Traditional Food Culture of Sri Lanka
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History of Sri Lanka Food Culture

Sri Lankan indigenous and traditional foods have a long history and unique traditions that have been passed down for thousands of years. Sri Lankan food heritage is deeply intertwined with the nutritional, health-related, and medicinal reasons for food items and preparation methods. The many culinary traditions and preparations represent multipurpose goals that combine in-depth knowledge of flora and fauna in relation to human well-being and therapeutic health advantages. Because of changing lifestyles, a declining number of knowledge holders, and shrinking floral and faunal resources, transgenerational knowledge sharing connected to indigenous and traditional cuisine is currently limited. Consumers and major food producers in Sri Lanka are focusing on traditional ingredients and foods as they become more aware of the link between non-communicable diseases and nutrition. This overview provides short information about Sri Lanka’s indigenous and traditional foods, including scientific analysis when possible.

What are The Indigenous and Traditional Meals of Sri Lankans?

Sri Lankan indigenous and traditional foods are a beautiful blend of cultural diversity and human wisdom that has been passed down through generations in developing a cultural legacy and identity. Food is considered with the utmost gratitude, respect, and generosity in Sri Lankan culture, manifested by sharing and presenting to other humans, animals, and divine powers. Sri Lankans enjoy sharing food with their neighbors, relatives, and friends; house visits are always accompanied by food bundles. Some foods and methods of preparation are regional specialties. Transgenerational knowledge transmission of food and food ingredients is intertwined with regular maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, cultural legacy, and religious concepts of the land’s ethnicities and has been the key to sustaining a traditional food culture in Sri Lanka; evidence can be found in written literal work, archeological sources, and folklore.

Archeological discoveries, ancient traveler diaries, and early world maps are living proof of the island’s historical importance in geopolitics and sea trade. Elements of Afro-Arabic, Central Asian, European, Southeast Asian, and Oriental food cultures that accompanied trade activities, royal marriages, and invasions have been customized to align with the habits, culture, and palate of island inhabitants while preserving indigenous and traditional food culture. Traditional meals that are aligned with the island’s eco- and biodiversity show a substantial geographic variance. Indigenous and Ayurvedic medicine has a strong foundation and offers suggestions with a clear and defined identity on the ingredients, preparation techniques, and intake in order to live a good life while avoiding and treating major diseases and minor ailments. Community elders (both male and female) and indigenous medical practitioners have traditionally been the key knowledge holders.

For the first time, this review provides the elements of indigenous and traditional cuisines from Sri Lanka, including a perspective analysis of science, technology, and nutrition of food and preparations when possible. This condensed review was created using ancient manuscripts and novels written in Sri Lanka by various authors, as well as other published media and discussions with various individuals having traditional knowledge.

From a Geographical and Climatic Standpoint

The country’s geolocation and climate are significantly related to the accessible food supplies and the existence of distinct food traditions. Sri Lanka is a tropical island located in the south of the Indian peninsula, between 5° 55′ and 9° 51′ North latitudes and 79° 42′ and 81° 53′ East longitudes. The island’s elevation (Fig. 1a; central highlands, plains, and coastal belt), rainfall (Fig. 1b; wet, intermediate, and dry zones), and vegetation (Fig. 1c; closed rainforest, more open intermediate tropical forest, and open grassland) zones are distinct. The island’s geography is largely low, flat to rolling plains, with mountains in the south-central portion. The island’s shoreline is 1,340 kilometers long, and the inland water bodies cover 2,905 kilometers. A total area of 342 km2 is accounted for by several offshore islands. The island receives 900 mm of rain per year through monsoonal, conventional, and depressional showers. The mean annual temperature (MAT) ranges from 26.5 °C to 28.5 °C, with altitudes over 1800 m having a MAT of 15.9 °C and the coldest temperatures in January and the warmest temperatures in April and August. Agriculture employs 44 percent of the workforce and generates 12 percent of GDP, accounting for 19 percent of total land area.

Figure 1 depicts maps of Sri Lanka, with an elevation map based on the Digital Elevation Model, a precipitation map showing the Wet Zone, Intermediate Zone, and Dry Zone, and a vegetation map ([1], with permission). The black circles on the maps represent archeological and paleoenvironmental sites on the island covered by the reference studies [1]. Sri Lanka, historically Ceylon, is an island in the Indian Ocean southeast of the Indian subcontinent. The geography on the island is mostly low, flat to rolling plain, with mountains in the south-central core. The climate on the island is tropical monsoon. The highlands and the south-western half of the country (wet zone) receive an average of 2500 mm of rain each year, whereas the south-east, east, and northern regions of the country (dry zone) receive between 1200 and 1900 mm. The arid north-west and south-east coasts get the least rain, averaging 600 to 1200 mm per year.

Beyond Organic Geographical Map of Sri Lanka
Beyond Organic Geographical Map of Sri Lanka

The island’s strategic location in the center of the Indian Ocean and at the extreme south of the Indian Peninsula, as well as its protecting natural harbors and floral and faunal richness, drew many global visitors, explorers, and trading nations. The importance of the island’s seaport towns and cities is documented in ancient maps and texts. Claudius Ptolemy’s map (second century CE) was the first to include absolute coordinates of specific island locations. This island is known by many names, including Taprobane (Greek), Serendib (Persian, Arabic), Simhaladvipah (Sanskrit), Cielo (Portuguese), and Ceylon (English), Thambapanni (Mahavamsa), and Sri Lanka (Sinhala) since 1972.

Sri Lankan Pre- and Proto-Historic Humans’ Food Consumption Trends

The Balangoda Man (Homo sapiens Balangodensis) of Sri Lanka belongs to the Pleistocene/Holocene epoch border in the geo-chronological scale [4], with which the Mesolithic period of archeological timeframe overlaps. The oldest human fossil evidence in South Asia (about 45,000 to 38,000 calibrated years before the present) was discovered in rock shelters and caves spread around the island (Fig. 1a, b, and c). The archeo-zoological and archeo-botanical data, as well as the microlithic and osseous tools and other artifacts discovered in these rock shelters, show that these early human residents’ dietary demands were met by a variety of sources. These include a wide range of tiny and large animals, as well as plant sources found above and below ground, as well as in aquatic habitats. Material evidence dating back to 2700 BCE supports prehistoric populations’ engagement in plant material processing, plant domestication, and pottery production, as well as the transition from forager, hunter-gatherer to an agricultural, sedentary lifestyle.

