Spices of Sri Lanka
In the 16th century Ceylon, as it was then known, was discovered by Portuguese who soon began trading in cinnamon and other spices. The Dutch and British followed bringing with them their own history and influences, forming a strong Western presence which created a history of food expressed with spices which can be tasted in the dishes today.
Is it any wonder that the Spices which are a vital part of Sri Lankan food are used by her people with such ease, creating food that is unique and interesting, adding subtle flavours and aromas.
It is an Ayurvedic belief that spices have healing properties that can enhance well being. The ordinary Singhalese curry contains up to thirteen herbs and spices:
Chillies, coriander, cumin, curry leaves, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, lime, onion, and rampe and turmeric.
Used in main meals to desserts and cakes, the islands food is expressed through vibrant colours and fragrant aromas of fresh spices.
Roasting of spices such as cumin seeds, coriander and fennel to bring out their flavour is a method used to make a black curry, and the smell of a good curry powder being roasted can excite the senses to great heights.
To food lovers, Sri Lankan food is an expression of a colourful history and delightful surprise, just like the island.
Here are some spicy details
Cinnamon is the dried bark of various laurel trees in the cinnamomun family. Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed and dried. True Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka. It has a strong, sweet and woody fragrance. Cinnamon is used in cakes, cookies, and desserts throughout the world. It is also used in savory chicken and lamb dishes from the Middle East. In American cooking, Cinnamon is often paired with apples and used in other fruit and cereal dishes. Stick Cinnamon is used in pickling and for flavouring hot beverages.
Cardamom is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family known as Elettaria Cardamomum. The seeds are found in ovalshaped fruit pods that are between 1/4 and 1 inch long. It has an intense, pungent, sweet flavor. A small amount of Cardamom will add a tempting flavour to coffee cake, Danish pastry, specialty breads and apple pie. Try Cardamom the Arabic way and add a little to your ground coffee before brewing, then sweeten and top with cream.
Cloves are the rich, brown, dried, unopened flower buds of Syzygium Aromaticum, an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. The name comes from the French "clou" meaning nail. They have a strong, pungent aroma and tastes rather sweet. Traditionally, cloves have been used in spice cookies and cakes.
Saffron is the stigma of Crocus Sativus, a flowering plant in the crocus family. In its pure form, saffron is a mass of compressed, threadlike, dark orange strands. It has a spicy, pungent and bitter flavour with a sharp and penetrating odor. Saffron is traditionally used in French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, Milanese risotto and many Middle Eastern dishes.