The 10 foods you must try in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan food is a melting pot of cultural influences and flavours, fusing fiery spices with sweet tropical fruits, fresh ocean fish and healing Ayurvedic herbs. The Tri team have eaten our way along the length and breadth of Sri Lanka and narrowed this down to the top 10 dishes which every traveller must taste – it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it! Read on for our highlights


Crisp and lacy-edged pancakes made with fermented rice flour, bowl-shaped hoppers are surely the most iconic Sri Lankan dish. Traditionally served for breakfast, our favourite hoppers are served with a golden-yoked egg and generous helpings of sweet onion seeni sambol and fiery lunu miris.

Credit: Nick Hopper
Credit: Nick Hopper


Flavoured with fragrant spices, fiery chillies and black pepper and sweet-sour tamarind, curries are perhaps the most famous Sri Lankan food. The humble Parippou (otherwise known as dhal) is king of the curries: mild and creamy, the perfect foil to hearty meat or vegetable curries and sweet sambols.



A pale green-to-yellow fruit, jack fruit is a staple in Sri Lankan cookery. The fruit takes on a convincingly meaty texture as it cooks and soaks up all the surrounding spices and flavours, making it the ideal base for a delicious vegetarian — or vegan — curry.

Credit: Color and Spices
Credit: Color and Spices


The ultimate quick and tasty meal, kottu roti is a delicious, spicy dish formed of flaky roti bread, which is shredded and quickly fried up with spices, fresh vegetables, meat or fish on a hot, flat grill. Travelling through regional towns and villages, you’ll often hear the rhythmic metal clacking sound of Kottu Roti being prepared. Fast, fresh and delicious!

Kottu Rotti @ Srilankan Canra


Another common Sri Lankan breakfast option, string hoppers are a far cry from their bowl-shaped cousins. These hoppers are a tangle of rice noodles, steamed and piled high with curries — a little like a savoury noodle pancake!

Credit: Flickr / Charles Haynes
Credit: Flickr / Charles Haynes


Served sizzling hot and wrapped in newspaper, ‘short eats’ are quick afternoon snacks sold to hungry passers-by at roadside stalls up and night markets and down the country. Our favourite is a fresh fritter called a vadai – a lentil-based dumpling, fried until crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, dotted with spices and fresh corn or flavoursome shrimp.



Ambul means ‘sour’, and ambul thiyal is a fittingly hearty fish curry which strikes a perfect balance between sour tamarind, sweet coconut milk and fragrant spice. Our fish is always fresh from the ocean or our very own Koggala Lake, and the curry is served with myriad accompaniments including coconut pol sambol and fresh mallum made from shredded greens.

Credit: Nick Hopper


Thick and creamy buffalo curd, paired with sweet kithul palm treacle, makes for a delicious start to the day. Add some colour with vibrant local pineapple, mango, papaya and banana, or try Tri’s famous buffalo curd ice cream, served with homemade granola!



Of all the bright and colourful fruits used in Sri Lankan food, the wood apple is not going to win any beauty contests. The small, hard, ball-shaped fruits have a tough rind and curious scent, but the smooth and sweet brown pulp aids digestion, tastes delicious and can be used in tangy chutneys, or blended with water and jaggery to make a refreshing juice.

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Credit: Recess City


With so many delicious savoury dishes In Sri Lankan food, there’s rarely any room for dessert! One exception, however, is watalappan: a wobbly custard pudding akin to pannacotta, made with coconut milk infused with sweet jaggery, crunchy cashew nuts and fragrant spices including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.


Finally — no meal in Sri Lanka would be complete without an amber-toned cup of the finest Ceylon tea. The national drink is grown throughout the country, along the coast and in the lush and mist-draped central highlands, picked by hand and carefully sorted and dried to produce a refreshing, fragrant brew: the ultimate taste of Sri Lanka.

Digital Detox: Disconnecting to Connect

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Chances are you’re scrolling through digital devices before your brain has had a chance to process you’re even awake. Here at Tri, it’s easy to switch off from the modern world as you wake every morning with only the sounds of chirping birds and swaying palm trees for company. However, it’s no secret that we’ve all been a slave to our smartphone at one point or another.