Indigenous Peoples’ Foods of Sri Lanka

The Vedda (a.k.a. Aadi Vaasin, Wanniyala-Eththo) are a group of indigenous people who live in interior isolated enclaves spanning from the Eastern and North-eastern slopes of the hill region to the Eastern and North-central parts of the country. They come from a long line of people who appreciate the interdependence of social, economic, environmental, and spiritual systems. The Great Genealogy/Dynasty or Mahvansa, an ancient non-canonical treatise composed in the fifth century CE on the Kings of Sri Lanka (the first version covers from 543 BCE to 304 CE), narrates Vedda’s origin from the fifth to sixth centuries BCE. Recent research indicates that Vedda is genetically unique from other Sri Lankan people and is most likely descended from early Homo sapiens who traversed the island. Hunting has been the mainstay of this tribe, and techniques such as employing bow and arrows to hunt woodland animals and aquatic fish species that feed animal protein are still practiced. Vedda’s hunter-gatherer lifestyle has now been partially changed; they participate in crop cultivation to supplement grains and vegetables for food.

Meat and fish are traditionally prepared by the Vedda tribe by direct roasting over a wood fire, coating with hot ashes or smoking, and drying on a wooden rack. Excess game is sun-dried or smoked to be stored for rainy seasons. Harvesting honey from various woodland insects is a routine operation that is done in groups. Honey is used for both direct ingestion and meat preservation. “Perume,” a sausage-like product, is an energy- and nutrient-dense preserved form of beef. This product is made up of several layers of meat and fat that vary depending on the animal type (deer, venison) and portions (monitor lizard tail stuffed with fat from the sides of the animal, or clotted blood).

To make “Mas Guli” or “Kurakkal,” boneless game meat, roasted rice (Oryza sativa) flour, green chili (Capsicum Annuum), cumin (Cuminum cyminum), coriander (Coriandrum sativum), and Asamodagam (Trachyspermumroxburghianum) leaves are formed into balls, batter coated with rice flour, and deep fried in Bassia Longifoli . Vedda’s food today reflects the usage of condiments, spices, herbs, salt, and lime juice in the same way that curries do. Changing legislation in the country that protects wildlife conservation and sustainability has curtailed the Vedda group’s hunting lifestyle and food supplies.

Tubers and yams from the forest, primarily Dioscorea species (D. Spicata, D. Pentaphylla, and D. Oppositifolia), and less frequently Aracea plants (e.g., Arisaema Leschenaultii), roasted over direct fire, provide a carbohydrate source for the Vedd. Rice, finger millet (Eleusine coracana), and maize (Zea mays) flour are used to make unleavened flatbread (Roti) or thick boiled flour paste (Thalapa) to accompany cooked smoked meat with gravy (name). When available, cycad (Cycas circinalis) seed flour (sliced, dried, and ground) or Bassia Longifolia flowers (dried and ground) are added to grain flours for Roti and Thalapa. The normal diet includes a variety of medicinal and therapeutic herbs, green vegetables, and unripe fruits like gourds and melons.

The leaves of Cassia Tora, Ipomoea Cymosa, and Memecyclon Umbellatum are essential, as are ripe wild tree fruits and berries such as Mangifera Zeylanica, Nephelium longana, Hemicycliasepiaria, Manikkarahexandra, Terminalia belerica, and Dialiumovoideum; and wild mushrooms. Transgenerational knowledge transfer on traditional systems for food sourcing and sustainable harvesting practices, converting to safer ingredients (e.g., ways to reduce toxins and undesirable compounds while improving palatability, digestion, and safety), and effective preservation technologies has enabled a harmonious balance between the human-forest environment while sustaining nutrition and health status of the Vedda group.

Historical Influences

Sri Lanka has a written history that spans centuries. Stone writings dating back to 250 BCE, ancient manuscripts, and remnant palm (ola) leaf texts demonstrate knowledge of advanced agricultural techniques and food preparations that respect the intricacies of the health and nutrition foundation of foods. Archeological and archival evidence discovered in Sri Lanka supports ongoing inward migration and convergence of numerous foreign nationalities ensuring trade, ruling authority, and diplomatic relations, resulting in the island’s multiethnic meals and food traditions.

The reintroduction of Buddhism in the third century BCE (250 to 207 BCE), as well as subsequent invasions, occupations, and royal marriages amongst other nations, had a profound impact and substantial contribution to the island cuisine culture. Several nations, including Arabic, Roman, Oriental, Central Asian, and Indian, dominated internal and foreign trade in the early centuries, and the dominance of three European nations (Portuguese, Dutch, and English) in island governance since 1505 AD had a profound influence on Sri Lankan culinary tradition and style. Buddhism and Hinduism, which have existed since ancient times, affected the religious components of food culture, traditions, and taboos, which were later introduced by Islam and Christianity. Even now, religious beliefs may influence meat consumption, particularly beef consumption. Similar to cultural practices and languages, all of these foreign influences enriched Sri Lankan cuisine culture rather than transforming the country into a microcosm of another culture or nation.

Traditional Medical Systems and Food

In addition to supplying necessary nutrients, the ingredients and preparation procedures of traditional Sri Lankan cuisines have a strong association with the consumer’s general health and the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Today, the deeply established indigenous medical system (Hela Wedakam since the time of multi-talented local monarch Ravana, period unknown) coexists with the Ayurvedic (Siddha and Unani) since pre-Aryan civilization and the Western medical system brought during the colonial era. Although taste and appeal are important, the indigenous medical system prioritizes the use of ingredients and preparations that suit the consumer’s general wellbeing, physiological condition, involved activities, and disease conditions, as well as the environment and climate of the consuming location.

Indigenous medicine–based healing approach focuses on mental and physical fitness at the same time, with some parallels to Ayurveda but differences in practice and ingredients. The cornerstones of the indigenous medical system are maintaining harmony between humans and nature, as well as incorporating nutrients that nature supplies in order to maintain the balance of bodily systems. The avoidance of extremes and the judicious use of “hot/heaty” and “cold/cooling” meals are ingrained in indigenous and Ayurvedic systems.

Foods and Cooking Techniques

Because Sri Lanka is primarily an agrarian nation, food culture and customs have grown in tandem with farmed crops, everyday activities, beliefs, and the seasonal nature of food sources. A typical traditional meal includes a carbohydrate source or sources (grains or grain products, tubers, or starchy fruit) plus accompaniments that provide protein, fats, fiber, and micronutrients. Protein sources are either animal or plant (e.g., cashew nut, Anacadia occidentalis), while fats are mostly derived from plants, particularly coconut (Cocos nucifera) or sesame (Sesamum indicum). The meal includes a variety of native plant fruits, pods, seeds, leaves, tubers, stalks, and flowers in various preparations.

Dessert alternatives include ripe local fruits, buffalo milk curd with a sweetener, and simple sweetmeats. The traditional dinner is completed with a “Chew of Betel” made of betel leaves (Piper betel) and areca nuts (Areca catechu) with tropical aromatic spices such as cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Because of the variety of sources and preparations, the plate of a Sri Lankan dinner contains a variety of colors, tastes, and flavors. When eating, fingers, particularly the right hand, are typically employed. Each mouthful of food is a combination of all food items on the plate that has been thoroughly pressed and mingled with the fingers to combine all flavors and tastes.

