Rice : Top four popular rice side dishes from Sri Lanka

image of popular rice dishes

Rice dishes for meal prep

Ghee Rice

The flavorful dish is very easy and straight forward to make. Ghee rice and it’s variations are a popular choice when it comes to wedding menu creations in Sri Lanka. Medium or short grain raw rice is perfect for making this side dish. At my home whenever I want to make Ghee rice I use ponni raw verity from the Indian grocery store. If not, you could use Basmati rice, if that what you can easily find.

Ghee rice

If you want to learn how to replace rice in rice and curry dishes please read my article on my top rice replacements


  • 4 cups of rice
  • Two medium red onions
  • One inch piece of lemongrass
  • 3 Inch stick of cinnamon
  • One tablespoon of whole black pepper
  • Half a cup of cashews
  • Two tablespoon of raisins
  • 6 Cardamom pods
  • 4 while cloves
  • 2 inch piece of Pandan leaves
  • 2 teaspoon of ginger and garlic crushed together
  • 8 cups of water or chicken stock
  • 2 Teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoon of Ghee


  • Rinse the rice and drain. Set aside.
  • Peel and slice red onions and fry in ghee until caramelized.
  • Remove onions and add cashews next. Roast until golden on the edges. Add ghee if the pan becomes too dry to prevent cashews from being burned. Remove and set aside.
  • Add another teaspoon of ghee in the pan and add Cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Fry for few seconds and add ginger garlic, half of caramelized onions, half of cashews and Pandan leaves. Fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Add drained rice and fry until well roasted.
  • Add water or stock and salt. Cook the rice covered until fluffy.
  • Trunk the heat off . Spread remaining onions, cashews and raisins on top and cover the pan.
  • Let the rice sit 15 minutes more covered.
  • Mix and serve with your favorite curry.

#2 Yellow Rice

Yellow rice is another perfect side dish made with Ponni raw rice or Samba rice. Cooked with herbs and coconut milk and enjoyed with ensemble of Sri Lankan curries like black pork and vegetable curries like tempered eggplant or lentils to make up a festive lunch.


  • 4 cups Rice
  • Half a teaspoon of rice
  • 1 Oz of Maldive fish ( Dried Tuna )
  • 2 Red onions
  • Curry leaves
  • 2 inch piece of Pandan leaves
  • 8 cups of light coconut milk
  • Roasted cashews and raisins ( optional)
  • 4 while cloves
  • 2 inch piece of Pandan leaves
  • 2 Teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoon of Ghee
  • Tablespoon of whole peppercorns


  • Wash and drain rice set aside.
  • Make a flavor bundle by tying Cardamom, clove, cinnamon peppercorns in a piece of muslin cloth. Bruise the spice slightly.
  • Heat Ghee and fry onions until light Golden brown.
  • Add spice bundle, Maldive fish , curry leaves, Pandan leaves and rice.
  • Add coconut milk/ water and turmeric powder. Bring to boil on high heat.
  • Cover and cook on medium low until rice is done.
  • Fluff up the rice covered the pan and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Remove the spice bundle.
  • Garnish with caramelized onions, roasted cashews and raisins.

Source : Ceylon cookery ; Chandra Dissanayake


#3 Fried Rice

Restaurant style fried rice is my favorite out of all four recipes. Typically Samba or Basmati rice is great for making fried rice. Rice is cooked beforehand and flavored up with fried vegetables and meat just after. You could definitely use any combinations of meat such as beef or mutton. I am using chicken and shrimp today as its my favorite combination of all.

Restaurant style fried rice


  • 4 cups of steamed Basmati rice
  • half a cup of Julienned carrots
  • half a cup of Leeks thinly shredded. ( green leek leaves too for garnishing.)
  • half a cup of green beans thinly sliced
  • half a red onion
  • handful of curry leaves
  • half a inch sliced ginger
  • two cloves of garlic
  • thinly sliced green chili
  • 4 oz of shredded fried chicken
  • 4 oz of sliced boiled prawns
  • one large egg
  • one teaspoon of salt
  • half a teaspoon of cumin powder ( optional)
  • 2 tablespoon of soya sauce
  • one tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • one tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoon of oil or butter


  • Heat oil or butter in wok on high . When oil start smoking, fry onions, ginger, garlic and curry leaves for 10 seconds.
  • Add carrots and green beans. Cook for few seconds until just wilted, add leeks and fry for another few seconds. Add salt, cumin and crushed red pepper. Mix well.
  • Add rice and start tossing vegetables with rice, once mixed add shredded chicken and shrimp.
  • Mix soya sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil together and add to the rice. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle the green shredded leeks on top and mix.
  • Fry the egg sunny side up for garnishing.
  • Enjoy with your favorite meat curry and lime pickle and a fried egg.


#4 Milk Rice

Milk rice is part of the Sri Lankan breakfast table during Sinhala and Hindu new year. Rice becomes tad bit overcooked and creamy with coconut milk in the cooking process to make a flavorful creamy delight.

image of Sri Lankan new year breakfast with milk rice
Milk Rice on Breakfast Table


  • 4 cups of raw red rice or raw white rice
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 cups of thick coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons of salt + half a teaspoon of salt


  • Rinse the rice with cold water three times. Measure up six cups of water to cook the rice. Add 2 teaspoon of salt while cooking.
  • When the rice is almost cooked, add another 2 cups of coconut milk mixed with half a teaspoon of salt. Mix well with the rice.
  • Turn the heat to the lowest setting. Let the rice sit for additional 10 or 15 minutes. Keep the pot covered. Occasional scraping the bottom will prevent the rice from burning too much.
  • After 10 minutes, pour the rice in to the serving platter while hot. Run a flat spoon dipped in coconut milk to flatten the rice then cut. enjoy with the relishes and sweets.

Apart from the recipes above, there are many other popular rice dishes cooked in festivities like Lamprais, Biryani, Nasi goreng etc… but these four recipes are my easy, go to, favorites. What are yours ?


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