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Vegetarian inspiration in Sri Lankan cuisine

Delia grew up in the Netherlands in a Sri Lankan family. Her father is from Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka and her mother is from the center of the country near Kilinochi. She has a lot of affinity with her culture because of the diversity, authenticity and traditions that Sri Lanka has. She tells us all about it.

Delia explains that the population in Sri Lanka is largely made up of two ethnic groups: the Tamils ​​and the Sinhalese. Her family belongs to the Tamils. She grew up with this culture and was also taught Tamil. Sri Lanka is slightly bigger than the Netherlands. “Despite this relatively small size, the dishes differ in every corner of the country,” says Delia. The dishes among the Tamils ​​are largely the same, but they often differ in the preparation method. “In the region where my mother comes from, they prepare the dishes differently than in my father's region,” says Delia.

Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner in Sri Lanka consist of hot meals. Breakfast and dinner can vary every day, but lunch always consists of rice with different curries. In addition, they mainly eat savory snacks. Sweet treats are only intended for holidays.

“In the region where my mother comes from, they prepare the dishes differently than in my father's region”

When we ask Delia what it is like to grow up in the Netherlands in a Sri Lankan family, she enthusiastically tells us that she really enjoys being able to experience different cultures. At the same time, she sometimes finds it difficult to choose which culture she feels most connected to. She does have a preference when it comes to the cuisine. “Until now, I have been cooking most of the dishes from Sri Lankan cuisine, because I really like the diversity of flavors and spices and I enjoy experimenting with this.” This diversity in flavors and options is also what differentiates Sri Lankan cuisine from other food cultures, according to Delia. In addition, Sri Lankan cuisine has many vegan options. Especially when compared to other cuisines around the world. This is because in Hinduism non-violence, also towards animals, plays an important role in the culture of the country.

Sri Lankan cuisine is often compared to Indian cuisine. Delia explains that Sri Lankan and North Indian cuisines are very different from each other. “South Indian food culture, on the other hand, is very similar to Tamil food culture. The difference mainly lies in the preparation methods and spices. For example, in South Indian cuisine they use a lot of garam masala, while this is not the case in Sri Lankan-Tamil cuisine. Ingredients typical of Sri Lankan cuisine include turmeric, fennel, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black pepper, chili powder, and green chilies. The most delicious curries are prepared with these ingredients, which are mainly served with rice. Puttu (a breakfast dish with rice and coconut), dosa (a type of pancake) and idiyappam (a type of noodles made from rice flour) are typical dishes that are made on a weekly basis in Sri Lankan cuisine.”

“Puttu, dosa and idiyappam are typical dishes that are made on a weekly basis in Sri Lankan cuisine.”

On holidays it is customary to prepare something sweet and a dish with meat. If the holiday is related to religion, this will be a vegetarian dish. Thai Pongal and Diwali are two of the biggest holidays in Sri Lanka. Thai Pongal, often celebrated in January, is all about the new harvest. The main dish during this holiday is Pongal, a sweet rice dish. The rice is then first offered to God and the sun, because the sun ensures that everything grows. Diwali is the well-known festival of lights, which is all about a prosperous future. During this holiday, food is in principle not central, but they cook very tasty dishes to celebrate. Many savory snacks are made such as vadai murukku (a kind of rice cracker) but also sweet snacks such as laddu (sweet fried dough ball). Because togetherness is seen as something very important during these holidays, you get both days off in Sri Lanka to celebrate with family.

Finally, we ask Delia if she has any tips for our readers. She didn't have to think long about that: "Don't be afraid to add a little spiciness to your food!"


Curious about a real vegetarian Sri Lankan meal? Delia gave us the recipes for two types of curries, coconut roti and a refreshing coconut sambol.

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