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Travel

Rice and curry in Habarana

Curries here are flavoured with shards of cinnamon and whole chillies, so if you like your flavours mild, make sure to ask.

We depart Wilpattu’s Big Game Camp for Polonnaruwa, where we’re headed to the ancient city. It’s a gorgeous drive all the way, palm lined and sunny, and in one particularly pretty patch our photographer declared, “It looks like the south of France!”

We stopped for a meal at Rukmali Hotel in Habarana. It is lunchtime and we are ravenous. You will likely have someone tell you before you go that the food in Sri Lanka is really similar to Indian coastal cuisine. It is true that Sri Lankan and South Indian food have parallels with one another, and the cuisine is probably closest in spirit to the food you’ll eat in Kerala, but Sri Lanka’s flavours are less polished, more fragrant, and a textural treat. Curries here are flavoured with shards of cinnamon and whole chillies, so if you like your flavours mild, make sure to ask. You’ll taste the tartness of tamarind often, or sometimes goraka, which is frequently substituted to add that same tang. Rice and curry is the mainstay of their meals, but wherever we went we found plentiful local buffets offering a wealth of curries and rice, of course, but also salads and always, always at least five incredible vegetable preparations.

At Rukmali, lunch was buffet-style, and we tucked into steaming mounds of Sri Lankan red rice topped with delicious and soothing tempered dal, and loads of a coconut-tossed baby brinjal. The buffet had both a spicy and non-spicy chicken curry sitting side by side, presumably for the locals and the decidedly not-local, all of whom picked the milder option and still left with lightly burning lips. Completely worth it though. Skip dessert and make a second visit to the plentiful vegetable counter. We tried a mild pumpkin curry, an okra and onion fry, and those super baby brinjals.

We travelled to Sri Lanka with IBEX Expeditions; this itinerary was created especially for Nicobar and booked entirely through IBEX.

 The next chapter of this journey here.



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