June 20, 2019
Sri Lanka Bucket list – A cooking Lesson
Over the years Sri Lankan cuisine has gained a strong following by foodies around the world. It is no secret that Sri Lankan food has a mix of flavour and depth that are quite unmatchable. The unique flavours are attractive to different palates including western palates that can be more sensitive to flavour-rich meals. For our team, when we travel to Sri Lanka, eating the local cuisine and experience the diversity of Sri Lankan food is top of our to do list. And we certainly encourage our clients to try as much local cuisine as they can too during a private tour of Sri Lanka.
One of the best ways to get a taste for the foods of Sri Lanka is to participate in a Sri Lankan cooking class. This travel blog will outline for you what you can expect to do and experience during a cooking class in Sri Lanka. It’s based on a very real, hands on cooking class we did recently in Kandy. Like most of the activities we include in our custom made itineraries, we like to test and experiences activities before we include them in your holiday. This way we know that what’s included in your tour we know works and is worthy your precious holiday time and experience. Read on to find out more.
But before we talk about the cooking class in depth – here is a brief outline of some of the flavourful and dynamic dishes you can eat when you visit Sri Lanka.
Different types of food you can experience when travelling in Sri Lanka
- Traditional Sri Lankan Food.
Traditional Sri Lankan food is kind of recipe-less, meaning the ingredients and methods are handed from generation to generation therefore tacit knowledge plays a huge role. These are also food that local homes would prepare on a daily basis, nourishing and comforting. Hoppers, coconut roti, rice and accompaniments such as curries, coconut sambol and string hoppers are just a few types of traditional Sri Lankan foods.
Sri Lankan street food that consists of what locals generally referred to as short-eats is another category of food that reflects the diversity of flavour and the years of cultural and global influences. The shapes and flavours embrace cross-cultures and years of colonization and foreign settlements. Chinese rolls, fish buns, coco buns, patis, dhal wadai, koththu rotis are a few of them. Of course the list goes on.
- Sri Lankan food with a twist
There are other dishes with a twist. For example, traditional rice and curry turned into Sri Lankan Fried Rice heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine, String Hopper Koththu, Cheese Koththu etc.
These are sweets and completely vegetarian. So, it can be quite confusing to refer to them as ‘meats’. These traditional sweets are made in homes with painstaking techniques and hard labour, not a regular make at home treat.
Knowing a little of the types of food you will discover in Sri Lanka, what can you expect to learn during a Sri Lankan cooking class?
What can you expect if you include a cooking class in your Sri Lanka holiday and where can you take a cooking class in Sri Lanka?
It may be private or can be a group lesson.
Our day began in Sulochana’s kitchen. Sulochana is the lady of the house and my home stay with her allowed me to have a private cooking lesson in her home beautifully located near the Mahaweli River in Kandy. A great sunny morning, the river gently flows down stream with birds of varied kinds flying here it was such a fabulous start.
She generally has a group class in case you are not staying in her home. Either way it is a fantastic experience. We can book a cooking class with Sulochana during your stay in Kandy.
Traditional Sri Lankan recipes and cooking
Sulochana walks into her very thoughtfully created kitchen clad in traditional attire. She walked with a bubbly smile on her face and ready for action. We were going to make Sri Lankan Dhal Curry and Hoppers (two of our favourites). We expected to go straight in to cooking, then we realised that there is more to learn before cooking. This was not just tossing a few things into a pan, really one has to know a few basics before touching the ingredients.
Learn basics first
As we said before, we had to learn the basics, in a sort of a brief classroom session before really starting the practicals. The start was a thorough briefing on the types of spices used in Sri Lankan meals. It is amazing how these different and colourful spices really build up the flavours and depth of Sri Lankan cuisine. There are nearly 16 unique spices that are used in making curries. To make a Dhal curry one uses nearly half of them. Then the curry leaves, pandan leaves, the red small onions, garlic and explosive green chillies make up the balance flavour.
There are some exciting and unique chores
Instead of opening a can of coconut cream you need to break the fresh coconut and scrape the flesh. Breaking the coconut – as we learnt the hard way – is an art by itself. You need to tap the coconut hard with a huge knife on the grains. No amount of strength will open up a coconut if you knock it in the wrong places.
The next exciting chore is to scrape the coconut using a traditional coconut scraper – lots of fun. Then comes the squeezing and straining. The scraped fresh coconut flesh is soaked in water and strained twice to get the thick cream (usually found canned in super markets) and thereafter the lighter milk, nothing goes wasted. Children would love this, as squeezing the wet coconut is great fun!
You get to make it yourself
You really get to make it until the end. When we made my first hopper, we felt like jumping up in excitement. It was surely nowhere close to Sulochana’s almost perfect hopper, but it was such a wonderful feeling of achievement to know that we could really do it.
You can make these beautiful dishes back home in Australia.
What we really liked about the entire cooking experience in Sri Lanka was that it was not one of those exotic cookery lessons that you can neither remember nor has ingredients you can’t find when you get back home. For one thing you can write down the recipe (we would suggest that for sure!), secondly, you can find most of the spices and ingredients in the local supermarket in Melbourne.
All in all, it was a great afternoon in the kitchen. A definite tick on our to do list if you are planning to travel in Sri Lanka.
A cooking class can be included in any of our customised tours of Sri Lanka. These hands-on activities are great for families travelling with children and are suitable for family travel in Sri Lanka.
If you are a serious foodie, you might want to experience our Food Trail of Sri Lanka suggested itinerary which as a strong focus on the different regional cuisines of Sri Lanka, unique dining experiences as well as sightseeing and cultural touring. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about travelling in Sri Lanka. Appointments can be made to visit our Melbourne, Australia based office to meet with our senior Sri Lanka tour planners to find out more about creating a bespoke Sri Lanka itinerary to suit your travel needs.
You may also like to read our other Sri Lanka travel blogs:
A guide to eating in Sri Lanka: 13 foods that are worth travelling for
Top 10 places to visit in Sri Lanka in 2019
Here’s 16 things about Sri Lanka you should know