Trip Start Sep 26, 2006
31Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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The food is fantastic. Everything is so fresh. Every meal is a colorful array of colors and textures. I have yet to try something I don't like - it's all really, really delicious.
The selection of veggies here is unreal. So many different types of gourds, pepper-type things, zucchini-type things, potato-type things, etc, etc. The fruit are quite diverse, but the selection is limited, as the fruit are seasonal. But have no fear! Papaya is available year round and is part of 90% of my breakfasts.
So is curd - a local product made from the milk of the water buffalo (I see them chillin' in paddy fields everywhere around Matara). It's served with trickle, a sweet, smoky syrup (reminiscent of maple syrup) made of the sap of palm trees.
In Sri Lanka there is no such thing as a meal without rice. A couple that was here recently threw a Canada-day party. They invited their Sri Lankan friends to a feast of lasagna, barbequed stuff, salads, etc... Afterwards, apparently everyone went home and had dinner. As no rice was served, this 'feast' was considered a snack!
I'm looking forward to cooking for you when I get back home. Though, I won't be doing it on a regular basis. Meals always take a long time to cook. Everything is made from scratch and every meal has at least 4 dishes.
One of my favorites is Pol Sambol. It is grated coconut and red chilies smashed together with salt, pepper and lime. It's sweet and refreshing and hot and delicious all in one little spoonful.
This brings me to the best part of Sri Lanka cookery: the eating utensil. Spoons are used as a serving tool only. But what better way to get a feel for what you're about to eat! Instead of picking at the 'foreign substance' in your plate with utensils (especially when everyone is watching you), you get to dig right in with your (RIGHT! The left one is for the other end...) hand, pick it up, break it up, mix it with sauce if it's too dry, shake it out if it's too saucy, decide if the texture is worthy of ingestion, and then chow it down or toss it in the reject pile (with the excess cinnamon sticks, curry leaves, bones and other bonuses). Plus it saves on dishes... For the record - the trick is to press the rice so it makes a lump, 'cup' your four fingers and shovel it in your mouth with your thumb. I dare you all to try it - how about Christmas brunch with no utensils - in my honor!
The only disappointment is with the fish. Matara doesn't have a fishing harbor, so it's not as fresh as it could be (but still beats Safeway any day!). Also, I find it's often over cooked or over salted. What to do?