Studies have shown that the average person reaches for their phone a whopping 200 times a day – that’s once every six and a half minutes. One in four of us are spending more time online than we do asleep. Now, don’t get us wrong – technology is a wonderful thing – but where’s the limit? We’re constantly faced with warnings that too much digital exposure could be damaging our memory, concentration, productivity, mental health, and ultimately disconnecting us from the real world. Think it’s time to do something about it? Read on for five helpful tips on how to switch off.


This first one is easy: leave digital devices outside the bedroom. Experts have found that the light from our phones inhibits the production of  melatonin, which is vital for getting to sleep. Instead of spending the time before bed aimlessly scanning the internet, invest in a good book or a diary to reflect on the day gone by. For the morning, buy a traditional alarm clock, or leave your curtains open to let yourself wake naturally to the morning light, just like we do here at Tri. You’ll wake feeling more refreshed and ready to conquer the day ahead.

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Credit: Josephine Silabetzschky


A digital detox doesn’t mean you have to put down your phone for good: set yourself an allowance, whether this be a dedicated social media hour, no emails after 6pm or phones away at the dinner table. You’re more likely to stick to it if you allow yourself access in small doses, and you’ll find yourself interacting much more with the people and places around you in your dedicated anti-digital hours.

Credit - Chris deLorenzo (34)
Credit: Chris deLorenzo


A digital detox is the perfect opportunity to start a new hobby – join your local art class, take up yoga or learn a new language. The time you’re putting into your new passion is time spent away from the digital world, and who knows – you might just discover a new talent!

Jenna Miech
Credit: Jenna Miech


We all know how easy it is to fall into an Instagram hole, liking travel snap after travel snap (and building up an impressive must-visit list at the same time). So much of the digital world is smoke and mirrors, not real life, and stepping away from social media can do wonders for our self-esteem. Why not make social media apps only accessible via desktop, or only when you have access to WiFi? You’ll have significantly less access to the sites and more time to appreciate your real life.



If you want to truly zone out, why not take a digital detox holiday? Switch off for an entire week and just enjoy beautiful natural surroundings, delicious food and the company of your travel companion. Our serene lakeside location makes Tri the perfect spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, whether you want to explore verdant Koggala Lake, pamper yourself in the spaperfect the art of yoga or simply just lie by the pool. What are you waiting for?

Hotel Tri Final Selection-13
Credit: Picturesque

Five things to do at Koggala Lake

Here at Tri, we’re lucky enough to call  one of Sri Lanka’s most serene and verdant corners home: Koggala Lake. Whilst offering the perfect space for relaxation and contemplation, we’re also just a hop-skip-and-jump from some of the country’s most renowned cultural sites and unique experiences. To help you experience the best our corner of the world has to offer, we’ve rounded up our top five local activities…


Did you know that 90% of the world’s highest-quality cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka? Our neighbouring Cinnamon Island produces some of the country’s finest export-quality cinnamon. We encourage all guests to hop into our dhoni and glide across Koggala Lake with our charming guide, Douglas. Visit the home of a local planter, and — over a fragrant mug of fresh cinnamon tea — learn the story of cinnamon from soil to stick. Watch as the fine layer of outer bark is gently scraped off, and the inner bark is expertly cut away from the wooden limb, before being rolled into the familiar cinnamon stick we see in spice shops today. And the wooden core? You’ll spot this adorning the outer walls of Tri’s villas and iconic water tower.



Often referred to as the cultural capital of the south thanks to its unique combination of beautifully crafted European architecture and South Asian traditions, Galle Fort is one of Sri Lanka’s not-so-hidden gems. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the seafront fort district is home to quaint paved streets, an abundance of gemstone and jewellery shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants serving up delicious local dishes. Be sure to visit Laksana for sparkling Ceylon sapphires and local favourite Poonie’s Kitchen for great salads, cakes and juices.



