Food Preservation Methods In Sri Lanka.

Mitigating the threat of COVID-19 includes self-quarantining and endless curfews, and that has made us stock up our houses with food, whenever possible. However, maintaining the fresh quality of them is going to be a tricky task than imagined. Food wastage is already a massive problem in the world, and this is a time to be extra cautious about that.
So instead of just trying to keep everything inside the fridge/freezer, let's try a few food preservation methods that you can easily do with minimal household items. Not only they can preserve food much longer than if it sits in the fridge, but they also can add an extra layer of flavour to your meal.

Salting & Drying

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Lunu Dehi (Salted lime) and Lunu Amba (Salted mango); these are some brilliant rice pullers that are crafted with the methods of salting and drying. Letting your tastebuds awash with a potent sour and zesty kick, one can gobble down a mound of rice with this stuff.

In here, salting extends the shelf life of lime and mangoes, while drying under the sun furthers it, by absorbing all of its moisture. Packed with spices to boot, they're not for the faint-hearted.

The excess fish can be preserved through the same method, and the end result would be karawala (dried fish). By smothering the gutted, well-cleaned fish with salt and then letting it dry under the sun, many fishing towns in Sri Lanka (Mannar, Negombo, and towns in Down south etc.) do this in a large scale.

Usually, they use kohulanu mats to layout the salted fish for the drying process and flip it time to time so each side gets equal exposure to the sun while ensuring that they are well-dried through.

Image Courtesy: TheCulinaryCorner

Ah, the infamous Jaadi! What a wonderful invention by the Southerners to preserve fish, just by salting. It involves quite a bit of goraka (Malabar Tamarind) too.

In a clay pot, they place repeated layers of goraka, salt and fish, and then seal it off and let it rest for a good few weeks. While absorbing its water content, salt and goraka add so much flavour to fish, and the seal makes sure that it doesn't get spoiled by the water vapour and other contaminants in the air around it.

Certain vegetables can be preserved by drying too; eg. Atu kos (dried jak).


Probably not the easiest method of preserving meats/fish, but smoking adds an extra depth to the flavour profile. This is quite time-consuming too; some meats/fish take around 12 hours to be properly smoked and the process needs to be constantly observed so the meats/fish don't get spoiled. Storing and tending to them takes a couple more days as well. One the other hand, fumes emerging through could cause skin irritations.

There are smokers in the market for commercial purposes, but the traditional method includes placing meat/fish on a mesh net lying on top of a layer of coal.


As the name implies, sugaring is a food preservation method that involves a good dose of sugar. Fruits can be easily preserved through this process, and jam and chutneys are two of the most common end products of sugaring. The added sugar concentration is capable of reducing the water activity in the crushed/grounded fruits, stretching their shelf life. 

If you're interested, here's how to make some deliciously tangy mango chutney.


Homemade yoghurt and curd; one can easily whip them up by fermenting milk. In this process, the milk is heated up to a temperature that it denatures its proteins and later, the temperature will be reduced to a point that does not kill its live microorganisms. Keeping those microorganisms alive is important for the yoghurt to retain its texture and the significant tart flavour. 

Immersing In Bee Honey

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A popular food preservation methods by the Veddahs, meats and fruits can be immersed in bee honey. While acting as an antibacterial substance, bee honey keeps the meat/fruits safe from exposing to oxygen. Plus, it adds a complementary sweetness to them, improving their flavour. 

Keeping Under Dry Sand

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Burying food under sand doesn't sound all that appetising, but with its pH levels, cool temperature, and lack of light and oxygen, sand creates an environment that can expand the shelf life of certain edible seeds like jak seeds. 


Pickling is more of a combination of two preservation methods, salting and sugaring, along with a bit of vinegar and spices in the mix. We refer to them as achcharu, and whether it be fruits or vegetables, we're suckers for them. 

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