Pol roti: Celebrating the humble coconut

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

One of the most popular dishes on the K+K Street Food menu is pol roti, which is made with freshly grated coconut.

Sri Lanka is the fifth largest producer of coconuts in the world, producing around 2.5 million tonnes of coconuts each year. But not all of these coconuts are exported. In fact, around 70% is used domestically. In Singhalese, the coconut is called ‘thembili’, which translates to ‘king coconut’, and the type of coconut found in Sri Lanka is very different to the familiar green ones you usually find in other tropical countries. King coconuts have a golden yellow skin, have less flesh and more water, and are a slightly less sweeter than the green variety.

Coconuts are packed with loads of minerals and vitamins, which is one reason why they are such a fundamental ingredient in Sri Lankan cooking. Whilst most of our dishes are usually at least garnished with coconut, pol roti is different because it is actually made from coconut. What’s also special about pol roti is that it’s quick, simple and made from just a few household staples.

To make the perfect pol roti, you grate fresh coconut and combine it with flour, salt and water (or coconut water for a stronger flavour) to form a dough. You can also add curry leaves, diced onions and finely sliced green chillies if you want to add extra flavour. We certainly add these ingredients to our pol roti at K+K Street Food.

Once you have the dough, you form small balls. Each ball is rolled out into a small circle and then cooked on a hot griddle for a couple of minutes on each side. Growing up, we absolutely loved having pol roti fresh off the pan, whether it was for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Sri Lankan food is served with a variety of sambols or relishes. We serve our pol roti with seeni sambol, a classic caramelised onion relish that can be sweet, tangy and spicy all at once. Nearly every home has their own recipe for this, but the core ingredients are lots of sliced onions, chillies, tamarind juice, salt and sugar.

For those working on farms or in the tea fields, pol rotis are a filling breakfast that will keep them going. And while Sri Lanka is known to be a treasure chest of wonderful fresh spices, it is also nice to enjoy a flavourful simple dish like pol roti.

If this article has made you curious to try pol rotis, come visit us at the BoxPark in Croydon to try ours! Whilst you’re enjoying them, you can also get a feel for the culture and art of Sri Lanka.

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