Spices In Sinhala – Part 2: Everything *YOU* Wanted To Say About Spices



In Part 1 of Spices in Sinhala, I asked *YOU* to send in all the spice-related phrases *YOU* could think that may come in handy.

(Make sure you read that post first, friend-o)

I also thought it’d be fun to throw in the “behind-the-scenes-blooper photos” of when we took the above photo. You’ll find it somewhere in the middle of the post.

Alright, lot of new phrases to learn so let’s get this started >>>

Note: In the phrases below, I’ve used “salt” as an example everywhere. Substitute this with any of the spices you saw in Part 1.



General Spice-Related Phrases

I like to eat spicy food ma∙mȧ   sæ∙rȧ   kǣ∙mȧ   kan∙nȧ   aa∙sayi1       
I like Sri Lankan spices ma∙mȧ   lan∙kaa∙vé   ku∙lu   ba∙du   vȧ∙lȧ∙tȧ   aa∙sayi2       
My favorite spice is [salt] ma∙gé   aa∙sȧ∙mȧ   ku∙lu   ba∙du∙wȧ   [lu∙nu]3       

My Random Notes:

1 ‘kǣ∙mȧ’ = “food”;   ‘sæ∙rȧ’ = “spicy” (in this example).   ‘sæ∙rȧ’ can also means “bad tempered”

2 ‘lan∙kaa∙vé’ = “of Sri Lanka” (when speaking, you can usually drop the “Sri”);   ‘ku∙lu ba∙du’ = “spices”

3 ‘aa∙sȧ∙mȧ’ = “most liked”;   ‘ku∙lu ba∙du∙wȧ’ = “spice” (singular)



While Cooking

What are you making? o∙yaa   ha∙dhan∙né   mo∙kak∙dhȧ?       
What spices do you use in [dhal curry]? [pa∙rip∙pu]   ha∙dhȧ∙nȧ   ko∙tȧ   dhaan∙né   mo∙nȧ∙va∙dhȧ?4       

My Random Notes:

4 ‘pa∙rip∙pu’ = “dhal curry”; ‘ha∙dhȧ∙nȧ ko∙tȧ’ = “when/while making”; This sentence literally reads as “When making dhal curry, what do you put?”


How much do I put in? ma∙mȧ   koch∙chȧ∙rak   dhaan∙nȧ∙dhȧ?5       
How much [salt]? [lu∙nu]   koch∙chȧ∙rak∙dhȧ?       
In what order should I add these? ma∙mȧ   mḗ∙va   dhaan∙né   mo∙nȧ   pi∙li∙vé∙lȧ∙tȧ∙dhȧ?6       
Powdered or seeds? ku∙du∙dhȧ   æ∙tȧ∙dhȧ?7       
is it ripe? ḗ∙kȧ   i∙dhi∙la∙dhȧ?       

My Random Notes:

5 ‘koch∙chȧ∙rak’ = “how much”;   ‘ma∙mȧ dhaan∙nȧ∙dhȧ?’ = “Shall I put?”

6 ‘pi∙li∙vé∙lȧ∙tȧ’ = “to an order/sequence”;   ‘mo∙nȧ’ = “which?”

7 ‘ku∙du’ = “powder/flakes”;   ‘æ∙tȧ’ = “seeds”


Add extra [salt] [lu∙nu]   væ∙di∙yén   dhaan∙nȧ8       
Add more [salt] [lu∙nu]   tha∙wȧ   dhaan∙nȧ       
Add less [salt] [lu∙nu]   a∙du∙wén   dhaan∙nȧ       
Go get some [salt] gi∙hil∙la   [lu∙nu]   pod∙dak   a∙ran   én∙nȧ       

My Random Notes:

8 Instead of ‘væ∙di∙yén’ you might sometimes hear ‘væ∙di∙pu∙rȧ’;   ‘dhaan∙nȧ’ = “put” (as a command/instruction)



When Buying Spices

I want to buy Sri Lankan spices ma∙tȧ   lan∙kaa∙vé   ku∙lu   ba∙du gan∙nȧ   ō∙né9       
I want to buy [salt] ma∙tȧ   [lu∙nu]   gan∙nȧ   ō∙né10       
Where can I buy [salt]? ma∙tȧ   [lu∙nu]   gan∙nȧ   pu∙lu∙wan   ko∙hén∙dhȧ?11       

My Random Notes:

9 ‘ma∙tȧ ō∙né’ = “I want” (see my post “I want in Sinhala”)

10 ‘gan∙nȧ’ can mean both “take” or “buy”. You can be more specific and say ‘sal∙li vȧ∙lȧ∙tȧ gan∙nȧ’ which means “take for money” (or “buy”)

11 ‘ko∙hén∙dhȧ?’ = “from where?” (see my post “21 Sinhala Phrases”)



Mid-Post Mini-Break: The 4 Bites of Stupidity


To my inner-voice that convinced me to bite into the green chillie to make the photo more authentic:
“Screw you, Sir.”


