If you thought that Sri Lankan cuisine is all about tear-inducing fiery curries and spices galore, think again because Sri Lanka has you covered on desserts too. Thanks to the Dutch and Portuguese traditions of sweets and the arrival of the Brits and Malays, you don’t have to go far in Sri Lanka before running into a deliciously sugary sweet. Sri Lanka boasts of a fine selection of traditional desserts and sweets, much of which is made from local spices (we can never leave those spices out, can we?) and sweeteners like jaggery and kithul palm treacle.
Got a sweet tooth? Satisfy your sweet cravings with some of these traditional delectable Sri Lankan desserts and sweets:
At first glance, this may look like a luscious chocolate pudding but take a bite of this aromatic sweet treat and you’ll be surprised to find that it’s full of rich, fragrant flavour. It’s similar to a flan but Watalappan or Wattalapam as it’s called by the Muslims, is made with coconut milk, eggs and like any good island dessert, coconut palm sugar or jaggery. Air bubbles keep the thick, creamy dessert from getting too heavy and a healthy amount of chopped cashew nuts on top gives that extra little bit of crunch to the otherwise soft dessert.
A handy tip for the foreigners: if you have trouble pronouncing Watalappan, try saying “what’ll happen” really fast and you’ll get there!
Buffalo Curd with Kithul (palm syrup)
Sample a spoonful of this rich, creamy and tangy treat and you’ll be a fan for life. A dash of kithul – a syrupy treacle in dark, caramel hue will elevate this sweet dessert even more. Buffalo curd (or greek yogurt) with kithul is a versatile dish that is eaten both as a dessert after meals but also doubles up as a light breakfast sometimes.
This sweetmeat is a type of flat cake and is one of the most popular traditional sweets in Sri Lanka commonly made during festive occasions like the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Konda Kavum or Oil Cake is a minuscule Lankan take on cake made from rice flour, sugar and a mix of spices and deep fried in coconut oil. The specialty in this sweet is in the way it’s made: inserting a filament in the centre to allow better cooking and to bring out a piece of dough on the outside. Konda Kavum is a delicious treat you have to try but it’s not going to help your waistline!
A favourite dessert drink in Sri Lanka, divul kiri is a rich smoothie made from blending the pulp of divul or woodapple with coconut milk, jaggery and ice. Don’t let the nondescript appearance of woodapples fool you – this round, pale hued fruit packs a punch with its robust, tangy flavour and plethora of medicinal properties.
When travelling in Sri Lanka, you will spot modified tuk-tuks with clear sides driving around, displaying baked goodies and sweets for sale. Try sampling halapa that is made of millet flour, coconut and jaggery and wrapped in a kanda leaf and then steamed. The subtle taste of the leaf in halapa adds to its flavour and it’s the perfect warm sweet treat for the evenings. Or you could try coconut pancakes which are mild, starchy wraps wrapped around a coconut and jaggery mix, offering a blast of crunchy sweetness and you’ll find it hard to limit yourself to just one.
Already salivating? You’ll find a more refined version of Sri Lankan desserts and sweets in hotels and villas and they’re a frequent fixture in almost all home cooked meals in guesthouses like this one. So, go on, forget about those calories and indulge in some hearty, wholesome island dessert treats.