of every family home in almost every corner of this island for generations. Whether you simply cook and serve, or go the extra mile with the garnish and add-ons, there's a variety of ways in which you can manipulate this stuff to cater to your belly.
"I lived on these during uni. Cheap and in bulk, probably ate more of this than anything else. Old faithful though – it still tastes good and is so satisfyingly filling, despite the msg etc." – Amalini
The staple food of many a bar-crawl alike, HBC will forever remain in our hearts as the ultimate accompaniment to an ice cold beer. Many a night has been spent lamenting over one's losses in life while popping these batter-fried beauties. Chewy cuttlefish batter-fried to golden-brown perfection and mixed with a hefty dose of chilli: nothing else matters.
"HBC for me is a weird and wonderful Colombo cultural institution. It's probably the dish I miss the most when I've lived abroad, and pathetically tried to recreate or begged family members to freeze and bring. That first bite of HBC makes you feel like you're on a beach watching a sunset with a cold Lion in hand, and everything's going to be okay." – Kinita
Paan with Parippu and Pol Sambol
I could say bread but that simple word won't do this staple food any justice. Paan, whether store-bought or home-made has brought joy to many a hungry tummy and in cohorts with a nice helping of parippu/pol sambol; proves as an unstoppable duo when chasing away the blues.
"Paan with parippu and pol sambol reminds me of holidays at my grandmother's house when I was a little girl. She made the best pol sambol and the paan was nice and hot from the bakery. It was the best. " -Rishani
These oily treats are a godsend for when you're driving around aimlessly, not knowing where to get dinner from. Thankfully you can get them almost everywhere that serves up some good vegetarian grub, so be on the lookout for a Saraswathie Lodge by the roadside. If you're looking for more variety, try opting for a ulundu vade or head to Galle Face for your isso vade fix.
Biscuits and Tea
In the end
Aside from providing a sense of nostalgia and sensory satisfaction, these dishes soothe the tension in our souls. What's your comfort food?