There’s little more exciting than swimming the Sri Lankan waters and watching as a sea turtle paddles past, gently spraying water into the air as it dives down into the ocean depths. Sadly, these remarkable creatures are facing severe pressure on their population size due to a dangerous combination of light and sea pollution, unsustainable fishing practices and the consumption of turtle eggs. Koggala Sea Turtle Hatchery works towards the preservation of sea turtles, releasing turtles back into the ocean and educating locals around the value of safe fishing practices and the reduction of harmful pollutant use. A visit will offer an insight into the vital work they do, and you might even get the chance to release some turtles into the sea yourself.

Credit: Pixabay


Alongside cinnamon, Sri Lanka is also renowned for another export: tea. Most tea plantations are situated in the soaring, mist-draped peaks of the central hill country, but the local low-country is also home to a variety of quality producers. Just a stone’s throw from Tri, Handunugoda Tea Estate specialises in the prized Virgin White Tea. Brewed from only the smallest and newest leaves, this delicate tea is an antioxidant powerhouse beloved in local medicine. The estate offers informative guided tours, explaining the journey of tea from leaf to cup. 25 varieties of tea are available in the on-site shop, meaning you can take a taste of Sri Lanka home with you.



Just a short distance from Tri lies the spectacular south coast, where the jungle meets the sea; scattered with curving, golden sand beaches and crashing Indian Ocean waves. For active types, these beaches offer some the best surfing in the country, and our team are more than happy to arrange private lessons. For those wanting some more relaxing downtime, the tropical beaches also make the perfect spot for soaking up the sunshine and the easy-going atmosphere, toes in the sand and fresh coconut in hand.

Credit: Josh Kempinaire
Credit: Josh Kempinaire

Five ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle

As the world grows ever-smaller and more interconnected, we’re all becoming increasingly aware of our impact upon it. The butterfly effect states that every flap of a butterfly’s wings can create a hurricane across the ocean; so every decision we make can ripple out to affect the planet we call home. Here at Tri we’re strong believers in looking after our little patch of blue and green; safeguarding the natural world for future generations. This doesn’t have to mean hardship and deprivation — here are five simple ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Everyone knows that nothing tastes better than coconut water gulped from a coconut cut directly from the tree; or bananas, ripe and spotted, picked from the palm. Eating locally means enjoying food which is fresh, in season and packed with nutrients, and supporting your local farmers, whilst avoiding food miles and endless packaging. Win-win! The food concept at Tri is entirely designed around eating locally and enjoying the bounteous produce available in our lush corner of the Earth. When you’re back at home, why not try to eat with the seasons? There are few things tastier than a late-summer blackberry straight from the bush…

Credit: @xkflyaway

Taking hundreds — even thousands — of years to break down, single-use plastics are clogging up waterways across the globe, causing environmental degradation, swirling ocean gyres and harm to wildlife the world over. The solution is simple: opt out. Here at Tri, we use our own filtered water in reusable glass bottles, and eschew plastic straws in favour of sustainable home-grown bamboo. Why not take your bamboo straw home with you? Opt out of plastic straws and enjoy a taste of tropical paradise with every sip!

Tri 1

Eating mindfully does not stop with the vegetable drawer. Tri’s menus focus primarily on locally-sourced plants, fish and seafood, to create delicious dishes with a true Sri Lankan flavour, avoiding more resource-intensive meats such as beef and lamb. It’s easy to maintain this sustainable living focus when you arrive back at home: just switch that steak for a fresh fillet of fish, or try to stick to plant based dishes for a few days each week. Simple!


Turn off that engine: here at Tri we love getting out into nature. Co-founder Rob often starts his day with a cycle into work, or an early-morning hike through the lush greenery surrounding Koggala Lake. Ditching a gas-guzzling car for pedalling or hiking up and down hills will improve your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your legs and help to save the environment to boot.

Credit: Chris deLorenzo

Reducing our electricity use is one of the simplest steps to living more sustainably. One of the things our guests love most about Tri is the ability to completely disconnect from the outside world. Switching off will not only reduce your electricity use, but give you a mental break from our fast-paced, never-stopping world. Use the time to enjoy a yoga class or get out into nature. Take a break, and just breathe.

