Friday, September 10, 2010

In Search of Sri Lankan Cuisine

One of the most pleasantly surprising things about Sri Lanka is that even though it's just a stone's throw away from India, it's not really like India. In fact, Mel and I observed several times that Sri Lanka reminded us of a mix between Thailand and Goa, (Yes Goa is in India, but Goa is nothing like India either!) 

This is particularly true when it came to cuisine. I love indian food and can rattle off six dishes right now that I count among my favorites. None of those were to be found in Sri Lanka. I think that's a good thing, but the problem is that traditional Sri Lankan cuisine is getting harder and harder to come by.

Our guesthouse owner in Kandy sat with us one night and lamented that there was no decent place to eat in town outside his guesthouse, (we concur!). He'd taken his family and friends out to dinner the night before to celebrate his son's birthday. 

"Chow mein! Chop suey! Fried chicken! Why can't I find anything really Sri Lankan beyond a Sri Lankan-style curry?"

He was right. Every menu we encountered was the same. Only in a few select quest houses did we find real Sri-Lankan home cooking. I can hear people now saying, "Yeah, but you probably only ate in touristy places", I assure you we ate with the locals more often than not!

Ella weekly market - notice the vegetable that translates as "snake vegetable". 
It tastes like a cross between zucchini and okra, we ate it mostly on veg curry.

Eggplant and limes! Buying this way in markets is my favorite way to buy
produce. I love how basic ingredients can transform from this..... this.
A very monotone guesthouse dinner in Sigiriya, the dishes on the left are not spicy,
the ones on the right are. Sri Lankan curries are renowned for being spicy - they have kick, 
but not burn-your-taste-buds spicy. Then again, Mel and enjoy a curry that can
 make your eyes water and your nose run!
This was served with rice. 

Vendor on the train selling fried snacks.
Each piece just costs 10 cents! Idli and vadai with shrimp and chilies.
The vendor served up his snacks in cones made from his children's 
recycled math textbooks.
At last! Traditional Sri Lankan cuisine! With some chow mein thrown in for good measure!

1 comment: