Food Embracing the Roots of Sri Lanka’s Colourful Cuisine

Embracing the Roots of Sri Lanka’s Colourful Cuisine

2020 May 27

You must have accepted this muddle of a lifestyle with a pinch of salt for all it takes is 21 days to form a habit. A habit so orchestrated, it takes your breath away, quite literally. Three months went by like a blizzard, with frostbites on our ambitions, but not that it will stop human beings from being human! For seeds shall sow and crops will grow, it is all about when the sun shines over us.

With incessant content on surviving this apocalyptic wrath, be it by baking a fresh sourdough from scratch or turning into a juvenile bartender, let me not cocoon you with the same thread. Like they all say “this too shall pass” however, the need after this hour will be to embrace what we have, the things we’ve taken for granted. We, the urban junkies (so we claim) are an extremely delusional lot. We have been part of this vicious cycle of first rejecting what’s our own and then accepting it back, foiled with the avant-garde essence of “organic”, “natural”, “local love”. Imagine the humble malu paan, if your imagination etched the jingles of a choon paan, there is an inch of the old-world instilled in you, however, if there was a grocery trolley buzzing through your head, pity the obscure mystic world.

 

Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa28ufvlnlk

 

No vendetta against your Sunday sundowners with olives, truffles, brie and camembert, but honestly your known staples want you back. The flesh and blood of Pettah, Kollupitiya and Manning form an integral part of our existence, even without the slightest speck of self importance. It’s hot, humid and unapologetically crude albeit, with pantones of green and yellow, the very shades of ripe and raw, without any of the wilted herbs, cling wrapped with verbal diarrhoea of “fresh produce”. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t practice what I preach (most of the time). I often find my solace in the cubicles of frozen meat but yes, I have pledged to increase my frequency of visiting the markets, more often than usual. I want to immerse, if not fully but at least dip my feet in the quaint confusions of life, I’d like to know how an Ambul Banana is different from a Kolikottu! Maybe this time I will finally bite into a Durian too, for no stench can be worse than the collective memory of this pandemic. 

 

Image from https://srilankafinder.com/

 

Take a day out and explore patches of spice, culture, confusion, dedication, human emotions and of course some soil trodden produce (when its safe to do so!). Get hold of those few intimidating vegetables, strike a conversation with the vendor, ask where they got the produce from and how to cook it, for he who sells his product knows how to use it the best. Take some tips and replicate it in the kitchen, you won’t be disappointed. I mean, for all you know, jackfruit cooked and minced can be faux meatballs to your spaghetti (don’t look at me with disgust if it’s a disaster!)

 

 

I know it’s difficult to adjust, for a breakfast habit of spreading marmalade over your sourdough quickly can’t change into seeni sambol over roast paan but start with small tweaks. A seeni sambol on toast will look as Instagrammable as that with an avocado, plus you added few pennies to the rightful pocket of a fair trade, from producer to consumer. 

Brew a locally sourced cup of Ceylon coffee and toast to the glory of the 1870’s . With a new dawn of lifestyle post corona, let the odds stand strong by the side of the even, rather against. I am not the one who will preach to give up a bowl of ramen in the name of locavore but I will nudge you to consciously enjoy the luxury of ‘choice’. 

It’s your choice to embrace the slurp of ramen as much as to be excited in unwrapping a lamprais. 

Give your own a chance, for local is the new normal.

 

Diganta Chakraborty or more affectionately “Diggy” is a culinary enthusiast, hotelier and enjoys his travel across the world in search of country, culture and cuisine. Diggy has spent a year of quality time in Sri Lanka documenting the intricate cuisine of Sri Lanka from Jaffna to Galle, and is on the quest to break the stereotype of Sri Lankan food being shadowed by Southern Indian cuisine. He spends much of his time either eating in the tribal communities of India or backpacking for culinary trails where the boat sails and can be wooed over with good coffee or a great Gin & Tonic.