Lamprais is a Sri Lankan delicacy. It is a meal of rice and curries cooked and then wrapped in banana leaves and baked.
Origins of Lamprais
Lamprais, also called lumprais or lampreis, came to Sri Lanka by way of its Dutch colonial power. The Dutch ruled Sri Lanka from 1640 to 1796, and they called this lomprijst (a packet of rice).
But rice is not native to the Netherlands and culinary historians trace this to Java in Indonesia was was also ruled by the Dutch.
Apparently, the Dutch colonizers saw farmers in Java taking their packets of lunch. Called lemper, they were basically some sort of meat with sticky rice, all wrapped in banana leaf. Some say fermented shrimp paste was also included.
They brought it to the Netherlands where it underwent some customization. Some report says the ‘original’ lamprais consisted of a three-meat curry of beef, pork and lamb. Added to this were an assorted ray of dishes, from plantain curry, an eggplant dish, frikadelles (pan fried meat balls) and deep fried boiled eggs. The curries were laid on top of rice cooked in stock – all atop a banana leaf – and then baked.
But, over the centuries and then decades, the lamprais has been further adopted. Because of religious and cultural sentiments, the three-meat curry isn’t necessarily used.
Sri Lankan Lamprais Today
In Sri Lanka, it was adapted further.
Today, it usually consists of the following:
- Rice (usually samba rice cooked in stock)
- Different varieties of meat (goat, beef and/or pork), but usually only one type.
- Eggplant pieces sauteed in a special mixture
- Green beans sauteed (some use curry plantains instead)
- Dried anchovies sauteed (some use ‘seeni sambal’ which is onions sauteed with spices including dried red chillies)
- Boiled egg
In a banana leaf, the rice is first served and then the various dishes in smaller portions around the edges (I try to place them based on their color as well, as the color contrasts give a more exciting look to the meal). The egg can be placed in the middle. A little bit of coconut milk is poured over the meal and the packet is tightly wrapped and baked.
I usually bake it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
This is what I made recently. If you see, there are two dishes I had mentioned in the list. Dhal and sauteed collards. I simply like the flavours they add to the meal.
And one doesn’t need any other dish to complement this Sri Lankan lamprais meal.