Dodol a much loved sweet from the South
One of the favorite sweets hailing from the deep south of the island is Kalu Dodol or simply known as Dodol.
This confectionary sweet contains coconut milk, sugar, jaggery and rice flour. The ingredients, except for the jaggery are put in a giant wok and stirred continuously outside in the garden over an open wood fire for around four hours, fanned by peacock feathers, until the contents are reduced by at least half.
The liquid is hand turned over and over until the concoction is truly sticky, thick, sweet and no longer sticks to your fingers when touching it. This can, if done in a big batch, take between four to nine hours to make, depending on the size of the batch. So only a few villagers have specialised in producing this ancient sweet, given as gifts on festival days, or as special offerings, at Kataragama and in the past bought by Sri Lankan Royal family and to this day given as a special gift at a wedding.
Dodol undoubtedly came with the traders, who were looking for spices, and its unique formula has been developed over time, changing from village to village, each adding things to the basic ingredients, from cashews to broken peanuts even dried raisons. Today, it is commonly served during the Avurudu festival – Sinhalese and Hindu New Year, also during weddings, and festivals, such as Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as sweet treats that all the children enjoy.
The history of using palm sugar, a traditional natural sweetener made from the sap of the Arena pinnata plant, goes back hundreds of years and, as a result, is one of the oldest indigenous sweets developed across the maritime base of South East Asia.
The authentic art of making dodol is a highlight of the area. Some attribute it to the Portuguese, who occupied parts of the country during the 16th and 17th centuries and others to traders from India and Malaysia. Over the centuries, several dodol recipes developed in Sri Lanka, such as kalu dodol and cashew nut dodol. In reality talking to the dodol makers it is a bit of everything including trying new things they have seen on line. A truly fusion sweet that keeps on evolving.