Being a native of India, my first thought when I landed in Sri Lanka, was whether their cuisine was "like Indian food?" Of course, being situated next to the southernmost tip of India, there are some common elements found in both cuisines—but Sri Lankan food is definitely not your average chana-masala or lamb vindaloo take-out. Often referred to as the "Island of Rice and Curry"— the seafood-heavy, yet vegan-friendly island cuisine incorporates several local flavors like coconut, jackfruit, curry leaves (Murraya koenigii), lemongrass and whole chili peppers—the most important ingredient of any Sri Lankan dish! Did I mention the crisp, bold and aromatic Ceylon tea yet? Sri Lankans take their tea VERY seriously—each time we ordered tea during our stay, it was served with an hourglass sand timer to ensure that it brewed for the perfect amount of time. Ceylon Tea is an orthodox tea, meaning that it is processed by hand and carefully graded to ensure that only the best leaves pass the test. Rest assured, I brought several boxes of that treasure back home with me!
For a local and authentic Sri Lankan dining experience, we headed to Tangalle Rice and Curry Restaurant, a family-run establishment on the same road as Anantara, known for its exhaustive buffet of curries ranging from prawn, lobster, fish, beetroot to pumpkin. Served with the curries is Sri Lanka's version of the hamburger—"Kottu", a traditional bread prepared with eggs, meats, and spices and mashed together with sharp metal blades. After a series of "swish" and "tings", the restaurant's owner Dipil presented us the final product—a hodgepodge of deliciousness with a side of mint chutney.
The special culinary experiences
at Anantara Peace Haven are as wonderful as the local restaurant. We dined twice at Verele
, the resort's Sri Lankan-Teppanyaki fusion restaurant and gathered up a feast of grilled river sole, fried tiger prawns, and Wasabi-infused chicken curry, all served with Parippu,
the island's staple lentil curry flavored with coconut milk and fresh green chilies. On our last day, we enjoyed a private cooking class with Anantara's head chef—who accompanied us to a local market to buy fresh vegetables and meats and then demonstrated the preparation of a traditional 5-course Sri Lankan meal. Between the Champagne, Vodka-infused king coconuts and golden-fried lobster, this was certainly the culinary highlight of our trip.