It is impossible to spend a couple of days in Sri Lanka without talking about Sri Lankan Cuisine. When we arrived on this big island of Indian Ocean, we did not know what to expect about food. We were thinking about kind of Indian cuisine but when you know that there are many types of cuisine in India, it is difficult to get a proper idea.
So it is with a huge pleasure that we discovered a spicy, fresh and sunny food. Here rice is the staple food that curry joins every day. The other essentials are coconut, turmeric/curcuma, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, onion, garlic, pepper, cinnamon and of course chili.
The country of Rice Curry
If it is common to find many many snacks at every corner of the country : samosas (we name them samoussas in Creole from La Reunion), roti (kind of pancake which is used more like a bread) filled with vegetables and other salty fritters ; Sri Lankans usually meet to eat the traditional Rice / Curry. In short words, it is a set of few dishes served with white rice. These dishes (very often 4 different 🙂 ) are made from vegetables with the spices detailed here above. During our stay in April, we got pumpkins, eggplants, lentils (named dhal in Sri Lanka) and Okras (or ladyfingers). If chili is used everywhere, Sri Lankan people especially love Sambol; a preparation made from grated fresh coconut, tomatoes, small onion and seasoned with chili according to your taste. At the end, they add a bit of fresh lime juice. 🙂
In one word: DELIGHT! 🙂
A degustation certified by a cooking class
We are happy to enjoy such a cuisine every day. And as we mostly sleep in homestay, we spend a lot of time with families who apparently take a lot of pleasure cooking for us. Without any doubt, fresh and quality food for us here. And there is no any single day where we don’t say: “well, that was the best dish we ever had here”. Can you imagine? 🙂
When we received the opportunity to do a cooking class with Ecowave, we did not hesitate too long. This social entreprise realizes a wonderful action in the south east part of the island, in the region of Arugam Bay. Promoting responsible and sustainable tourism, Ecowave is for sure the typical great partner of Hopineo and Visit.org. The organization defends an organic agriculture and has decided to use tourism as a vector for promoting a green agriculture.
In this whole process of cooking class, we even visited the day before an organic farm owned by a tamil farmer: Jayeraman. What a chance to see in real the benefits of a healthy agriculture and use it in the kitchen. Aprons were quickly ready!
Now, we are almost the king of Sambol, curry and spices from Indian sub-continent. We already cannot wait to show you our new cookery skills. Dear friends! Prepare your taste buds, you will not be disappointed!
Cuisine as an identity element
But the cuisine in Sri Lanka also awakened in me another feeling and that is in reality not the first time. Originally from La Reunion, I know how our cuisine is a mix of different influence. Our history, the successive migrations, the naturel environment also give us a unique value. However, seating at the table in Sri Lanka, I feel at home. The daily food moment does not take on any cultural barrier. Spices are known, fruits & vegetables are common and more than everything, the way how to eat is very close. We both eat rice. When we have red beans, they have lentils. We say carry, they say curry. We have our chili rougail, they have their chili sambol. Isn’t it confusing?!?
What also surprise me is the fact that from La Reunion, some Sri Lankan root is never pointed out, at least from what I know. And I got the same feeling when I was in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. Such a proximity between the dishes being few thousands kilometers away from home and I could never suspect such thing. Ela had also the same feeling being in Far East Russia… more than 5000km and finally the same pickles, fruits, wild fruits, potatoes… The food storage related to the hard winter climate is also the same. Crazy!
So, what defines our identity? How the cuisine is finally a key element of our identity? In which aspect the way of eating make people closer?
Here you have some questions coming to the surface from travels. Of course, answers are not easy to find. It needs time. But is it not what travel means? Discover, enrich, not only see new landscapes but looking with new eyes.