happy new year! i’m old! i must be. i woke up on jan 1 and made a traditional sri lankan new year’s day breakfast all on my own. shouldn’t my parents be making that for me? and shouldn’t i roll downstairs way too late in the day to be eating anything called “breakfast” on new year’s day? the fact that i didn’t get this meal on the table until almost 2pm, and that my parents did come by on the 2nd with a fresh tray of kiri bath made just for me, makes me feel a little less panicked about it. traces of laziness and dependency must mean i’m not that far from my youth…
i’m pleased and also surprised that my breakfast turned out. the recipes are simple but sri lankan food is still mysterious to me. having grown up with 4 adults in the house that are, oh, masters of this cuisine, i never had to take notice of what gave the dishes i ate their unique flavour, or even what that vegetable was that no one outside of my family seemed to recognize. “it’s called drumsticks” i would say, discussing the long, bark-enclosed vegetable. (that really is the name. but we’ll get to drumsticks another time.)
kiri bath (pronounced keerie buth) literally translates to “milk rice” and it’s always served on new year’s day, but also on birthday mornings or other special occasions. apparently the red rice that my parents use is not readily available, other than at south-asian stores. i took some home the last time i was visiting my family (like a young university student might!) and i haven’t actually sought it out myself. but kiribath made with short-grain white rice is just as delicious and the end result is even creamier.
this is a savory dish to be sure, though it may remind you of rice pudding. and it’s served with curry or a spicy sambol or both. however, the coconut milk adds a sweetness to the dish, and it’s often accompanied with jaggery, a block of unrefined sugar, from which one takes small bites throughout the meal. instead of jaggery, my family eats this dish with bites of ripe banana. it’s a nice foil for the heat of the lunu miris or curry, and again, a little sweetness has a place here.
it’s as simple as heating cooked rice with salted coconut milk until the milk is almost entirely absorbed by the grains. but you start with rice that is cooked with more water than you would normally use–about a cup more water for every 2 cups of uncooked rice. then add the hot rice to the coconut milk and cook over low heat, stirring frequently so that the rice doesn’t burn at the bottom.
you’ll want most of the milk to be absorbed by the rice, but you’ll know it’s ready when there are still some tiny pools of milk on the surface…
and when you mix the rice for a final time, it mounds and no longer slides back into a slushy pool.
scoop the rice out into a shallow dish, smoothing it into an even layer. leave for a minute to set, and then cut into diamond shapes. serve with lunu miris and a piece of banana for an auspicious and traditional sri lankan breakfast!
milk rice (kiri bath)
(note: this is a hybrid of my mom and my aunt’s recipe. they gave me differing amounts of coconut milk to use but when questioned, met somewhere in the middle. you may see a very similar headnote at the beginning of all of my future sri lankan recipies…)
2 cups red rice, washed several times
2 1/2 cups canned coconut milk, or 4 tbs. coconut milk powder, disolved into 2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
cook rice in a pot or rice cooker, adding enough water for 3 cups of rice. meanwhile, add salt to the coconut milk and stir well. pour into a large pot. when the rice is cooked, transfer the hot rice to the pot of coconut milk and mix well, coating each grain. cook covered over low heat, stirring frequently so that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn. when almost all of the milk is absorbed, uncover and continue to cook until only a few small puddles of milk are visible on the surface of the rice. spoon rice into a large shallow dish, spreading it into an even layer. allow to set for a minute, then cut into diamond-shaped pieces about 2 inches X 3 inches in size. serve hot or at room temperature
chili onion sambol (lunu miris)
(my mother’s recipe)
1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 tbs lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp paprika
in a small bowl, mix the lime juice and salt with the onion and set aside for 5 minutes. this helps to extract a little of the liquid from the onion which you want to mix into the juice. add the remaining ingredients, mixing well and mashing the onion slightly with the back of your spoon. this softens the onion and helps to create the thin red paste. serve alongside kiri bath or rotis.
makes approx. 1/2 cup