Bite #1: What could possibly go wrong?



Bite #2: Uh-oh, I think playtime’s over…



Bite #3: System goes into shock. Hysteria ensues.



Bite #4: Instantaneous sweating, tears, and regret


Now don’t ever say I didn’t suffer for my art :)


At a Restaurant

Make it spicy kǣ∙mȧ   sæ∙rȧ∙tȧ   ha∙dhan∙nȧ12       
Sri Lankan spicy, not foreigner spicy lan∙kaa∙vé   gaa∙nȧ∙tȧ,   pi∙tȧ∙ra∙tȧ   ka∙ti∙yé   gaa∙nȧ∙tȧ   né∙méyi13       
Can we have some [salt] a∙pi∙tȧ   [lu∙nu]   pod∙dak   gḗ∙nȧ∙va∙dhȧ?14       
Does this have [salt] in it? mḗ∙ké   [lu∙nu]   thi∙yé∙nȧ∙va∙dhȧ?15       

My Random Notes:

12 ‘ha∙dhan∙nȧ’ = “make” (as a command/instruction)

13 ‘gaa∙nȧ’ = In this context, “level”;   gaa∙nȧ∙tȧ = “to the level”;   pi∙tȧ∙ra∙tȧ = “abroad”;   ‘pi∙tȧ∙ra∙tȧ kat∙ti∙yȧ’ = “people from abroad” (a way of saying “foreigners” when speaking casually);   ‘pi∙tȧ∙ra∙tȧ kat∙ti∙yé’ = “of foreigners”

14 Literally, “Would you bring us a little salt”

15 ‘mḗ∙kȧ’ = “it/that” (see my post “21 Sinhala Phrases”);   ‘mḗ∙ké’ = “in it/that”



BONUS: When Eating At A Friend’s House


Click to preview

What is in it? mḗ∙ké   thi∙yén∙né   mo∙kak∙dhȧ?       
Shall I taste it first? ma∙mȧ   is∙sél∙la   ra∙ha   ba∙lan∙nȧ∙dhȧ?16       
Is the food spicy? kǣ∙mȧ   sæ∙rȧ∙dhȧ?       
The food is spicy kǣ∙mȧ   sæ∙rayi       
The food is not spicy kǣ∙mȧ   sæ∙rȧ   nǣ       

My Random Notes:

16 ‘ra∙ha’ = “taste” (noun);   ‘ba∙lan∙nȧ’ = “to look”;   so in effect, the Sinhala word for “to taste” is “to look at the taste”


That all folks!


Leave all your questions (as well as any additional phrases you thought of) in the comments below.

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20 Responses to Spices In Sinhala – Part 2: Everything *YOU* Wanted To Say About Spices

  1. Uma Balu October 9, 2016 at 13:02 #

    Does this contain garlic / onions / eggs / mushrooms?
    Which oil is used in this?
    (by the way, Dilshan, I would suggest you give us a list of oils used in cooking)
    Is this dish low / medium / high spice?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 9, 2016 at 13:12 #

      Excellent, thanks for idea Uma. You know what’s inadvertently happening, right? I think I’m slowly gathering enough material to launch a completely new post on “Cooking in Sinhala”.

      Keep ’em coming while I get to work on the phrases you just gave.

      • Michi October 9, 2016 at 19:38 #

        Hi Dilshan!
        Thanks for yor post, which always are very fun to read.

        A blog about cooking would be really nice and helpful. I remember being at a friends house in Sri Lanka and i wanted to help preparing the dinner. I could have used your spice blog although i already knew some of them.
        But i don’t know anything about the “cooking-process-phrases”.
        Would be really helpful if I ever come to be invited again.

        Also I’m neither vegetarian nor vegan but I don’t like fish. And one day I found out that luunumiris is sometimes made with fish. Are there any other dishes where it is not obvious that fish or fishoil is used?

        Thanks a lot for your effort to make learning sinhala so much fun.

        • Dilshan Jayasinha October 9, 2016 at 19:48 #

          Thanks Michi, this cooking post is more and more looking like a good idea.

          Oh yeah, a lot of the “condiments” like lunumiris and most of the sambols (pol, seeni, …) sometimes have what is called “Maldive fish” (dried tuna) which in Sinhala is called ‘umba∙lȧ∙kȧ∙dȧ’. I personally love it, but every time my wife (who is vegetarian) and I dine outside, we have to be watchful of this.

          According to my mom, most people don’t add this now since Maldive Fish is expensive. Still, better to check first. I’ll add that to my list.

