Happy weekend everybody!
I am not much of a cook at all, but reading over this blurb and the authors introduction to Sri Lankan cooking, sure makes me want to be! It all sounds so different and delicious!👩🏻🍳
A Feast of Serendib
Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was a cross roads in the sea routes of the East. Three waves of colonization—Portuguese, Dutch and British—and the Chinese laborers who came with them, left their culinary imprint on Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cooking with its many vegetarian dishes gives testimony to the presence of a multi-ethnic and multi -religious population.
Everyday classics like beef smoore and Jaffna crab curry are joined by luxurious feast dishes, such as nargisi kofta and green mango curry, once served to King Kasyapa in his 5th century sky palace of Sigiriya.
Vegetable dishes include cashew curry, jackfruit curry, asparagus poriyal, tempered lentils, broccoli varai and lime-masala mushrooms. There are appetizers of chili-mango cashews, prawn lentil patties, fried mutton rolls, and ribbon tea sandwiches. Deviled chili eggs bring the heat, yet ginger-garlic chicken is mild enough for a small child. Desserts include Sir Lankan favorites: love cake, mango fluff, milk toffee and vattalappam, a richly-spiced coconut custard.
In A Feast of Serendib, Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own Americanizations, providing a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking, straightforward enough for a beginner, and nuanced enough to capture the flavor of Sri Lankan cooking.
Author Bio –
Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins), The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages. The Stars Change was a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.
Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and also founded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org). She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies. 2017-2018 titles include Survivor (a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3 (co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib. http://www.maryannemohanraj.com
Social Media Links –
Serendib Kitchen website: http://serendibkitchen.com
Intro to Sri Lankan Cooking
An Introduction to Sri Lankan Cuisine
I’m often asked what is characteristic of Sri Lankan food. The main distinctions are our use of dark-roasted curry powder across the island and goraka (a souring fruit, similar to tamarind) in Sinhalese cooking. You won’t find goraka in recipes here, though, as my Tamil family doesn’t use it. Other characteristic elements include wholesome red rice, plenty of chili heat, curry leaves, lots of coconut milk and shredded coconut, a bit of pungent dried Maldive fish in many dishes, and usually a bit of tang (from tomato, vinegar, tamarind, or lime). We also eat a wide variety of fish, poultry and meat dishes, which I think is somewhat unusual in the region, give religious prohibitions, but can be traced to a long-standing multiethnic and multi-religious population.
I came to America when I was two years old, and so I never ate like a Sri Lankan would in Sri Lanka; for example, I had usually cereal for breakfast growing up in Connecticut. A typical Sri Lankan breakfast is some idli and sambar, or string hoppers and sothi, perhaps with paripoo (lentils). I grew up disliking lentils and have only recently learned to appreciate them, but most people in Sri Lanka eat lots of them regularly. If you were feeling fancier, you might make hoppers (but you’d have to plan that the night before). Uppuma is also a nice change, usually with some fish curry. I’ve gotten addicted to eating American pancakes with curry—the sweetness of the pancakes works really well with a spicy curry.
As a child, I would have often eaten a bologna sandwich for lunch, but in Sri Lanka, lunches are rice and curries, often eaten around 3 p.m., and dinners are the same, often eaten around 9 p.m. Generally we would serve plain white rice, a meat curry, and a vegetable curry. Appetizers and sides are usually saved for when guests or more family come over, although you’d likely keep containers of sambol or pickle around, for added flavor. Some of my American friends are surprised when I tell them that I had rice and curry for dinner every single night when I was growing up—what can I say? If your mother is an excellent cook, then you never get bored with it.
The fancier dishes, the hoppers and pittu and stringhoppers, the patties and cutlets, the milk toffees and rich cake—those were all saved for parties. Usually, we stuffed ourselves on the delectable appetizers (called short eats), but somehow always managed to find room for dinner and then dessert.
Note: Sri Lankans eat with their right hand, not with utensils, generally. It takes a little practice to learn how to make a neat little ball of rice and curry with your fingers, but more than a few of my friends have learned how over the years. Note that many of our recipes use whole spices such as cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon, that are not meant to be bitten into – when you’re eating with your hands, it’s easy to pick out and avoid those as you have dinner. If you’re planning on eating with a fork, you may want to either grind those spices before adding them, use pre-ground versions (generally not as strongly-flavored, so you may want a bit more), or tie them into a bit of cheesecloth that you can fish out before serving (this works better for a more liquid curry).