Being true Sri Lankans we some how manage to add coconut in to anything and everything we consume. However the genius of Kiribath (milk rice) is not simply the taste factor, its importance is embedded in our culture. There may be various types of milk rice out there but the specialty of the Kiribath or the Paalchoru as the Tamils refer to it is the coconut milk added when cooking the rice. For any Sri Lankan it has a lot of tradition in not only its consumption but in its making as well.
The origin of the Kiribath is not entirely clear however there are a few known theories. One of which being a type of milk rice being used by Hindu worshippers primarily in Kerala as an offering to God. However this rice was made with cow`s milk. The uniqueness of Kiribath is coconut milk being used instead of cow`s milk. Since coconut milk is much more plentiful rather than cow`s milk and in regards to food Kerala has had an influence on our Island, this theory may seem to have some basis. Most of these offerings to God are made in the mornings, after which the remaining milk rice is said to have been consumed. This could be another reason why Kiribath is mostly consumed for breakfast.
Regardless of how and where the Kiribath originated its importance is attached to the Sri Lankan culture itself. At every special or auspicious moment the Kiribath is a necessity. It takes centre stage when celebrating the Sinhala Tamil New Year as it is prepared according to an auspicious time. Apart from the New Year it is consumed to mark a celebration. The first of every month Kiribath is made as a tradition for luck and prosperity.
In preparing the Kiribath it is importat to use the Kekulu rice as it is completely raw and no form of boiling has taken place. Kekulu rice is available in both red and white. Red kekulu rice being the common choice since it is readily available. It is also essential to note when using coconut milk it is the first extract that is used. The recipe below will demonstrate how simple and easy it is in its preparation.
Place the required amount of rice in a saucepan with water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer until the water has been completely absorbed. Some prefer to drain the excess water after only 10-15 minutes in order to remove the starch content in the rice. However this method tends to affect the overall texture of the Kiribath. Therefore it is advisable that the water is completely absorbed for the coconut milk and salt to be added. Let it simmer until the coconut milk has completely absorbed in to the rice. At this stage the Kiribath will be a soft, creamy almost runny texture. It should be dished out and shaped while it is hot and left to cool. Traditionally the Kiribath is shaped on a banana leaf. Once it cools it will no longer be runny but be firm and easy to cut in to squares. Diamond shaped pieces is the most popular choice.
The Paalchoru is prepared during the New Year in the same method as the Kiribath however it is the Pongal rice that is similar to the Kiribath in regards to its importance. The Pongal rice is prepared according to an auspicious time and is primarily sweetened rice. Coconut milk and mung beans are added to the rice which is sweetened with jaggery. The Mung Kiribath (milk rice infused with mung beans) and Imbul Kiribath (milk rice stuffed with grated coconut and palm sugar) has been inspired by the Pongal rice.
The next time you have your milk rice, be it Kiribath or Paalchoru remember its importance and enjoy it with pride, ?? Sri Lankan pride.
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