Grain and Grain-Related Products

Rice and Other Products Derived from Rice

Since ancient times, rice has been the mainstay and primary carbohydrate source in the Sri Lankan diet. Rice cultivation and production have been fundamental to the island’s societal, cultural, religious, and economic activities. Sri Lanka’s Cascade Tank-Village System is a designated Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System that fulfills water demands for water-intensive rice farming, assuring food supply and generating a resilient ecosystem while preserving biodiversity and accompanying traditional knowledge.

In Sri Lanka, the Indian varieties of rice are the most widely grown. Eating quality attributes and grain milling characteristics, such as small round grains, thin long grains, pigmented (red-brown), fragrant, and so on, are equally essential concerns among traditional rice varieties as agronomic performances. Because of the high daily intake, the low protein contents (average value of 7.7 percent compared to 12.4 percent in traditional rice varieties) and high glycemic index (GI) of modern rice types are a worry. In 2016, per capita rice intake, including rice-based products, was 114 kg per year, meeting 45 percent of a Sri Lankan’s total caloric and 40 percent of total protein requirements. Increasing scientific evidence and public knowledge of the health advantages of traditional rice varieties’ major and minor nutrients have increased the production of indigenous varieties, making them more accessible to the average consumer.

Traditional Rice Preparation Methods

The transformation of paddy into edible rice grains, which was originally a domestic task, is now a large-scale industrial activity. Since ancient times, unpolished rice and red-pigmented rice have been regarded as superior in terms of health advantages. Parboiling has been practiced since time immemorial and is suitable for Indian varietals. Rice is ready for ingestion after it has been boiled in water, enabling the grains to absorb all of the water or, in rare cases, drain the excess water. Aside from salt, vegetable oil, and ghee, simple additives such as turmeric (Curcuma longa), curry leaves (Murrayakoenigii), rampe leaves (Pandanus amaryllifolius), cardamom, and/or nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) are cooked with rice depending on the consumer’s preference. These additions give color, taste, and flavor to rice while also imbuing it with water-soluble antioxidant and antibacterial components. Complex rice recipes include the use of various fats, dairy products, coconut milk, honey, veggies, and fruits.

These activities effectively improve the nutrient density, flavor, and taste of cooked rice; they are essential in celebrations, religious, and spiritual offerings. Wrapping a meal portion of warm cooked rice with accompanying curries, salads, and chutneys in mildly wilted (on direct heat to be malleable) banana (Musa spp.) leaves to infuse the dish with a leafy aroma. This traditional food presentation is used for packing meals and is adorned by people of all ages and social classes.

Milk rice is a specialty of Sri Lankan cuisine . This dish of non-parboiled rice cooked with coconut milk (rarely with dairy) can be a typical meal item enjoyed by people of various ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Milk rice in various forms plays an important role in traditional rites, devotions, and festivities. Elaborate milk rice preparations include the addition of mung bean or green gram (Vigna radiata) (Fig. 2b; cereal-pulse blends complement in improving the essential amino acid profile and are recommended by the FAO), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) jaggery, or grated coconut infused with palm inflorescence concentrated sap (treacle).

Cereals, pulses, and/or tubers are the starchy staples of traditional Sri Lankan food items and meals. Some preparations are not locality dependent, although alternative cereals to rice are employed based on the number of growing areas. A meal consists of a major food item and accompaniments that are typically paired with the main food item. Accompaniments could be spicy, savory, or sweet. Fresh coconut kernels are utilized in a variety of ways, including blended with cereal flour and in the manufacture of accompaniments. Figure 2 shows the Sri Lankan cuisines.

 Sri Lankan Cuisines
Sri Lankan Cuisines

A- Milk rice with accompanying Lunumiris,

B- Milk rice with mung bean accompanied with Lunumiris,

C- Diyabath preparation,

D- Thalapa is made of finger millet flour,

E- Roti made of rice and finger millet flour with Lunumiris,

F- String hoppers or Indiáppa with Sambōla,

G- Laveriya– sweetened string hoppers,

H- Plain Hoppers or Āppa,

I- Pittu made of red rice flour,

J- Boiled chickpea with freshly scraped coconut,

K- Boiled mung bean with Lunumiris,

L- Boiled cassava roots with freshly scraped coconut and Lunumiris

Certain rice mixtures are used as home treatments for a variety of diseases. Leftover cooked rice from the previous night (no refrigeration) without reheating is a popular morning meal that helps to stave off hunger. Diyabath made from leftover cooked rice (Fig. 2c) has been shown to reduce stomach acidity. Mixing fresh cow’s milk or curdled water buffalo milk with cooked rice boosts therapeutic value and is widely consumed by locals in areas where such milk products are plentiful. For those healing from any illness, a porridge-style or gruel dish of roasted, un-parboiled rice is an easily digestible, energy-dense diet (Fig. 3a). Although India rice types have a high amylose content (23–31%) in starch, which resists digestion and has a low GI, extended cooking times and additional water in porridge preparation might result in a high degree of starch gelatinization, which increases digestibility.

Rice porridge can be fortified with coconut milk protein and fat, sweetened with palm jaggery or treacle, and flavored with onion (Allium cepa), ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe), and garlic (Allium sativum), with or without other pulverized/juiced green leaves of medicinal value (Fig. 3b). Green leaves popular for porridges today include Aerva lantana, Asparagus racemosus, Cardiospermum halicacabum, Centella Asiatica, and Vernonia cineria, which are known for their medicinal and therapeutic value in providing blood sugar controlling, anti-inflammatory, and/or blood-purifying effects according to indigenous and Ayurvedic medical systems.

Traditional Sri Lankan Beverages Cuisines

Traditional Sri Lankan Beverage Cuisines
Traditional Sri Lankan Beverage Cuisines

A- Plain rice porridge

B- Rice porridge made with extract of plant leaves or Kola Kenda

C- Porridge made with finger millet flour

D- Herbal tea made with flowers of Bael fruit

The recipes and notes kept by chef clans for pre-colonial royal households demonstrate the usage of various vegetable oils and animal fats in rice preparations. The sacred food offering to the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka includes a vast variety of traditional culinary dishes, approximately 32 at a time, which is an honored task undertaken and still preserved by these chef clans. Sri Lankan rice recipes today exhibit the influence of numerous ethnic traditions. Cooked rice combined with tempered vegetables, particularly carrots, leeks, and green peas, and garnishes such as cashew, raisins, pork, and egg to make fried rice may represent a fusion of British and Oriental eating preferences. Biriyani-style rice from Northern or Central Asian culinary history retains a selection of spices and oil (vegetable oil replaces ghee) preferred by the local palate. Lamprais is a Dutch-influenced rice dish made with flavored oil and jumbled together with shellfish-based fried chutney, curried plantains, and meat (poultry, beef, or mutton).

