Upon my last visit to Sri Lanka, I tried the best (yoghurt) dessert of my life! While driving from the surf town of Welingama across the bustling fruit market in Galle, our eyes caught the attention of the local vendors with tiers of claypot containers. Stopped at the pretext of buying avos, passion fruit and mango (the usual tropical suspects) there were sure more reasons than one to be in this fresh fruits heaven. We knew we had to try whatever is there in these earthen pots, and the mysterious mahogany-brown colored syrup kept next to it in glass bottles.
Stacked on one another, these terra-cotta pots are filled with fresh buffalo milk yoghurt, covered with a light biodegradable warping paper, all put together with a thick red thread. Not just eco-friendly, this packing also helps keep the curd inside cool, and can be later used for Sri Lankan clay pot cooking (they literally make all their curries in clay pots). Just to make it clear, this is no ordinary yogurt, this is fresh Tissa buffalo yoghurt (well, in Sri Lanka, fresh means really fresh). Richness of the creamy milk derived from water buffalo milk makes this not-so-sour traditional curd even more special. It has a high fat content and it’s texture is thick and smooth. The flavor profile resembles that of greek yoghurt – rather mellow and creamy.
Fresh buffalo curd drizzled with the liquid gold called ‘kittul treacle’ is what local & inexpensive panna cotta dreams are made of. Let me tell you a little tale about what this ‘treacle’ is. Kittul treacle hails from Galle, and is made from the sap of the kitul palm/fishtail trees. This au naturale ingredient is thick and mildly sweet in flavor. Similar to the Canadian maple syrup, it’s taste resembles dates with a slight hint of caramel. The recipe of kitul treacle is rather precious; The tree’s inflorescence is trapped for its sap using a method that is a highly guarded family secret passed down from generations to generations. Also making it part of the indigenous food Slow Food International presidia.