Sri Lankan Food and Me

7 March 2009
By

The question came up on Twitter about me, a Canadian, living in Sri Lanka, and what are my cuisine experiences, how do I cope, and whatnot. That’s really quite a big question in a lot of ways.

Sri Lankan food is quite spicy. From what I hear, it’s on the spicy end of the scale as far as world cuisine is concerned. Children are raised on the spicy food, so really have little problems with it. My 2-year-old Sri Lankan nephew eats the same curries as everyone else and likes it. Many other people I’ve talked to here have said similar things – they raise their kids on the same food they eat, so kids are getting the spiciness from a very early age.

Fahim, the hubby, is so used to the spiciness that he finds most food from elsewhere (ie, the US) to be bland and tasteless.

So how did I fit in? Quite well, actually. Oddly enough, given how so very very pale I am to the point of glow-in-the-dark, I have no problem eating spicy food. Never have. I don’t know why I am this way, especially since we certainly didn’t grow up on spicy food, but there ya go.

In fact, this was a challenge back in Canada. At restaurants that serve spicy food, I’d ask for it to be as spicy as possible – suicidally spicy and beyond – and the waiters would inevitably try to talk me out of it, ask me if I was sure, and so on. Yes, I’m sure. And inevitably, they’d watch me with jaws gaping open as I ate their supposedly super-spicy food with no redness of face or panicked grabbing of water or other liquids.

But it presented difficulties, too. I’ve very rarely eaten food that I actually considered hot. Tabasco sauce is not hot, but it does have a nice flavour I like. Habaneros – not hot. Most hot chillies are not, to me. I love sambal oelik – love, love, love. But it isn’t hot. It’s also got a great flavour.

From day one of our marriage, I cooked our food spicier than what Fahim’s mother cooks. And Fahim loved it. πŸ™‚ His parents, true-blue Sri Lankans, can’t handle our spiciness levels. Not to denigrate them, but to demonstrate how extreme I am. Bizarre, I know. And I still have problems at restaurants here getting waiters to believe me when I say I want it spicy. I am white, therefore it must be not-spicy. I just can’t win. At home, though, I can do whatever I want. πŸ˜€

But what about food in general? Sri Lankan food is not the same as the food I grew up on or ate when I was in Canada. Sure, I ate curries, but they were generally Indian curries.

In general, I quite like Sri Lankan curries. I especially love Pol Sambol (freshly shredded coconut, scallions, green chillies, Maldive fish flakes, red chilli pepper powder, lime juice=total ambrosia), jak and breadfruit curries, beef curries, mutton curries, gotakola sambol, and so many others that were completely foreign to me before I came here. I’ve also very much enjoyed having my mother-in-law teach me her recipes and techniques, as well as trying out some of the recipes in the two Sri Lankan cookbooks I have.

There are, however, some things that don’t go over very well with me. One is any animal product other than muscle meat. Like brains, stomach, liver, kidney, heart, and so on. I’ve tried, but… No. I… Can’t. Fahim and his family love this stuff, as do most people here, apparently. I’m just… Ack. The texture of brain, especially, is just all wrong!

Another thing is a dessert here that, to me, seems a bit odd. Sweet, while savoury, with onions added. Yes, a dessert. It’s just not right to my very-foreign tastebuds. Another one is a desserts that’s a fine dry powder – too dry for me. There are a few desserts that are, to me, just too odd, but thankfully, not many. The vast majority are wonderful!

There are some vegetables and leaves that I’m not overly fond of, but the same is true of vegetables I’m familiar with. But, you know, currying less-than-favourite vegetables like beans, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage does make those vegetables much more palatable to me.

But all in all, Sri Lankan food is, for me, a huge net win. The vast majority I love and only a handful of items I don’t like at all.

Now, as for getting/making foreign food here… Ah, well, that’s a whole other topic, one that I’ll address tomorrow. πŸ˜€

Tags:

2 Responses

  1. Laurie this is exactly what I meant when I discussed this with you. Great way for people to understand your ‘roots’ with respect to food. Looking forward to part II, finding what you need.
    Like you, I too love spicy and am always looking for new ways to experience the ultimate heat (not tasteless heat).

  2. #2
    Laurie 

    Ah, if you love ultimate heat, then you might want to check out some of my recipes, Elaine. πŸ˜€

    Glad to hear this answered your questions, or at least some of them. Like I said, it’s a BIG question, and there’s no way I could have answered it in 140-character tweets. Well, without needing a LOT of tweets. πŸ˜€

    But this doesn’t really answer the question of my roots in respect to food other than it was Canadian, and really, that doesn’t mean anything given all the very very very many cultures in Canada. So perhaps that ought to become another post?

Leave a Reply

About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

Life is an adventure. Join me! :)

If you want to know more about me, click on the "About" link in the navigation bar above. :)