Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage that spans thousands of years. Although the land is populated with many ethnicities and cultures, it is predominately Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus. Over the millennia, the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka assimilated tradition and cultures of their Asian neighbors and British rulers with their own. This adaption has created a unifying culture for the Sri Lankan people.

April 14th marks their Sinhala and Tamil New Year. It is a national time of grand celebration in Sri Lanka, and the festivities often last a week. Traditionally, the celebration begins on the 13th, which is like our New Year’s Eve. At this time of year, the monsoon season has ended and sunny weather is near. Sri Lankans of every religion and socio-economic status participate in decorating, feasting, and giving gifts.

Because of so much international influence, Sri Lankan cuisine is a veritable treasure of color, texture, and flavor profiles. Many of their dishes are based on locally-grown rice, which is a hallmark of Asian cuisine. Indian influence shines through the Sri Lankan culinary specialties, such as curries and chutneys. They are generous with fragrant spices, tropical fruits, veggies, and coconuts. Sri Lankan cooks also infuse flavors and traditions from Dutch and British colonists.

There are flavors in Sri Lankan cuisine that would please any palate. Meat is served in moderation, often mutton or seafood. Because of their Buddhist and Hindu populations, many Sri Lankan dishes are vegetarian/ vegan-friendly. Many of the world’s spices come from this area of Asia, so Sri Lankan cuisine is never short on exotic seasoning.

Why not try some traditional Sri Lankan recipes this April 14? You will be pleasantly surprised when you discover how easy it is to make such deliciously exotic food. Sri Lankan cuisine is generally healthy, with plenty of veggies, herbs, grains, and fruit. Your kids will enjoy learning about the history of Sri Lanka, and how their people united for independence. These recipes are easy, and do not require a lot of time or expensive ingredients. Happy Sinhala and Tamil New Year!

Papaya & Carrot Halwa

Sri Lankans adopted this Northern Indian dish and gave it a tropical flair. Halwa is a thick pudding made with semolina or carrots, mixed with almonds, butter, sugar, and sweet spices. This carrot version gets its velvety texture from papaya. If you invest in a small supply of cardamom and saffron, you can use it for other Asian and Indian-inspired dishes. Serve halwa alone or with a little dish of ice cream!

Chickpea Sundal

Do you need a tasty side dish for celebrating Sinhala and Tamil New Year? Although it is a simple dish, sundal is a popular food offering in Buddhist temples during religious holidays. This recipe includes plump garbanzo beans, spicy chilis, and zesty ginger. It gets a little grated coconut for a refreshing sweet taste. Sandal makes a quick snack, too.

Spicy Indian Roasted Potatoes

This delicious vegetarian recipe is tender potato wedges that are seasoned with zesty spices and mustard seed, then slowly roasted to a golden perfection. Choose a firm, waxy potato variety, instead of a starchy one. Try these with a Sri Lankan-inspired meal, or as a delicious side dish for other cuisines.

Paal Payasam

Many of the traditional dishes served during Sinhala and Tamil New Year are yummy desserts, such as this comforting rice pudding. Sri Lankans are often busy during the holiday, so this quick, simple dish is ideal. After toasting the rice golden with a little ghee, gently boil it with milk and sugar until thick and tender. Feel free to add raisins and nuts and serve the delightful pudding warm or cold.

Tamil Spiced Fried Lentil Fritters

The Tamil Hindus enjoy these spicy treats so much, they are nearly always on their New Year celebration menu. Called Masala Vadai in their language, these delectable fritters are made from lentils, rice, green chilis, and flavorful spices. They make a fantastic Sri Lankan appetizer, with sides of chutney for dipping.

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