Preparations Made with Rice Flour

Rice flour is traditionally made by pounding grains (soaked and drained dehusked grains) in a wooden or stone mortar with a wooden pestle, or by grinding between two flat stone slabs, which is now supplanted by commercial-scale flour mills or home-scale electric grinders. The particle size of the flour is regulated by sifting with varying mesh sizes.Gruels (Thalapa, Kanji; Fig. 2d), unleavened flatbreads (Roti; Fig. 2e), string hoppers (Indippa; Fig. 2f), hoppers (ppa; Fig. 2h), and Pittu (Fig. 2i) manufactured mostly from rice flour constitute the traditional diet’s major meal item and are served with appropriate accompaniments. Depending on the product, different grains’ flours and plant elements are blended. Some of these culinary products can be found in South Indian cuisine. Mild fermentation, heat denaturation, and/or gelatinization of grain flour starch and protein during steaming (moist–heat treatment) of wet pastes or roasting of flour slurries provide these products’ distinct structures, textures, and flavors.

Other Grains and Pulses

Various grains that require significantly less water to produce than rice are widespread in low-rainfall seasons and non-irrigated locations and are used to replace rice in meals.

Cereals

Finger- (Eleusine coracana), proso- (Panicum miliaceum), foxtail- (Setariaitalica), and kodo- (Papsalumscorbiculatum) millets and maize are generally milled into flour for a variety of products (Figs. 2b, d, e, j, k, and 3c). Boiled maize cob is a popular snack and is now available as a portion of street food. Wheat flour has been included in Sri Lankan cuisine culture since the Portuguese invasion, and it is now a sought-after component for many flour-based meals. Depending on availability, cycad seed flour or Bassia Longifolia dry flower flour can be used to complement grain flour. Cycad seed flour has been shown to have hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic properties. Water lily (Nymphaea pubescens) seeds taken from huge bodies of water where they naturally grow are processed similarly to rice and prescribed to diabetes patients.

Legumes and Pulses

Mung bean and black gram (Vigna mungo) are commonly grown in rain-fed Chena cultivation (slash-and-burn agricultural method) and contribute to traditional diets and food items. Cowpea or black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp), with white or red skin, became popular for intercropping during the Green Revolution. Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum) has well-known therapeutic benefits and is used in a variety of dishes. Whole or split (dhal) pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) is used in curries and fried/roasted appetizers. Chickpea (Cicer arietinum, Kabuli, and Desi) and lentil (Lens culinaris, red and green, Mysoor dhal) were introduced after 1977 as a result of economic links with India. A basic supper includes boiled whole grain pulses served with salt, coconut bits, red chilies, and/or onion (Fig. 2j, k). Curried red lentil has become a staple in modern Sri Lankan meals, regardless of consumer income, type of occasion, or social level. In 2011, lentils accounted for more than 70% of the average monthly per capita consumption of pulses, which was 671 g/person/month.

Accompaniments

Various dishes of animal and plant sources accompany the traditional meal’s carbohydrate basis. These accompaniments are made in a thin gravy (Hodda), a sour curry (Ambula), a thick gravy (Niyambalwa), a slightly cooked salad (Malluma), and deep fried (ThelBeduma), or dry roasted (KabaleBeduma). These recipes call for coconut milk, grated coconut, coconut (or sesame) oil, and a variety of herbs and spices. Some of these side dishes are served with the main course. Milk rice, for example, pairs nicely with Lunumiris, and Sambal pairs well with boiling tubers or jack fruit. Similarly, some food items have preferred meal of the day, and the physiology or health condition of the consumer is dependent on the health features of the source material, for example, mung bean does not usually accompany the nighttime meal or a person suffering from the common cold.

Spices and Herbs

Various herbs and spices offer taste while extending the shelf life of the product. Almost all of the herbs and spices used in traditional Sri Lankan cookery have been shown to have antifungal, antimicrobial, bacteriostatic, fungicidal, and/or fungistatic qualities, as well as pH-lowering ability and therapeutic benefits such as anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic capabilities.

Turmeric, the rhizome of Curcuma longa L., is an essential component in Sri Lankan curries and rice preparations, lending a distinct yellow color and a slight flavor. Turmeric rhizome that has been heat-blanched is dried and used as a powder or paste. Curcuminoids, the principal active element, have cardioprotective, hypolipidemic, antibacterial, anti-HIV, anti-tumor, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-arthritic properties.

Traditional meals’ strong pungent taste and flavor are mostly derived from ginger and black pepper (Piper nigrum L.), as well as several hot chili pepper species. In traditional meals, oriental/brown (Brassica juncea) and black mustard (B. nigra), fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves (Syzygiumaromaticum (L.) Merr. & L.M. Perry) provide a variety of flavors and perfume. The dried husk of Garcinia gummi-gutta (L.) Roxb. (Gambooge, formerly Garcinia cambogia) and the meat of ripe tamarind (Tamarindus indica (L.) pods add a tart note to the medium and improve its viscosity. For sour, tangy flavor notes, lemons (Citrus limon), limes (Citrus aurantifolia), and the fruits of Averrhoa bilimbi (Oxilidacea; Bilin) are utilized. In various preparations, the bark of cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Moringa (Moringa oleifera), and Terminalia arjuna is employed. Dry spices can be used whole, in parts, as powder, or as a wet paste.

The traditional spice base (Thuna-Paha) has a particular flavor and is made up of three (Thuna) seeds (coriander, fennel, and cumin) or five (Paha) fragrant spices (cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cumin, and curry leaves). Variations in the appearance and taste of the final spice preparation result from combinations and pre-treatments such as dry roasting.

Types of Preparation

Curries can be served with a thin or thick sauce, moist without one, white/yellow, red, black, sour, sweet, bitter, or hot-pungent. Immature green chile, garlic, ginger, or ground black pepper are used to make white curries spicy. Red curries use a lot of red chili paste/powder, along with a few other spices. Dark roasted spices, particularly coriander, fennel, and cumin, are used to make black curries. Dry gambooge gives the final preparation a dark, brown-black color. The base for the gravy is coconut milk, buffalo milk, or water, with the principal thickeners being roasted rice flour (bland, toasted), soaked and crushed mustard (pungent), and ripe tamarind pulp (sour). Kyan hodda or Thambumhodi is a thin spiced gravy cooked with ground coriander, cumin, black pepper, red chile, curry leaves, and garlic; it is an appetizer as well as a cure for many ailments such as gastrointestinal issues, lowering blood cholesterol, and for lowering blood pressure.

Seven distinct plant items curried together (Hath Maluwa, Fig. 4a) are essential in the traditional New Year (based on the movement of the sun and constellations, and the coming of spring in April) cuisine that accompanies milk rice, as well as for certain spiritual devotions. It is a plant-based dish rich in macro- and micronutrients made of fruits (e.g., squash), flowers (e.g., pumpkin Cucurbita maxima), green leaves, nuts (cashew, immature coconut), pods (e.g., long bean Vigna unguiculata or winged bean Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), seeds (e.g., pulses, jackfruit seeds), and tubers. The availability of ingredients in your area will influence your ingredient selection. It’s optional to use dried fish.

