The traditional cuisine of the island has many diverse influences; Indian, Arabic, Malay, that all find their way into the nation's bowls, pans and plates with the end result being curry!
The former colonial powers, Portuguese, Dutch and least of all the British, have left their traces in many recipes. Curry and rice sums up basically every local meal, Hoff will be pleased. It is extremely tasty, easy to digest and when compared with European prices, very inexpensive, and is also often a feast for the eyes.
Sri Lankan curry has nothing in common with the instant spice we have here in the UK, Curry refers to both the mixture of ground spices - some of which are roasted beforehand - as well as the dish itself. There is usually a choice between a vegetable curry, beef, chicken or less common but offered in some places, pork curry.
Especially in the countryside colours are often used to describe the various curry dishes. A white curry is based on coconut milk and is mild and is almost a liquid soup. Red curries have large amounts of chilli. Black curries are the most common and contain roasted coriander, cumin and fennel. The roasting process produces the aroma out of the spices and roasting the spices is what distinguishes Sri Lankan curries from those made in neighbouring countries especially the Indian varieties that are much better known here.
Chilli, dried or as a powder, is the hottest spice (obviously). there are many different varieties of chilli, green and red, big and small, fat and thin. Pickles are just as popular as they are in Indian cooking: they are usually served as a side dish, such as Seeni Sambola. That is a special mixture that includes chilli (powder), as well as garlic, cardamom, dried shrimps, ginger and Tamarind paste.. that sounds YUM!!!
The curries are served in several bowls that are bought to the table at the same time. The food is often served luke warm and the Sri Lankans will not understand if you complain about that, so suck it up and embrace the culture. You mix your portion of rice with the side dishes: lentils, aubergines, cucumbers and breadfruit, as well as meat and/or fish and seafood. Pappadams, light, crispy, flat wafers made from lentil flour, are always served along with a curry and no meal would be complete without one or more chutneys.
Information and photo credit: Wikipedia and Marco Polo Guides