I don’t think it’s just a Sri Lankan thing, but while common in some parts, you still might fine it odd. Eating salad with rice, particularly fried rice, is a thing. Chinese-style fried rice, Indian-style biryanis and especially Sri Lankan-style yellow (turmeric, cardamom, etc.) fried rice. In the case of my family, we’re talking about a very specific salad: thin slices of tomatoes, red onions, sometimes a few leaves of lettuce and, always, thin slivers of fresh green chili. It’s become my mother’s specialty and she serves it any time she has guests over for dinner right there on the table with the rice and the other main courses of rich curries and fried vegetables and greens.
The dressing that she makes for the salad is simply vinegar, sugar and salt, in which she marinades the sliced onions for a few minutes to both soften them and take the edge off them. It’s a bold salad and can stand up to almost any meal, spicy, fatty, crunchy or even sweet. The coolness and freshness of the salad is a nice contrast to cooked foods but and biting into raw, fresh chilies is probably something we do all too rarely–you don’t want to replace the heat here with dried chilies or hot sauces. You might be skeptical about eating salad with rice but make this salad and let it sit the next time you’re frying rice or ordering in. It’s so good, particularly with fried rice which is dryer than fresh, that not only do I find myself looking for something like this on the table, I would eat just this salad and fried rice and call it dinner. An awesome, delicious dinner.
UPDATED to include recipe (finally!): May 2014
Mom’s Green Chili and Tomato Salad
It’s both difficult and unnecessary to try to give you measurements for this salad. It’s about adding enough of one thing so that you enjoy it. If you love raw onions like I do, add more. If everyone at your table is going to be reaching for slices of green chili, make sure you have enough.
1 small red or white onion, halved or quartered, then thinly sliced
About 1/4 c distilled vinegar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Generous pinch sugar
1-2 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1-2 fresh green serrano chilies
Add the onion, vinegar, salt and sugar to a bowl and mix well (use your hands if you wish), bruising the onions a little and set aside.
Slice the tomatoes thinly and arrange on a platter, pour over some of the juices so that they eventually meld with the vinaigrette. Slice the chilies thinly, discarding the stems and loose seeds and scatter over the tomatoes. Pour the vinaigrette over top. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes if possible and taste to adjust seasoning. It will taste even better in a few hours. Serve with anything you’d like, especially fried rice dishes and with rice and curry.
Makes enough for 6-8 small servings.
(Post edited/updated, including recipe addition: May 2014.)