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|Alternative names||කිරිබත්, Milk rice|
|Course||Breakfast, Main dish|
|Place of origin||Sri Lanka|
|Associated national cuisine||Sri Lankan cuisine|
|Cooking time||50 minutes to 1 hour 20 min|
|Main ingredients||Rice, coconut milk|
|Ingredients generally used||Salt|
|Variations||Mun Kiribath, Imbul kiribath|
|Similar dishes||Coconut rice|
Kiribath (Sinhala: කිරිබත්) is a traditional Sri Lankan dish made from rice. It is prepared by cooking rice with coconut milk, hence this name, and can be considered a form of rice cake or rice pudding. Kiribath is an essential dish in Sri Lankan cuisine. It is very commonly served for breakfast on the first day of each month and also has added significance of being eaten for any auspicious moment throughout one's lifetime which are marking times of transition. It is one of the more renowned traditional dishes in Sri Lanka.
The origins of kiribath are not clear, although the dish seems to be unique to Sri Lanka.
In a Sinhalese home, and during Sinhalese holidays and ceremonies kiribath plays a significant role. The dish celebrates festive or auspicious occasions and symbolises the beginning of new pursuits or transitions in life. Traditionally it is also eaten by families on the first day of each month.
Kiribath has a very important role for the Sinhalese in celebrating the Sinhalese New Year where it will be consumed as the first meal of the year. At the dawn of the new year, a hearth within the household is lit by the lady of the house and the traditional pot of kiribath is boiled. Sometimes rice that has been kept especially for this occasion will be used, as this occasion requires the best rice, which is expressed in terms of taste. When the cooking is finished, after a series of observances and rituals the family begins to eat, but not before making an offering to the Buddha and gods first. The family will eat from the same rice, as if they are symbolically dining together with the Buddha and the deities. During the Sinhalese New Year, or on any other special occasion, kiribath will be served as the main dish and centrepiece of the meal. At the table, kiribath is served alongside traditional sweets like Kevum, Kokis, bananas and many other delicacies. After this, the oil lamp is lit and the first meal of the year commences. The kiribath symbolises life and so it is fed to the rest of the family by the head of the family, either the father or the mother, to their progenitors for the New Year.
Ingredients and preparation
Kiribath is typically prepared from four basic components: white short grain rice, thick coconut milk or basic milk, water and salt to taste.
Choosing the right variety of rice is critical in cooking the dish well. Long grain rice or medium grain rice are not the best choices for making this dish. Traditionally, it is prepared with a rice variety known as rathu haal or rathu kakulu haal for its neutral flavour and good cooking qualities. Any starchy and sticky rice variety works best. For the rice to set properly, the texture of the cooked rice is very important. Due to some difficult to source the Sri Lankan rice variety in the southern parts of Sri Lanka, the locals might use the red rice.
The recipe for Kiribath is fairly simple. The rice is cooked in boiling water for about fifteen minutes, the coconut milk is added and cooked again until the liquid is absorbed. Salt is also added when cooking. However, there are some variations to this where different ingredients are added, such as sesame seeds or cashew. The common method of serving Kiribath is once it has cooled and set on a plate, it is compressed and cut into diamond or square shaped blocks.
Historically Kiribath had been cooked in earthen clay pots in firewood hearths, this cooking method would impart a unique flavour to the dish.
There are variations of kiribath including:
Mung kiribath (මුං කිරිබත්)is a variation of Kiribath is made by adding boiled Green Gram to the Milk Rice. The same recipe and procedure can be followed to make this variation. It is often prepared in Buddhist temples.
Imbul kiribath (ඉඹුල් කිරිබත්) is a sweet variation of the original. It is made by taking the a small amount of kiribath, made in the regular process, and spreading it on a banana leaf. A sweet filling made of coconut and jaggery, called Pani pol, is placed in the center. The banan leaf is folded and rolled vertically and pressed firm giving it its unusual cylindrical shape.
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