The Sri Lankan breakfast
Dee Williams savours the delicious local dishes
Curry for breakfast? People around the world wouldn’t normally contemplate having a curry for breakfast. In Sri Lanka however, a curry with string hoppers, plain hoppers or coconut roti is a wonderful way to start the day.
For me, nothing beats a good curry for breakfast, which is my favourite meal of the day.
Over the years, I have often spoken with Sri Lankan expats about the amazing breakfast buffets in the home country, which are served at hotels and restaurants. And they too fondly remember how much they’d enjoyed those dishes whenever they travelled to the island.
As most popular retail chains are now stocked with Western processed cereals that are high in sugar and salt, it’s great that Sri Lankans are still consuming their traditional assortment of breakfast dishes.
Who would have thought that eating rice by itself could be so tasty?
There aren’t many Sri Lankan dishes that epitomise the island’s culinary repertoire than kiribath. For many folk, this dish would have been the first solid food they’d have eaten.
The enjoyment of kiribath continues throughout one’s life… not only at breakfast time but also on important occasions and festivals. While kiribath is commonly made with red rice (rathu haal or rathu kekulu), I’ve also made it with kuruluthuda rice to provide a nuttier flavour.
A Sri Lankan breakfast simply wouldn’t be the same without pol sambol on the plate. This coconut relish is versatile and delicious, and you can even eat it on its own. But to get the best out of pol sambol, it’s better to eat it with kiribath, hoppers, string hoppers and bread, as well as rice and curry.
I like pol sambol so much; so much so that I have it in a sandwich at times. On one occasion, I made it on MasterChef Australia and the judges fell in love with its flavours!
When you think about it, there must be hundreds of different kinds of breads all over the world since bread is a staple in many countries. Cooking methods and ingredients vary – some are made with cornmeal or wheat, others are cooked on stoves and most are baked in ovens.
The French have baguettes and the Italians have ciabatta while in Sri Lanka, we have roast paan. While it is not as popular as other variants around the globe, I don’t think there are many other kinds of bread that will complement a chicken curry, pol sambol, lunu miris and parippu curry for breakfast as well as roast paan can.
A Sri Lankan breakfast feast is not complete without plain and egg hoppers. It’s wonderful to eat a hot crispy hopper – especially with seeni sambol – and a devilled chicken, beef or pork dish.
Unfortunately, most people don’t get an opportunity to eat hoppers made with toddy. Having eaten hoppers made with toddy, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re much tastier than those made with yeast… because they are crispier, fluffier and more flavoursome.
Normally, a hopper is enjoyed by breaking a small piece and eating it with curry or any other accompaniment. However, I have seen many tourists in Sri Lanka add the accompaniments to the middle of the hopper, roll it up and savour that tasty treat.
There may be traditionalists who aren’t fans of enjoying hoppers this way; but I feel that if tourists appreciate Sri Lankan food and spread the word, that’s what matters in the end.
After all, food is meant to be enjoyed!