Though the traditional Sri Lankan New Year falls in April/May, we always celebrate January 1st with the rest of the world. My mother, however, has always made it our own family tradition to eat a breakfast of kiribath (milk rice) and all the condiments in keeping with what she was used to growing up. Kiribath could be considered the national dish of Sri Lanka as it incorporates our two staple crops—rice and coconuts. Rice symbolizes abundance, and the milk of the coconut, purity and fertility, so combining these two foods into the first meal of the new year is supposed to bode favorably for the future. Of course, no Sri Lankan meal would be complete without a serious dose of heat, so the main condiments eaten with the kiribath include lunu miris (literally, “raw onion and chili”) and seeni sambol (“sugar sambol) as well as the sweet treat, pani pol, which is simply coconut syrup boiled down with shredded coconut. As we enjoyed this New Years’ breakfast, we discussed how this tradition might possibly end if second generation kids like myself don’t carry it on, so for all you expats and 2nd Gens, I am including a few simple recipes so you don’t forget.
Milk Rice (Kiri Bath)
This dish is usually served for breakfast or special occasions (weddings, Sri Lankan New Year). It is accompanied by Lunu miris, Seeni sambol, and curries or it may get the sweet treatment with some jaggery (palm sugar) on the side.
2 cups (500 g) long-grain rice
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
2 cups (500 ml) coconut milk
2 tsp. salt
1.) Wash rice and place in pot or cooker.
2.) Add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.) Add coconut milk and salt and stir well.
4.) Cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed.
5.) Spoon rice onto a plate and flatten to about 2 inches thick. Cut into diamond-shaped slices and serve.
Sugar Sambol (Seeni Sambola)
This is a must at the breakfast table on Sri Lankan New Year to complement the milk rice.
2 tbsp. oil
1 lb. (500 g) red onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 in (5 cm) piece ginger, finely chopped
1 sprig curry leaves
2 in (5 cm) stick cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 oz. (150 g) Maldive fish (or dried shrimp)
3 oz. (75 g) tamarind, dissolved in 2 oz. (50 g) coconut milk
juice of lime
2 tsp. sugar
1.) Heat oil in pan. Fry onions, garlic, ginger, and curry leaves until onions are golden brown.
2.) Add all other ingredients and cook on low heat for 30-45 minutes.
3.) Add sugar and mix well just before taking off fire.
Makes a 1 lb. (500 g) jar
Onion Chili Sambol (Lunu Miris)
This fiery mix of onion, chilies and chewy bits of Maldive fish is the perfect complement to hoppers or milk rice.
1 onion, chopped
4 tbsp. dry red chilies
1 tbsp. Maldive fish (or dried shrimp)
juice of lime
salt to taste
1.) Grind all ingredients together in a food processor to make a thick red paste.