Yogashala (4)

Image credits: @xkflyaway, Chris deLorenzo, Coke Bartrina

Welcome to Koggala Lake

Koggala Lake near Koggala in Sri Lanka is a freshwater lagoon which sits 9.8 feet (3 metres) above the sea level near the south coast of Sri Lanka.

Koggala itself is a small coastal town in Galle District in the Southern Province, Sri Lanka. Dotted with lots of mini islands, including Temple Island or Island Buddha Temple which has a Buddhist temple that is a magnet on poya (full moon) days. You can take a tour of the lake with our private dhoni and visit Cinnamon Island. Bordered by jungle and forest this is a landscape rich in wildlife.


A respected air-taxi service is operated by Cinnamon Air which offers daily scheduled flights to Koggala from Bandaranaike International Airport (Colombo International Airport), and their white dual-engine DeHavilland Twin Otter lands right on the water. This air taxi treats passengers to a bird’s-eye view over Koggala and is an excellent gateway to Mirissa, Habaradu, Waweligama, Thalpe, Tangalle and Rekawa.

Koggala Airport, the oldest in Sri Lanka, has its own interesting history stories to tell. Since the lake was used as a landing point for seaplanes when World War II was in its throes, a fixed water runway was built here and it became the largest flying-boat base in the eastern world. In June 1944, two Sunderlands (RAF flying boat patrol bombers) from Koggala were celebrated when they rescued wounded British Indian special forces from Burma. Next, Koggala played a part for the QEA/Imperial Airways route from London to Sydney. Because of the Japanese occupation of the Malay Peninsula they lost their crucial fuel stop-off point in Singapore and alternative route for Britain–Australia needed to be created at Koggala. A tarmac runway was developed for Air Ceylon after the war and this continued to be hub until 1978. As tranquil as Koggala is today, the current runway is still capable of servicing Sri Lanka Air Force planes.


What is Ayurveda?

Ayurvedic medicine is based on the principle that health and wellbeing depend on a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. 

Ayurveda, the name of this ancient health medical system combines the Sanskrit words ayur – meaning ‘life’ – and veda – translating as ‘science’ or ‘knowledge’. Holistic, healing and nourishing, it is one of the world’s oldest systems of wellness, targeting the cause of any ill health rather than simply treating the symptoms.

Ayurvedic practitioners look at interconnectedness of people with their health and the world around them, considering the prakriti – or body’s constitution and your dosha – the life forces.  The aim is always to restore the balance of the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha.

Ayurvedic physicians prescribe bespoke treatments which might involve herbal therapies, exercises or a special diet. Digestion – or agni – is the fire that gives your metabolism its life energy, or ojas. It is believed to be the most important function for health, growth and wellbeing. Since diet – paka – is an important factor in Ayurveda, our menu is local, seasonal and as organic as can be and many of the herbs, fruit and vegetables used in our cuisine are grown on our grounds – nutritious eating is at the heart of Tri’s philosophy.

What are the three doshas?

Vata – a body type that reflects the elements of space and air; meaning ‘wind’, it is the energy that powers all biological activities. Typical signs of a Vata imbalance may include anxiety, dryness of the skin and constipation.

Pitta – a body type that reflects the elements of fire and water; this fiery quality means ‘that which cooks’ and its antidote a soothing alkaline diet and calming, meditative activities. It can mean a great enthusiastic drive for life, but this can also tip into anger.

Kapha – a body type that reflects the elements of eater and earth and translates from Sanskrit as ‘that which sticks’. Clues to this prevalence are overeating and a sedentary lifestyle.

What’s special about an Ayurvedic massage?

A full traditional Ayurvedic body massage uses a therapeutic herbal oil. Shirobhyanga is the classic rejuvenation therapy of dripping warm oil on your third eye with the aim of rebalancing you. Special attention given to acupressure points to help encourage the release of blockages and lymphatic drainage – relaxing, de-stressing and at the same time revitalising.

At Tri, Ayurvedic therapies happen in treatment rooms next to our yogashala which floats in a bamboo grove above the library. In this haven of tranquility, there is also a steam room and a chill-out area.