In the typical Sri Lankan lunch plate, accompaniments are vital. They are made from animal or plant sources and round out the main course with starchy staples like rice and rice flour-based food products. Accompaniments are made in a variety of styles and consistency. These accompaniments give protein, lipids, dietary fiber, and micronutrients, rounding out the nutritious package provided by the meal. The addition of condiments and spices, as well as the method of preparation, provide a variety of colors, flavors, and tastes while boosting the eating satisfaction of the cuisine and various food preparations are shown in figure 4.

Sri Lanka Traditional Various Food Preparations
Sri Lanka Traditional Various Food Preparations

A . Hath Maluwa made with seven ingredients,

B. Sambōla,

C.Kiri Hodi,

D. Curried cashew,

E. Curried immature jackfruit,

F. Boiled mature jackfruit perianth with scraped coconut,

G. Curried jackfruit seeds,

H. Bread fruit Malluma,

I. Fried bitter melon salad,

J. Green leaf Malluma,

K. Traditional Sri Lankan pickle,

I. Dry sour fish curry (Ambulthiyal)

Oilseeds, Nuts, and Other Types of Seeds

In everyday cooking, plant oils are preferred over animal fats. The use of clarified butter (ghee) is restricted to flavoring and devotional preparations. Since time immemorial, coconut, the most sought-after oil-rich seed, has been an intrinsic part of the island’s gastronomic culture. Almost all portions of the mature coconut tree are used in a variety of items to sustain human life, including food, medicine, building materials, adornment pieces, animal feed, and fuel. Fresh or dried coconut kernels, fruit water, and inflorescence sap are all direct foods or food ingredients. The liquid contained within the immature coconut drupe is high in electrolytes and sugars, making it the most natural drink after water. Finely grated fresh coconut kernel complements starchy mainstays.

Sambal (Fig. 4b) is a spicy salad composed of freshly scraped coconut, onion, chile, lemon, and salt. Malluma is a macro and micronutrient-rich cuisine made with spicy coconut salad, thinly cut green leaves, starchy foods such as lentils, tubers, and breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis; Del) or jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus; Kos) cooked together. The aqueous extract of mature coconut kernel, sometimes known as “coconut milk,” is high in protein and oil and is used in Sri Lankan curries and gravies. Kiri Hodi (Fig. 4c) is a versatile addition to any meal made from mildly heated (near boiling) coconut milk with salt, turmeric, green chile, shallots, curry leaves, pandanus leaves, and lime juice. Mechanical pressing of dry mature coconut kernels yields oil suitable for cooking or lighting fuel. Coconut oil’s nice nutty scent and virtually bland flavor make it a popular oil for deep frying. Certain sweets use oil derived from fibrous debris as a filler.

Mechanically pressed sesame oil is prized for its therapeutic benefits and is a favorite cooking oil among the Tamil ethnic group. Traditional sweetmeats and vegetable recipes include whole seeds. Although groundnut/peanut (Arachis hypogaea) oil is not traditionally used in Sri Lankan cuisine, the entire seed is a less expensive alternative to cashew in sweetmeats. Popular snacks include roasted or oil-tempered mature groundnuts and boiled immature groundnuts. Cashew has a particular place in Sri Lankan cuisine. Ripe cashew is a popular snack, and the nut, whether tender or mature, is employed in a variety of dishes. Curried mature/tender cashew (Fig. 4d) is a high-energy (48.3 percent lipids, 20.5 percent protein, 4 percent dietary fiber, and free sugars) vegan meal that is an essential component of the Hath Maluwa.

Tubers, Roots, and Their Derivatives

Carbohydrates are satisfied in the Sri Lankan diet by a variety of tubers and roots (yams). The most popular edible species are Dioscorea and Colocasia. Since ancient times, tubers of Amorphophallus paeoniifolius (elephant-foot yam), Dioscoreaalata, Dioscoreabulbifera, Dioscorea Sativa, and Typhoniumtrilobatum (Bengal arum) have been consumed. The Portuguese may have introduced arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), cassava/tapioca (Manihot esculenta Crantz), and sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), and red-colored Canna discolor. The British introduced the potato (Solanum tuberosum), a popular root vegetable, in 1850.

Yams boiled in water with or without salt, along with grated fresh coconut and Lunumiris or Sambal, form a filling dinner (Fig. 2l). Whole yams are preserved in dry areas such as sand pits during the off-season. Sundried yams are thinly sliced and ground into flours to enhance roti and gruels.

Fruits and Vegetables as well as Their Preparation

Traditional meals include a vast array of plant materials from various species served in a variety of ways. Some plant items are subjected to pre-treatments such as steaming, sun drying, and soaking in salt or acidified water because they contain potentially dangerous substances and/or enzymes that can release toxic compounds, such as alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides that release hydrocyanic acid.

Many edible components are provided by two Moraceae trees, jackfruit and breadfruit, which are widespread across the island. The achenes with fleshy perianth covering the seed comprise a fruit; the achenes with fleshy perianth covering the seed comprise a fruit; the achenes with fleshy perianth covering the seed comprise a fruit; the achenes with fleshy perianth covering the seed comprise a fruit; the achenes with fleshy perianth covering Both the perianth and the seed are edible and have high nutritional, phytochemical, and therapeutic value. All stages and components of the numerous fruit are edible, including the inflorescence, juvenile fruit, mature starch-rich fleshy perianth, starch-rich seed, and ripe fruit perianth. The young fruit (Polos) is high in phenolic compounds and dietary fiber and is prepared as a vegetable, which gives a variety of health benefits (Fig. 4e). These diverse jackfruit components and preparations are liked by consumers regardless of age, social class, or physiological condition. One jackfruit’s starchy perianth (25 percent carbs) provides enough food for numerous people. Small chopped pieces are the most basic preparation.

Curried meat, fish or dried fish, and grated coconut kernel or Sambal are popular accompaniments (Fig. 4f). Such meals have been found to have a low GI (55%) as well as substantial quantities of dietary fiber and slowly accessible glucose (30%). When boiled, roasted, or curried, the starch-rich jackfruit seed is a good source of fiber, protein, and vitamins and creates an attractive dish (Fig. 4g). When fully ripe, the starchy perianth transforms into a fragrant, sweet-tasting dessert fruit with soft, melting pulp (Wela) or firm, the fleshy pulp (Wela) (Waraka).

The mature breadfruit has a high starch content and is regarded as a “heaty meal.” The meal preparations are similar to jackfruit, and the curried or Mallun recipes are served with rice (Fig. 4h). The fiber components of breadfruit contribute to the reduction in glucose absorption.

Traditional vegetables include gourds (snake, ridge, bitter, bottle), squashes, melons, and beans (long, French, winged, broad). The health benefits and therapeutic characteristics of edible plant components are more important considerations than their flavor when combining them into a meal. For example, the bitter melon/gourd (Momordica charantia, Fig. 4i) is a popular vegetable in curries and salads despite its harsh taste. Traditional medicine and scientific studies both support M. Charantia’s capacity to manage blood glucose levels in type 1 and type 2 human diabetes.

