Sri Lankan traditional sweets

2013.08.22

Kiribath (milk rice), Kavum (oil cakes) and Kokis are three essential food items for any occasion in Sri Lankan culture. The Avurudu (Sinhala and Tamil new year) festival is specially associated with this tradition. The most interesting historical facts surrounding Avurudu sweetmeats is centred on the popular Kavum which is a very old sweet. In the good old days Kavum was associated so closely with the Sinhalese that often people would fondly say that wherever there was a Sinhalese the Kavum was certainly to be there as well. Kavum dates back to very old times and even Sri Lankan classical texts bear evidence to this fact. Some of the Buddhist Jataka stories and literature narrate how Kavum was enjoyed by our ancestors.

There are several varieties of Kavum. Among them the Konda Kavum is very popular. Naran Kavum, Thala Kavum, Undu Kavum, Mun Kavum, Seeni Kavum and Atiraha are also members of the Kavum family although they are different in shape and taste. Naran Kavum as the name implies is the size of a citrus (Naran) fruit and the centre is filled with grated coconut and treacle. Hendi Kavum is another variety where Hendi means spoon and here the dough is not taken bit by bit in the hand and made into a ball, instead a spoon is used to pore the dough make the Kavum. Achchu Kavum is a popular Kavum variety in the areas of the upcountry. The ancient Sinhala text noted that there were 18 kinds of kevums including, Sedhi Kevum, Mun Kevum, Ulundu Kevum, Uthupu and Ginipu. Following are some of the common Kavum varieties.

 

  • Konda kavum - This is the most famous variant which has a dark Reddish color. This variant is typically made from Rice flour and Kithul Treacle. Salt and Cardamom added to mixer as taste enhancers. The word Konda represents plait of hair in Sinhala and top of the Konda kevum has similar look to plait of hair. No special mold is used to cook this variant and top is shaped by using a coconut eakle.
  • Naran kavum - Even though Naran represents Mandarin orange in Sinhala, Mandarin orange is not used to cook this variant. However this variant has size and shape of a mandarin. Green gram flour and scrapped coconut is used additionally to rice flour and treacle and Saffron is used to give outer yellowish color.

  • Thala kavum - The word Thala represents plait of Sesame in Sinhala. Sesame is used as ingredient in this variant.
  • Undu kavum - The word Undu represents plait of Urad dal in Sinhala. Urad dal is used as ingredient in this variant.
  • Mung kavum - This is a Yellowish and Diamond shaped Kevum variant. The word Mung represents plait of Green gram in Sinhala. Green gramflour is used additionally to rice flour and treacle and Saffron is used to give outer yellowish color.

 

In the villages superstitious beliefs surround the process of kavum preparation. It has been in village oral tradition for centuries that the first Kavum is the 'konduru kavum'. Kondurawa is a tiny insect that is drawn to a place where kavum is being made. The village lasses hang the first kavum up for the insects, so that the rest will be spared. The last Kavum made is 'diya kavum'. Diya means water. Accordingly the last part of the dough is considered tasteless and thus the last kavum is said to taste like water. Women also believe that they must refrain from talking when the first Kavum is being made. If they talk the results may be unfruitful.

 

Grand mothere preparing Kavum was a part of sweet child hood memory during new year celebrations

 

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