The Flora and Fauna at Tri

Sri Lanka is well known to be a wildlife lover’s paradise – and you don’t have to stray from Tri to appreciate that. Nature is all around us, observes Rob Drummond.

Before we opened, as we were starting to landscape our grounds on Koggala Lake, we invited the Carbon Consulting Company to come and assess the biodiversity of Aladoowa. This was so we could get details about the flora and fauna here and so we could learn how best to enhance the biodiversity of our Sri Lankan eco retreat.

Biodiversity plays an important role in a hotel – from the food served to the materials used in the furniture and fittings – and we recognised that building a new luxury hotel can have a negative impact on our ecosystem, so we were determined to be as ecologically sensitive as possible. Our aim was to enrich the land by planting trees, introduce rare species of mangrove, increase the firefly population and to create a butterfly garden.

In January 2014 the CCC identified 97 species of fauna, five of which were endemic, 89 native and five migratory. This included 51 bird species – including the endangered blue-tailed bee-eater – 18 butterfly species, eight dragonfly species, three amphibian species, six reptile species and three mammal species…

Some of the characters you’ll see at our nature-loving Sri Lankan hotel:


Great hornbill (pictured) These magnificent yellow-beaked big-eyelashed black-and-white birds are best spotted in the morning as they flutter through the treetops. Males can live up to the age of 50. Listen for their loud, high-pitched calls and cackles.

Brown-headed barbet Listen for the loud monotonous call of these birds which live in pairs and feed on berries, fruits and insects. They much prefer village gardens and open greenery to dense forests.

Blue-tailed bee-eater You’ll spy these mostly in winter, when they can be seen plunging into the water to bath. They prey on flying insects such as bees, wasps, dragonflies and butterflies and can be spotted sallying out from the top of trees where they perch as flocks of usually less than ten birds.

Indian pond heron You can’t miss these poking out from paddy fields – they love marshy wetlands and places they can feed on fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. They are solitary by day, and then roost with their birds of a feather by night.

Red-vented bulbul These cuties live in pairs in gardens and scrublands and are prolific breeders. Look out for their nests made up of little twigs and rootlets bound together by cobwebs.

Asian koel During Sinhala new year season keep your ears open for the mating call of the male bird as this is also the start of their breeding season.

Stork-billed kingfisher The largest of the kingfisher family, you’ll spot these fish-eaters in rivers, marshes, paddy fields, and lagoons.

Jerdon’s nightjar The big eyes are a clue this is a nocturnal bird. During the day, they lie silently on the ground, hidden by their plumage.

Emerald dove  These birds love wooded gardens and plantations and are usually found on terra firma in pairs. Their nests are mostly in small trees or in the jungle and are not very high up.

Pompadour green-pigeon Endemic to Sri Lanka, but its fast-and-direct flight with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings are characteristic of pigeons in general.

White-breasted sea eagle Whether in Asia or Australia, these birds breed and hunt near water, since fish makes up half of their diet. They’re also opportunistic, and will tuck into carrion if it’s available.

Long-billed sunbird You can’t miss this little blue-headed curve-beaked bird endemic to peninsular India and Sri Lanka. It’s a sociable so-and-so, often found close to human settlements probably due to abundant of flowering plants which it feeds on the nectar of along with tiny insects, spiders and caterpillars. The nest is recognisable as a hanging pear-shaped structure with an entrance in the side.

Asian palm-swift These small birds spend much of their lifetime in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing, but roost on vertical cliffs or walls. Not unlike many luxury hotel guests, they’re slow risers in the mornings. They breed in southern Spain, Africa and then head northeastwards through southern Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

Black-rumped flameback Look out for these bright-red birds in forests and home gardens of lowlands and hills. They like to spend time as a twosome pairs and they graze on ants and insects inside tree barks. Their hopping movements around branches are quite unique.


Southern purple-faced langur This endangered long-tailed arboreal monkey endemic to Sri Lanka inhabits thick jungles and wooded gardens. Their tails are carried hanging down, not over their backs as how the grey langur struts its stuff. When it comes to mealtimes, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruits are on the menu.