Green leaves from diverse local plants with beneficial health properties add fiber and minerals to the meal. Malluma (Fig. 4j) is the most frequent preparation, which consists of thinly sliced delicate leaves mixed with grated coconut and seasoned to impart pungency and acidity, resulting in a salad-style meal that is enjoyed fresh or with light heating.

A few examples are Gotu kola or Indian pennywort (Centella Asiatica), which has many health benefits such as neuroprotection, brainpower and eyesight improvement, and bitter-tasting leaves of green milkweed (Wattakakavolubilis/Dregeavolubilis) and crepe gingers (Costusspeciosus) are thought to lower blood glucose levels, Indian coral tree (Erythrina Indica) leaves are natural de-worming food for Greens combined with cooked lentils, yams, unripe jackfruit, or breadfruit are other popular side dishes.

Pickles or relishes made from vegetables create a tasty side dish for the traditional supper. The young fruits of papaya (Carica papaya), jackfruit, mango, Ceylon olive (Elaeocarpus serratus), Spondias Dulcis, or the stems of Lacia Spinosa with shallots and green chilies combined with coconut vinegar as the acidulant, with the flavor supplemented by the pungent isothiocyanates released from wet pastes of mustard and chopped pieces of Moringa root bark (Fig. 4k). Mango (Mangifera indica) immature fruits, forest mango or hog-plum (Spondias Pinnata), Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus Emblica), and boiling Ceylon olive fruits sprinkled with hot chile and salt are popular treats available from modern-day roadside vendors.

Ripe fruits such as mango, papaya (Carica papaya), pineapple (Ananas comosus), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), Anona (Anona Reticulata), durian (Duriozibethinus), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), guava (Psidium guajava), banana, and jackfruit Typically, wood apple (Limoniaacidissima), bael (Aegle Marmelos), and avocado (Persea Americana) fruit are prepared further by combining them with a sweetener, salt, and/or lemon/lime juice.

Snacks, Sweetmeats, and Sweets

Sweetmeats are snack foods that have a special position in everyday life, holidays, and offerings, and are embellished in folklore ballads, stories, and historical writings. The Thonigala rock inscription from the fourth century CE reveals the quantity of a meal served with food products such as curd, bee honey, sweets, sesame, butter, salt, green herbs, and turmeric between the morning and midday for the monastery’s refectory. Bundles of sweetmeats are accompanied by family and friendly visits, and the content varies depending on location, availability of expertise, and budget. The product diversity is reflected by obvious regional variances based on the ingredients present in the ecoregions.

During non-meal hours, visitors are provided delicacies from the house along with hot or cold beverages. Sweets are commonly served with various varieties of ripe bananas. Homemade sweets are a staple of traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations for family, visitors, and friendly food exchanges. Traditional sweeteners include bee honey, treacle, and jaggery, which have mostly been supplanted by cane or maize sugar. Collection of sugar-rich inflorescence sap of Caryotaurens or Cocos nucifera palms into clay pots containing fresh lime, pieces of Vateriacopallifera and/or Careya Arborea tree bark, and Azadirachta indica leaves (avoids fermentation), then boiling to become a thick brown syrup for treacle or further concentrated to a solid soft enough to bite as jaggery.

Rice flour is the most common starch used in sweetmeats. Variations can be obtained by adding mung bean, finger millet, or black gram flour. Particle size, moisture content, and pre-gelatinization are all important concerns in creating the flour base, depending on the product. These dishes are enriched with coconut milk, freshly scraped coconut, dry fragrant spices (e.g., ginger, black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves), cashews, and sesame seeds. Deep frying is best done with coconut oil. Non-deep-fried items are typically flattened and chopped into pieces or shaped. Aggal ( Fig. 5a), the simplest and most ancient sweetmeat, is produced with rice flour and sweetened syrup. Another ancient sweetmeat referenced in Buddhist literature is popped rice (Vilanda) with bee honey.

Sweetmeats can be snacks or desserts for a conventional main meal. Cereal (rice, millet) or other grain flours, palm sap-based sweetener, fresh coconut kernel, and vegetable oil are common ingredients in sweetmeats. Steaming, deep frying and roasting are all techniques of preparation. The finished goods vary in shape, texture, and flavor, and some are regional specialties based on local ingredients such products are shown in figure 5 below.

Traditional Sri Lankan  Snacks, sweetmeats, and sweets
Traditional Sri Lankan Snacks, Sweetmeats, and Sweets
ABalls are made from roasted rice flour and a sweetener.
BDeep-fried twisted oil cakes made with rice flour and sweetener.
CBatter-coated and deep-fried balls made with a sweetened mixture of coconut, roasted mung bean bits, cashew nuts, or sweetened Pittu balls.
DDeep-fried Oilcakes formed with flattened rice flour and sweetener dough balls.
E sweetener-infused deep-fried product of black gram flour and rice flour mixture
FDeep-fried sweetener-infused black gram flour and rice flour mixture
G2 times deep-fried product comprising rice flour and viscous plant extract with sugar syrup embellishments
HUsing a mold, deep-fried rice flour, and coconut milk batter
ICooked, flattened, and cut into pieces roasted rice flour and sweetener syrup mixture
Jsoft, delicate dark brown/black sweet consisting of rice flour and coconut milk heated together till a soft dark caramel color solid, then flattened and cut into pieces
Ka cooked mixture of rice flour Pittu and a sweetener till a soft cake forms and then sliced into pieces
Lwrapped with Kenda (Macrangapeltata) leaves cooked dough of rice and finger millet flour with grated coconut and sweetness
Traditional Sri Lankan Snacks, Sweetmeats, and Sweets- Description

Few types of oil cakes (Kevum) are central in traditional cuisine culture among deep-fried sweetmeats. A mixture of rice flour and liquid sweetener produced in various ways is deeply fried to produce a soft-spongy cake approximately the size of two bites for oil cakes. Heat and moisture treatments during batter preparation, sweetener type (treacle vs cane sugar), a combination of roasted mung bean flour, the addition of coconut milk, and other factors all contribute to product variations (Fig. 5b–e). The “UnduWalalu” (Fig. 5f), a popular sweetmeat of the country’s central hilly parts, is an example of an eco-region specialty.TheAasmi (Figure 5 g) or Del Kevum is a distinctive Sri Lankan fried sweetmeat with a semi-circular form, a filigreed white honeycomb appearance, and a soft-crispy texture.Kokis (Fig. 5h) is a fried, molded (various forms) batter of rice flour and coconut milk dyed with turmeric, with a crunchy, crispy texture and nutty flavor, and may be of Dutch origin.

