As soon as you arrive in Sri Lanka you are hit by the smell of curry and the sight of crows. So much curry! So many crows! What does one have to do with the other you say? Well, let me tell you what it’s like here in Sri Lanka and why the crows and the curry come hand in hand.
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, Sri Lankans are eating Rice and Curry. There are levels of fanciness for Rice and Curry; from grained basmati rice and organic vegetables to mushy short grained rice and stinky mackerel, all wrapped in newspaper. No matter the combination, crows will be on the look out for an opportunity to dive in and sneak a piece of meat or vegetable. Sure enough when someone is “done” eating, they spill the rest on the ground for the crows to eat.
Some hotels like the Galle Face in Colombo have real live scare crows armed with a slingshot, a stern stare and constant shoo to the incoming crows. Some restaurants have to put netting on the balconies to prevent the crows from stealing the guests’ food but also from pooping all over the furniture.
The differences between breakfast rice and curry and lunch rice and curry.
Even though Sri Lankans will eat rice and curry any time of day, there are some differences between what they serve at breakfast and what they would have at night.
I prefer the breakfast version as it usually includes; dahl (pink lentil and coconut milk curry), pol sambol (grated coconut, fine cut onions, lime and chilli) and seeni sambol (caramalized onions with chilli). Breakfasts don’t come with white steamed rice exactly but rather with rice flour noodle nests called string hoppers or with rice flour bowl shaped pancakes called egg hoppers. You might think that maybe Sri Lankan breakfast isn’t spicy, well you’d be wrong. Sri Lankan breakfast is as spicy as any other meal of the day.
Lunch has a more classic approach in which the main staple is white rice accompanied by a myriad of curry possibilities; chicken curry, fish curry, mango curry, breadfruit curry, potato curry, chickpea curry. Did I just say curry enough times? There are two basic options, curries with coconut cream and curries without. All have a good amount of turmeric.
Sri Lankans eat with their hands.
With the mountain of rice in the center and the curries around it, they start mixing it up with the fingers of their right hand and scoop up the food with their fingers to then push into their mouth with their thumb.
I can’t do it, I can hardly look at them doing it. It’s too much for me. But every visitor that comes to town loves it! They really do try to learn how to eat like the locals. It is really just like learning how to eat with chopsticks in Japan. I will keep eating curry with a spoon.