Palm squirrel There are four subspecies of this critter that’s found all over Sri Lanka except in heavy jungles. Nuts, seeds, fruits, flowers, bark are their natural diet but they’ll happily seek out rice or bread us humans accidentally drop scraps of.

Common shrub frog Endemic to Sri Lanka, this little amphibian hangs out in tropical moist lowland forests, arable land, pastureland and gardens.

Garden lizard The harmless agamid lizard is arboreal and diurnal, and while usually seen on low shrubs and tree trunks waiting for its lunch of insects it’s often drawn to human habitations.

Green forest lizard Handsome and highly arboreal, found in both forest and anthropogenic habitats such as gardens and plantations, it has a very long tail and is considered the largest Calotes species in Sri Lanka. Various colours have been recorded for this species.


Variegated flutterer Easily mistaken for butterflies these fragile south-east Asian dragonflies don’t have a very strong flying skills. Give them some encouragement if you see them.

Blue pursuer You’ll spy these common dragonflies from the Mediterranean through southern and eastern Asia to Australia. Small weedy ponds and marshes are their favoured stomping ground. When it comes to flying, they’re fast and strong and they often prey on other dragonflies. (Watch your backs, variegated flutterers.)

Common jezebel A medium-sized butterfly it is found everywhere in southern Asia – in cities, villages, gardens, forests – just about anywhere which has trees to support the semi-parasitic mistletoe. The Jezebel often flies high up in the canopy and usually comes lower down only to feed on nectar in flowers.

Indian cupid A tiny little flutterby found in Australasia and Indomalaya you’ll even spot them in the highest elevations in the wet zone –throughout the year.

Chocolate soldier Commonly spotted in areas with thick vegetation or on either side of gravel roadsides and waste places. It clearly has a little wanderlust as it’s been known to join migratory flights.

Common sailer An all-weather year-round flier, especially where it’s dense with vegetation and lightly wooded. It has been known to follow migration paths towards south India.

Crimson rose They fly close to the ground and their flight is fast and straight. The male butterfly has a black-coloured upper side and his underside is a dull brownish black and his head and stomach are bright pink. The female is similar, but the sequence of are duller, with pale pink, and the top of their abdomen is black.

Tailed jay This mainly green-and-black tropical butterfly is more abundant in wet zones. It flies really fast and only pauses for a moment at each flower. If disturbed it zooms off vertically to considerable height before flying away.


A Fresh Take on Sri Lankan Ingredients

Local, seasonal and seriously special is how you would describe Tri in Sri Lanka’s contemporary, creative dishes. Executive Chef Neil Wager put a lot into creating the eating and drinking at this unique Sri Lankan design hotel – from experiencing the close surroundings, the culture and the intense, magical feelings that come from visiting somewhere for the first time. Neil’s earliest thoughts and memories go back to meeting Rob on that first day and exploring the eco-minded boutique hotel when was still being built – first impressions last and his palpable recollections of the surroundings and smells, sights and tastes led to one of the most significant dishes on the menu, the beetroot curry (pictured)…

My first real Sri Lankan food experience is still a vivid memory, and this is what lead to our beetroot curry at Tri – from the plate we serve it on, to the dish itself. I had arrived the day before in Sri Lanka tired but excited. Collected from Colombo airport, a driver took me on the 2.5-hour journey to Rob’s house. It was the first time in the country for me and I was taking everything in. It was hot and humid, but I was so thrilled to be there.

As we left Rob and Lara’s villa on my first morning, as we drove to Tri for the first time I was taking in all around me, looking at the vendors at the side of the road and the food that I could see… Fresh fish laid out on wooden stalls, fresh papayas, rambutans, mangoes all stacked high, the beautiful gold king coconuts. We headed inland, and my senses were awoken more and more as we passed the colourful roadside scenes.

Following the back road to Tri, we talked about the many types of rice we could see being harvested and dried by the side of the road. This was different to any other rice I’d seen in its raw form in South-East Asia. I was set to discover a lot more from an older man I met later at Tri who explained that he had re-introduced old varietals of rice to the area. This gentleman who also recycles the waste at Tri organically grows 12 different types of heritage rice which are what we now incorporate into our menus.