Aluv (Fig. 5i) and softer, semi-moist Dodol are the only non-deep-fried sweetmeats with a few variations. The dark brown/black Kalu Dodol (Fig. 5j), produced with coconut milk and treacle, is a specialty of the island’s south, whilst the not-so-dark Kiri Dodol, prepared with dairy milk, is a specialty of the island’s mid-country. Welithalapa/Sow Dodol is made with Pittu granules that have been sweetened with sugar syrup and chopped into pieces (Fig. 5k). Furthermore, roasted nuts, seeds, and pickled fruits are excellent snack items. Sesame seeds combined with honey, and jaggery, with or without coconut, and formed into balls (Thala Guli) is a time-honored favorite.

Helapa ( Fig. 5l) is a one-of-a-kind sweetmeat made from steamed rice flour, finger millet flour, grated coconut, and a sweetener. Wade (deep-fried fritters) are formed from soaked split pulses (e.g., lentil, chickpea, or mung bean) crushed into a coarse paste and mixed with ingredients that contribute to a fiery savory flavor. Various pastry forms prevalent today (e.g., Cutlets, Chinese rolls, Pattis) are introductions from other food traditions.

Desserts with international roots, such as Watalappan and Bibikkan, contain coconut milk or grated coconut, rice flour (for Bibikkan), eggs, treacle, or jaggery, and include heat setting via steaming or baking. Cooked Sago beads in water, sweetened and with or without dry fruits and nuts, produce a spoonable gel-like product that is regarded as a cooling food.

Alcohol and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Natural springs supply consistent drinking water, and storing it in unglazed clay pots cools it for the tropical family. A highly regarded natural beverage is the liquid of immature coconut drupe, which is high in sugars, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. The king coconut, a native species with an orange-yellow outer skin, yields a sweeter liquid than regular coconut and is a healthful drink with a cooling effect. Juices of native fruits have been consumed since ancient times, primarily for their therapeutic/medicinal effects. Cirtus sinensis, Citrus aurantium, Citrus nobilis, Citrus reticulate, and Citrus madurensis are common orange and mandarin varieties. Sweet orange or pomegranate (Punica granatum) juice aids in the rehabilitation of mild diseases.

Excessive use of citrus drinks is thought to shift the body’s chemical equilibrium toward more phlegmatic circumstances. A common cough treatment is sour orange juice combined with honey and fresh ginger root juice. Ripe Aegle marmelos and Phyllanthus Emblica fruits offer medicinal potential and are typically turned into nutrient-rich beverages. Watermelon grown in arid climates is a thirst quencher.

Before the advent of coffee and tea 300 years ago, the most frequent beverages were traditional herbal teas (Fig. 3d) with associated health benefits. Dry flowers (for example, Cassia auriculata, Aegle marmelos), leaves (for example, Justicia adhatoda), roots (for example, Hemidesmus indicus), barks (for example, Cosciniumfenestratum), stems (for example, Tinospora cordifolia), young fruits (for example, Aegle marmelos), mature fruits (for example, Coriandrum sativum, Phyllanthus or whole plants (e.g., Sidaalnifolia, Aervalanata) having proven medicinal value is boiled in water and the extract is consumed with palm jaggery.

Coffee (mostly Coffea arabica) was introduced as part of the Dutch East-India trade scheme’s “producing states.” Hot coffee is a beverage that is commonly consumed for breakfast, late at night, or on cold wet days. For warm afternoons, coffee laced with cardamom, nutmeg, sugar, and milk is served iced. The British introduced tea (Camelia Sinensis) and cocoa (Theobroma cacao) for economic value in foreign markets in 1820 and 1834, respectively. The unique flavors and color of world-famous “Ceylon black tea” are dependent on careful monitoring of soil, ambient conditions, and production procedures up to final dry tea preparation.

The beverage that starts the day, hot water infusion of black tea with or without milk and sugar, is also frequent at social events and festivities. Darker red infusions with robust tea flavors, perhaps accompanied by a piece of raw ginger root, are generally favored; delicate fancy flavors or aroma-infused teas are only a modern consideration.

Traditional beverages made from fruit or smoothies can be found in several eco-regions. Mangrove Sonneratiacaseolaris fruit juice blended with coconut milk is a vitamin-rich, delicate refreshing drink with an acknowledged medical value that is popular in southern coastal locations. A traditional Sri Lankan beverage made from wood/elephant apple fruit pulp and coconut or dairy milk. Ripe banana and coconut milk sweetened with palm jaggery is popular in the North Central region and mimics today’s famous cuisine trend of banana-based non-dairy smoothies.

Gruels or porridge (see Figures 3a–c) Cereal grain-based flours or starch and polysaccharide-rich flours such as the spongy pith of Caryotaurens palm (contains 28.4 percent amylose and 71.3 percent amylopectin) and Sago palm (Metroxylonsagu, 60 percent starch) have been popular since ancient times. These have been described as having digestive tract health benefits, reducing blood sugar levels, and cooling the body.

Traditional fermented alcoholic beverages are made from the inflorescence sap of Cocos nucifera (on the coast) or Caryotaurens (in the interior of the island). The sap’s sucrose, glucose, and fructose are allowed to ferment naturally in clay pots by Saccharomyces species until the ethanol concentration reaches 5–6 percent (by volume) to produce sweet-tasting hazy, white palm wine or toddy. If fermentation is prolonged, Acetobacter growth raises acidity and results in sour-tasting palm vinegar. Tapping the inflorescence, sap gathering, and conversion to palm wine, sugar, or vinegar all necessitate the use of highly competent “Toddy Tappers” who are familiar with the techniques and routines. Toddy usage, manufacturing, and sale have been documented since antiquity; nevertheless, the introduction and consumption of other wines, distillates, and spirits occurred after the occupation.

Products Derived from Animals and Their Preparations

Meat

Religious and cultural biases and prejudices prevent Sri Lankans from eating animal flesh because the country is multi-religious and multi-ethnic. The traditional diet’s meat source is mostly derived from a range of large and small game, ground mammals, and birds. Traditional preservation procedures such as drying with or without smoking or marinating in honey assure low water activity to extend shelf life in the tropical, humid environment. Jerky-style, low-moisture, protein- and energy-dense beef products are examples of such goods.

Beef and cow meat consumption is less popular because these animals are valuable aids in agricultural and draft operations and supply milk for the household. Non-Buddhists are the only ones who can raise animals for meat in their homes. Goat meat is popular among Hindus and Muslims. Meat is traditionally curried with spices and served with or without coconut milk as a complement to rice and other starchy mainstays. Cured meat products from other cultures, such as bacon, ham, and sausages, have limited popularity. Lingus, a specialty of Sri Lanka and a delicacy passed down through generations, is created by cooking small chunks of pork with spices (coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vinegar, and salt) put into casings and smoked.

Fish

Fish is generally accepted by all religious and ethnic groups and is always in high demand. Oceanic fish are plentiful for the coastal populace, while fresh-water species are available for those who live inland. Approximately 70% of the country’s animal protein supply comes from fish and aquatic sources, with marine sources accounting for 86 percent of the supply.

