Spices in Sri Lanka

Add a “spicy” touch to your holidays in Sri Lanka.

You may not be aware of it, but even in the western cuisine there is a touch of Asia: Spices. One of the most valuable rare resources found in Sri Lanka are spices and you certainly don’t want to add a “spicy” touch to your holidays in Sri Lanka.

Although nowadays these are available in almost every supermarket in the world, spices have an history of over 4000 years. In the past many colonial powers from Europe competed with each other to gain access to Sri Lankan spices, including the British, Dutch and the Portuguese.

Spices in Sri Lanka are not only used for cooking both sweets and savory dishes but also for medicinal purposes and are a vital part of the ancient ayurveda medicine.
Here is a list of spices that you will easily find during your holidays in Sri Lanka:

  • Cardamom
  • Chilli peppers
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cummin
  • Curry Leaves
  • Fenugreek
  • Nutmeg
  • Pepper
  • Sweet-cumin
  • Turmeric

spices_3Of all the spices in Sri Lanka, pepper is the spice that is mostly used around the world. It is in fact referred to as the king of spices and remains one of the most valuable spices in the world. This spice is believed to have originated in South India and must have found its way to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan pepper has a good value in the market because it is believed to be of a good grade.

Another Sri Lankan spice that is very popular is Cinnamon. Cinnamon is an indigenous spice to Sri Lanka and believed to have originated in the island. Sri Lanka is proud to hold 90% of the international market for cinnamon trade. This spice is derived from the barks of the plant Cinnamomum zealanicum. It is used as a flavor enhancer for various cuisines around the world. You can chew on the dried barks to experience the minty taste it gives out. spices_1

Ginger is another one of the common spices in Sri Lanka. Ginger originates from South-east Asia; it spread to India and eventually to Sri Lanka. Ginger is a common household Sri Lanka spice that is used in cooking to enhance flavour. It is also used for its medicinal properties; for example many locals add ginger to tea to enjoy a ginger tea, which offers health benefits such as relieving stomach problems.

The availability of spices in Sri Lanka is what made the Sri Lankan cuisine quite special; it is regarded as some of the spiciest cuisine in the world. Some spices such as cinnamon are endemic to Sri Lanka, while others have entered the island and have been in cultivation for a long time. The spices in Sri Lanka exists as an important resource that gives an identity to the country.

An interesting fact: there is a common misconception in believing that Curry is a spice. Curry powder is actually a mix of spices which is used along with Curry leaves, pepper, turmeric powder and chilly powder to prepare the famous “Curry dishes“. This mixture can be used to prepare almost any kind of meat and vegetables and served with boiled rice. There are several types of curry powders, during your holidays in Sri Lanka, if you are strong enough and  you can bear spicy food, you will able to taste the differences.

If you want to purchase some spices during your travel in Sri Lanka, you will be able to find many shops selling souvenirs and there you would also find packed spices in different formats. Usually these are sold from $2 to $5, depending on the weight, packaging and amount of spices. However, during your holidays in Sri Lanka, keep always in mind that in the great majority of the shops you can always negotiate on the price. If you are not comfortable in negotiating, you can always get into a supermarket where you can find all kind of spices packet with fixed prices. If you purchase the packs that are sold for the local market it will be certainly cheaper than purchasing the “souvenir” packages.

Last but not least, don’t forget to visit a Spice Garden. These are spread all around the island and you will be able to learn about spices, from the plant to the process to make them into medicine or eatable goods.

 

Written by: Prashanth