Although Tri was a building site when I first visited, I could see lemongrass and cinnamon trees growing wild. I was free to walk around as Rob attended his daily site meeting. I strolled alongside the lakeside and encountered a huge monitor lizard – it made me appreciate the rawness of where I was. Talking to the builders on site they pointed out to me in broken English the plants they knew – hathawariya, polpala, gotukola, mukunuwenna and fresh curry leaves. Not knowing much about what these ingredients were yet, I took it all in and tasted everything I could, only to discover these make up the national soup dish kola kenda which I would then have made for me the following day for breakfast by the ladies who look after Rob’s house.

Sitting by the lakeside I was presented with a newspaper-wrapped lunch pack. Eating with my fingers I tried the real taste of a Sri Lankan curry for the first time – hot, slightly sweet beetroot curry, with mukunuwenna, smoky green bean sambal, earthy red rice, and a dhal so intense with flavour that this was in a sense a whole new cuisine to me. I sat on the edge of what is now the pool, my legs dangling over the top of an empty space, crumbled newspaper on my lap, watching the locals eat using their fingers to claw together the dhal as a binding ingredient to eat pieces of curry and rice in their hands – I copied them. As I sat there using my fingers, I had an incredible moment to myself, looking down tasting mukunuwenna, devouring the earthy, deep flavour, I could taste the healthy green elements going together. This gave me the vision of my first dish.

Later we met with a crockery designer, Ajit. Between us we designed a plate (see image featured) that reimagines that first plate of beetroot curry, it resembles crumbled folded out paper with unique markings, and the colours which are from the surrounding areas. Baking the beetroot first in cardamom salt, using fresh cardamom pods with our own sea salt sourced from the coast which is only 10 minutes away. Then there is a dhal puree, mukunwenna mallum, mukunuwenna a herb used in Ayurveda that grows along the road to the entrance to Tri – its simple, earthy flavours mixed with grated coconut is a natural delight. We turn this into a puree, blanching the natural herb then mixing it with a touch of agar we turn this into a liquid gel. This is a modern creation of cooking that gives a fluid sauce which is completely pure in taste. Many of the local ingredients we have manipulated the same way, deconstructing and reusing their simple flavours to give a modern contemporary tang and to create a unique cuisine for Tri. For texture I have made mukunuwenna jalebi – the jalebi is an Indian sort-of doughnut that that I use to create texture and a little bite to the dish.

All of the dishes we have created so far we take influences and touches of local ingredients, dishes and cooking techniques. We have even adapted sushi and sashimi to have Sri Lankan flavours. Ambu thiyal, black tuna curry with kiribath rice, we have adapted to nigiri sushi, the tuna belly is marinated in the black curry spice and seared, we lay this over the coconut red rice usually eaten with the dish, and you have a reinterpreted ambu thiyal, but the sushi we will go through in another blog post. Each day, as we learn more about the flavours and influences, we bring them into our cuisine, too. Every day at Tri is enlightening and inspiring.

Consultant Chef, Neil Wager, has almost three decades of experience working across nearly every continent from the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach at an early age to London, Cornwall, and St Lucia. Time at the Dorchester Hotel and the iconic Quaglino’s was followed by spells in Thailand and Australia then high-end sporting occasions around the world (including 163 International Formula 1 Grand Prix and International PGA events). Career highlights have included co-writing Everyday Novelli, developing recipes with Michelin-starred chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, and working with David Beckham and the Duchess of York (on her WeightWatchers’ range). The Executive Chef has made waves in North Island Seychelles and he launched Song Saa Island Resort in Cambodia, also winning accolades for his time at Nihiwatu Luxury Resort in Sumba Indonesia, Segera Retreat in Kenya and South Kensington Club in London.



The Origin of Tri’s Name

What’s in a name? Lara Drummond, demonstrates she has a Masters in Religious Studies from SOAS University – the School of Oriental and African Studies – when she explains the etymology of Tri here, and how the hotel’s name came to her…

Much as we all love long, exotic, mysterious hotel names, when it came to christening our contemporary design hotel, we were looking for something short that had meaning. It needed to span East and West, have spiritual and scientific significance, and be pertinent to modern architecture and of our eco-ethic.

