I know I’m not alone when I say, loud and proud;
I travel to eat.
I’ve seen the hashtags on Instagram, I’ve scrolled through the tens of thousands of Trip Advisor reviews.
One of the greatest joys on this earth is eating. Trying something new. Trying something you’ve had a hundred times before. Tasting something so recognisable twisted into an unfamiliar flavour.
The further afield we go from our home turf, the options become more resplendent and the spices grow in variety.
And with 21st Century dining experiences only complete with an Instagram post, it’s not hard to find the gastronomic offerings available in more or less any location worldwide.
So when we were planning our travels through Sri Lanka, I took a fair time to do some research. I was enthused by the thought of Rice and Curry, but truly had no idea what was actually awaiting us.
Around halfway through our trip we took a bumpy ride out on the clay roads in tea country, during an absolutely torrential rainstorm. That was the first day we really understood the meaning of ‘rainy season’, with clay streams streaking the tires red and very very deep puddles. It was a ‘windows up’ kind of drive, and the camera stayed firmly in the vehicle.
After perhaps an hour traversing like this, we caught on that our driver Harry seemed somewhat lost. Yelling into his mobile phone, we began to feel worse and worse about the long drive and the state of his car when finally we reached the target destination.
No sign, no marker. Just the end of the road. We were told to wait while the rain lashed on the windows (literally one of my favourite sounds in the world though) and our escort to lunch would arrive within 15 minutes.
This is how it goes down when you visit Palmstone Retreat.
A personal escort arrives for you and your luggage, and takes you down to the house. The road is bumpy, so it’s a 4×4, but when you pull up there’s a little tuk-tuk parked up in the drive. That’s what’ll drop you to your personal villa.
At Palmstone we had a real introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine, and more importantly – to rice and curry.
“Sort of like Indian food, but quite a lot not like it too”.
As a more commonly known cuisine in the UK, there are similar elements between Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. But a spread of ‘rice and curry’ that represents most Sri Lankan meals is pretty different from a vindaloo, dopiaza or saag aloo.
Here’s the deal in full, all we were told at Palmstone retreat…
Curries may look familiar, but are thinner and more heavily spiced than most Indian versions (and you can tell).
Sri Lankan cuisine includes lots of ‘non-native’ ingredients. This is mainly in thanks to the epic international trade that has always moved and continues to move through the country’s ports today.
It’s not for the timid eater – curries are pretty fiery and flavours are all dominant, there is minimal respite from the spice. The food was unapologetically hot hot hot.
‘Rice and curry’ is the name of the meal, and hence, your curry should always be accompanied by a big pile of fluffy white rice.
When you order one ‘curry’ off a menu, always expect at least 5 dishes to come out.
The basics of Sri Lankan food are rice, coconut, tropical fruits and native vegetables. There is always more than one way to prepare rice, especially in a country that grows so many varieties of the grain.
The curry will reflect where you’re eating it! Along the coastal lines you’ll find fresh seafood, crab and fish in your curry, whereas in the hill country more pork is used, and chicken, beef and goat are more nation-wide.
The colour of your chosen dish depends on how the spices have been prepared. Due to this, curries vary in colour from light yellows, deep mahogany reds, and bright unexpected pinks.
If you’re somewhat of a curry connoisseur, if curry is your go-to takeaway or even if you’ve never tried a drop of curry in your life – for foodies, Sri Lanka should definitely be on your list.
Where has the cuisine surprised you on your travels?
Love, Chloe x
With a big thank you to Palmstone Retreat for their hospitality and Paradise Vacations for organising the trip.