  2. Uma Balu October 9, 2016 at 13:50 #

    Wow.. great idea for a lip-smacking post!

    Dishan, you must include a whole list (I am sure it would be as long as Hanuman Ji’s tail!) of cooking verbs and phrases. I have prepared them for my Japanese book – would be only too happy to share with you (so that I get the Sinhala equivalents readymade!)

    You can also add a list of utensils used in traditional cooking.

  3. Clarissa Fraser October 10, 2016 at 01:16 #

    A….MA….ZING!! Thank you so much these are great!!! I concur that the post on cooking terms would be oh so helpful! Brilliant work as always! Thanks especially for the sri lankan spicy not foreigner spicy phrase…maybe if i say it in sinhala instead of english they will believe me!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 12, 2016 at 08:53 #

      Haha, good luck Clarissa. Let me know if you finally make yourself understood.

  4. Hugh October 10, 2016 at 16:54 #

    It’s funny that the word for turmeric means yellow. It’s a suitably Sri Lankan version of the english orange fruit/colour.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 12, 2016 at 08:55 #

      “Orange (color)” = ‘thæmbi∙li’ which actually is also the word for “King coconut”.

  5. Hugh October 10, 2016 at 17:00 #

    I noticed that the word for “how much” is koch∙chȧ∙rak∙dhȧ. Is this specifically a cooking word? Normally the word for how much is kiiyada

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 12, 2016 at 09:13 #

      You raise a very good point, Hugh.

      Yes, ‘kee∙yȧ∙dhȧ?’ is “how much?” in the general sense.

      ‘kee∙yak∙dhȧ?’ is used when trying to specify a quantity of items that can be counted (i.e. “count nouns”). Examples: bottles, books, pens, etc.

      Sample phrase: “How many bottles do you want?” = ‘o∙yaa∙tȧ bō∙thal kee∙yak∙dhȧ ō∙né?’

      ‘koch∙chȧ∙rak∙dhȧ?’ is used when trying to specify a quantity of items that cannot be counted (i.e. “mass nouns”). Examples: water, salt, pepper, etc. Most spices would fall into this.

      Sample phrase: How much salt do you want? = ‘o∙yaa∙tȧ lu∙nu koch∙chȧ∙rak∙dhȧ ō∙né?’

      Makes sense? (tell me if it doesn’t. Our little exchange could actually turn into a mini grammar post).

  6. Ali Mohammed October 10, 2016 at 22:54 #

    Hi Dilshan, Its amazing and very interesting to learn and know more about the sri lankan food and culture. keep it up the great job.

  7. john October 12, 2016 at 14:49 #

    Hi dilshan!
    How do you call the cutlery in sinhala? Spoon, fork, knife…

    • Dilshan Jayasinha November 3, 2016 at 23:38 #

      Good question, John.

      spoon = hæn∙dhȧ
      knife = pi∙hi∙yȧ
      fork = gǣ∙ræp∙pu∙wȧ

      I may even work on this and make it into a short blog post. Thanks for sparking the idea.

  8. Michelle October 13, 2016 at 17:21 #

    Hey Dilshan!

    Another great post, with plenty to learn (and plenty to corroborate what I thought I already knew ;) )

    It’s funny though, when I saw “ma∙mȧ is∙sél∙la ra∙ha ba∙lan∙nȧ∙dhȧ?” – my first thought was, ‘oooh that’s probably why my husband’s family always ask me to “taste and see”!’ It all makes sense now… like when they ask me to bring something and come (a∙ran én∙nȧ)! All those little phrases sound so much more natural when I understand where they came from!

    Thanks again,

    • Dilshan Jayasinha November 3, 2016 at 23:33 #

      Haha, interesting point re. “taste and see”…

      Actually, that may have more to do with the fact that “balanna” can also be used for “check/verify”.

      For example, ‘kȧ∙rȧ∙la ba∙lan∙nȧ’ literally means “do & see”, which actually is meant to convey “do this particular thing and check to see results”. If for example, the car won’t start and a helpful Sri Lankan bystander messes about with the engine, he will say ‘dhæn start kȧ∙rȧ∙la ba∙lan∙nȧ’ (lit. “start it now and see”) which actually means “start now and check (if it works)”.

      Get what I mean?

      • Michelle November 4, 2016 at 19:09 #

        Oh dear, you’ve foiled my brilliant discovery! Although that does also make sense, so hopefully it should stick in my brain!

        Thanks for clarifying!

  9. Sunil June 13, 2017 at 18:20 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    Can u help me to find out a way to make domestic help (maid) understand basic stuffs like…what time she/he will come…what work i need to get done…how much do they charge …etc etc etc…although list is big but main tough task is to call them over phone ask them to come …lol

    Hope u can help…


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