‘Tri’ came to mind during my yoga practice as I stood in trikonasana – the triangle pose. Ancient Sanskrit is an Indo-European language, and so the root word ‘tri’ means three to both Eastern and Western ears. The number three is considered auspicious – even sacred – in most mystical traditions. Buddhism centres on the triratna, its three jewels are Buddha, dharma [his teachings], and sangha [monastic community]; Hinduism venerates Shiva whose main attribute is the trishula or trident; Christianity is a trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as alluded to by the crossing hand gesture – these are only a few examples.

Triangles were venerated in ancient times as a sacred shape and in Plato’s Theory of Everything he posited the triangle as the primary plane surface. In architecture, the use of the triangle is common because of its inherent strength – and you feel a strength in your body in yoga when the distance between the feet is the same as the distance between pelvis and leg, so the dragging of the feet apart is equal to the pull of gravity, and the result of this is stability.

Intended to be pronounced phonetically, ‘Tri’ is meant to be a play on the English word ‘tree’. Hugging the gentle hill that constitutes our promontory on Koggala Lake, Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake, the structures that make up Tri are built in a nautilus-shell spiral pattern, in keeping with the golden ratio. Our Koggala Lake hotel centres around the huge banyan tree that towers on the hill’s crown. The banyan tree is the little sister of the Bodhi fig tree, under which Buddha reached enlightenment, which is considered sacred to Buddhists (Sri Lanka’s main religion, and most prominent here in the Southern Province).

The tree features hugely in any spiritual context, representing the connection between Heaven and Earth, the giver of life and vitality. Mystical and philosophical traditions the world over use tree imagery, namely the Tree of Life, a many-branched tree which illustrates the idea that all life on earth is related. So when we checked and the domain for was still available, the decision was final. And Tri was born.

The Sweet Scent of Cinnamon

Ninety per cent of the world’s highest-quality cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. Juliet Kinsman gets a lesson in how this deliciously fragrant spice is harvested and produced from Tri’s very own neighbours.

A fishing boat tour of Koggala Lake by sarong-wearing Douglas is a charming excursion in itself, but our cinnamon-obsessed outing would prove an even bigger treat for all the senses. Douglas kindly chaperoned us by dhoni across the lake, past fishermen, to another local industry care of a visit to a cinnamon planter at his home.

Sarath, the cinnamon farmer welcoming us off the boat up through some trees, past an impressive monitor lizard, to his small house in what felt like jungle. He gestured us to the family’s table and chairs just beyond where his wife was cradling a very happy-looking newborn baby. Here, with a glass of hot cinnamon tea, we learned how the fragrant sticks we buy in little jars in supermarkets back home are often hand made from the bark of a Sri Lankan tree by an experienced artisan just such as Sarath.

Cinnamon has been on sweet and savoury menus around the world since the Portuguese discovered this aromatic wild tree in Sri Lanka and it’s fascinating to get such a close-up view of how it’s processed by hand. Expertly, Sarath’s experienced hands demonstrated how the bark is carved off branches of the cinnamon tree. The stems are processed straight after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet – after the outer bark is masterfully scraped off, he tapped the wood with a hammer to loosen the inner bark – it would be this which would become the familiar spice. Since the exterior woody bark is a byproduct, this is what was used for the cladding of Tri’s constructions. It’s quite captivating to observe these curved sticks of raw cinnamon being peeled off and proficiently rolled into the more familiar brown quills.

We didn’t feel like tourists in a group expedition as we sat with our new Sinhala friend in his front yard and discovered from him how this time-tested tradition endures. It felt as though Douglas has taken us to meet  his extended family who was only too happy to spill the secrets to a technique he had proudly mastered over a lifetime. And we were only too delighted to be able to spice up our lives by buying some aromatic Ceylon cinnamon oils and sticks from source to take home.

The Tri Cinnamon Experience (1.5 hours): a private dhoni boat on the lake takes you to visit a cinnamon island where a family live and produce cinnamon products. They demonstrate peeling and let guests touch and taste. (Cost US$25 per person.)