Food fish supply includes small and large fish, close and offshore, pelagic and demersal fish, sharks, skates, and rays, and so on. Large species such as Lethrinuslentjan, L. nebulosus, Pristipomoides spp., Epinephelus spp., commercially important Katsuwonus pelamis (Skipjack tuna) and Thunnus albacares (tuna), Scomberomorus commerson (Seer fish), Platypterus spp., Tetrapturusangustirostris, T.

Freshwater fish such as Arius Falcarius (Whiskered fish), Heteropneustsfossilis (Stinging catfish), Clariasbrachysoma (Walking catfish), and Ophiocephalus striatus (Murrel catfish), as well as the highly productive freshwater fish Oreochromis Mossambicus (introduced in 1951), contribute 15% of the food fish supply.

Sun drying oceanic fish in sea breeze maintains and develops a distinct savory and salty (up to 17 percent salt content) taste of dry fish, an inexpensive protein source with a long shelf life. The “Maldive fish” is a type of dried fish preparation with a long shelf life that is made by cooking, drying, and smoking deboned flesh of Scromboidiae species. It’s a popular meaty/umami flavoring in curries and salads. Autolyzing fish in under-regulated settings while maintaining a high salt level and acidity (with Garcinia gummi-gutta as the acidulant) results in fermented or wet-salted fish Jdi, another preserved fish specialty in coastal locations.

The dry curry preparation of fish, sour fish curry, or Ambulthiyal (Fig. 4l) with a peppercorn, Garcinia gummi-gutta, and salt paste is a traditional ready-to-eat, short-term (3–7 days at ambient temperature), and preserved form common in coastal locations. The bioactive in pepper, along with the pH lowering provided by the organic acids in Garcinia fruit pulp, inhibit microbial deterioration of fish tissues. Tuna is the main ingredient in this popular meal.

Curried fish with red-style or white-yellow gravy (with coconut milk) is also popular. A traditional dinner in the coastal districts consists of non-parboiled red rice, curry fish, and grated fresh coconut or Sambola (or Malluma with green leaves), which provides a complete protein, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, essential fatty acids, and vitamin profile. Freshwater fish from inland reservoirs are prepared similarly to oceanic fish, and any surplus is turned to dry fish with no or little salt.

Dairy

Dairy and water buffalo milk are consumed in a variety of ways. Milking cows and a few calves are regarded as vital in a traditional village environment for sustainable living that maintains the nutritional status of the family and possibly neighbors who can afford to buy excess milk. Dairy milk yields five essences (Pasgorasa); milk, curd, ghee, cream/butter, and whey, which are classic delicacies regarded as noble and exceptional. Ghee is generated solely from cream by eliminating the water; the remaining non-fat solids and fat develop distinctive flavor and texture.

Water buffalo milk (17 percent of total milk production in the country) is traditionally transformed into curd for consumption. Curdling of heated buffalo milk occurs through coagulation of milk protein at low pH (4.8–5.8) due to lactic acid produced by the growth of Lactobacillus Delbrueckii Subsp. lactis, L. plantarum, L. helveticus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and L. casei subsp. Casei, Streptococcus thermophilus, and S. Lactis.

When compared to cow’s milk, buffalo milk has a higher total solids content (16.3 to 18.4 percent), protein (3.8 to 4.5 percent), fat (6.6 to 8.8 percent), lactose (4.5 to 5.2 percent), and casein (3.0 to 3.2 percent). It also produces a firmer curd, which is a bio-therapeutic agent with a long history of use in traditional medicine. Curd with treacle completes the most popular traditional dessert that is essential for a Sri Lankan meal. The whey fraction, often known as buttermilk (Mru), is a popular beverage.

Conclution

Sri Lankan traditional meals are a mash-up of indigenous foods and adaptations from diverse non-native civilizations. An in-depth understanding of the nutritional and therapeutic value of local flora and fauna, preparations and conversion methods of these sources into safe, edible ingredients, and almost personalized nutrition-based consumption patterns guided by indigenous medicine have all converged and evolved into this island’s traditional foods. Traditional Sri Lankan food prioritizes health benefits and nutrition over sensory qualities, and both diet and lifestyle are important concerns for a healthy body and mind. Traditional dishes are now recognized more for their culinary diversity.

Various socioeconomic conditions prevalent in this middle-income developing country restrict the appreciation and comprehension of traditional cuisines and consumption habits, while also impeding traditional knowledge transfer even in non-urban households. Socioeconomic factors such as lifestyle changes, consumption patterns to accommodate limited time and resources, dwindling supplies of traditional ingredients, inward migration of multi-national fast and processed food chains, and a lack of knowledge and interest in food, ingredient preparation, and traditional practices have overshadowed Sri Lanka’s reliance on indigenous and traditional foods. Although no direct link is shown, the considerable increase in NCDs over the last two decades, despite the country’s population’s overall good health, raises concerns regarding food sources, ingredients, consumption habits, and lifestyle.

Various socioeconomic factors prevalent in this middle-income developing country limit enjoyment and comprehension of traditional cuisines and consumption habits, as well as traditional knowledge transfer even in non-urban households. Lifestyle changes, consumption patterns based on limited time and resources, dwindling supplies of traditional ingredients, inward migration of multi-national fast and processed food chains, and a lack of knowledge and interest in food, ingredient preparation, and traditional practices have all overshadowed Sri Lanka’s reliance on indigenous and traditional foods. Although no direct correlation has been established, the significant growth in NCDs over the last two decades, despite the country’s overall good health, raises concerns about food sources, ingredients, consumption habits, and lifestyle.

The rapidly growing urban population and changing lifestyles drive up demand for processed and semi-processed convenience foods, particularly in metropolitan markets. Traditional staples and sweetmeats are sought after by urban and semi-urban consumers in the form of convenient foods that do not jeopardize their proven health benefits and sensory qualities. This is a window of opportunity to transition traditional food production, which is now done at the cottage level, to small-scale food companies that meet safety and quality criteria. On a broader scale, indigenous and traditional foods constitute a cultural identity that plays an important part in strengthening Sri Lanka’s tourism business; consequently, sources and preparations must fulfill the needs of people other than the typical local consumer.

Consumer awareness of food and ingredients, in general, produces a market pull toward healthy eating, which necessitates collaboration between the agri-food and health sectors. In order to keep raw material procurement, ingredient processing, product manufacture, and storage aligned with the nutritional and therapeutic value intended in the finished product, the food processing industry needs quality metrics that are science-based and measurable. In this context, there is a significant gap in the development of science and technology connected to boosting the status of indigenous and traditional foods in Sri Lanka.

This article was written as an extension to the “What is Organic Food” article after tremendous requests made by readers around the globe. The seed for that article was infused by Sri Lankan Food culture and wanted you to read it and understand what was written there.

This article was written based on the Journal of Ethnic Foods website. The primary credit must go to them.

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