Spices, which are a vital part of Sri Lankan foods, are used by people with such ease, adding subtle flavours and aromas. They are also an important part of Ayurveda healing. In the early days of trading Sri Lanka was known as a spice island. Even in modern day cooking there is no substitute for the pungent flavor of curries made with freshly plucked spices. Fresh spices are ground for each meal, just prior to cooking. Here are a few:
Cinnamon - Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed and dried. They have a strong, sweet and woody fragrance
Cardamom - Cardamom is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family. It has an intense, pungent, sweet flavor. It lends an exotic addition to rice dishes and confectionary, especially in the Sri Lankan national pudding, Watalappam.
Cloves - Cloves are the rich, brown, dried, unopened flower buds of Syzygium Aromaticum, an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. They have a strong, pungent aroma and tastes rather sweet.
Coriander – Coriander is the fruit of the leafy herb cilantro. It is used as a spice and medicine. Coriander is probably one of the first spices used by mankind, having been known as early as 5000B.C. In Sri Lankan dishes Kottamalli or coriander is roasted and added as a spice for cooking soups, stews, and vegetables. Coriander tea is served in Ayurvedic spas. The dried coriander fruits are made into stimulating oil that helps to combat fatigue and lethargy.
Karapincha – Curry leaf- This is the “all spice” for Sri Lankans. This green, leafy herb is used to prepare almost every dish in the national cookbook, for it is highly aromatic. It is used as seasoning much like bay, parsley, basil leaves. Karapincha Kola Kanda is an herbal soup that has traditionally been considered the “poor man’s porridge.” With more and more doctors prescribing it for good health and rejuvenation it no longer draws boundaries of social status. In fact, Kola Kanda is far more nutritious than some cereals as it is made with fresh herbs.
Lemongrass – Lemonsgrass is widely used in savoury dishes and meat, poultry, seafood and vegetable curries. It harmonises with coconut milk, especially with chicken or seafood, so there are countless Sri Lankan recipes exploiting this combination. The stems are also used in teas, pickles, and flavouring marinades. Lemongrass is utilized as a medicinal herb in the treatment of diarrhea, fever, and headaches.
Saffron - In its pure form, saffron is a mass of compressed, threadlike, dark orange strands.