“You like spicy?”Posted: July 6, 2012
That was one of the first questions I was asked upon arriving to Sri Lanka. Foolishly, I said yes, and I was promptly handed a warm roll of bread, stuffed with spicy, curried vegetables (called a vegetable bun, a common breakfast staple). It scorched my mouth, much to my surprise, and I was instantly awake, despite landing at 3:00 AM in the morning, and being jostled around a car at sunrise.
My taste buds never rested for the remainder of my trip. Most meals ended with me in a pool of sweat, three or four glasses of water sloshing around inside me, and begging for some delicious, sweet pineapple or watermelon to put my mouth at ease. I wouldn’t trade the pain for anything in the world though. These curries are as delicious as they are spicy, outrageously so.
On my last full day in Unawatuna, I took a cooking lesson with the infamous Karuna of Sonja’s Health Food Store. Both of us exhausted and hung over from the New Year’s festivities, we started the lesson off with a trip to the market in the nearby Dutch-colonial-era town, Galle. Although a lot of things were still shut or unavailable due to the holiday, we were able to make it to a spice shop. Here, Karuna explained to me the various uses for different curries, chilies, and powdered spices. She explained to me that the best curry is sun-dried, rather than dried in the oven. This has a lighter, yellow color, and a far stronger, fresher aroma than the dark brown oven-dried curry powder. Sun-dried curry powder is best used with vegetables, while its counterpart is best with poultry and meats. When we got back to the kitchen, she fixed me a cup of tea, served me some New Year’s “sweetmeats” (as they call their desserts), and got to hacking away at a coconut.
Six, corrugated blades attached to a handle scraped the meat off the coconut. Then, after adding a little water, I massaged the coconut meat, squeezing out all of the juices. This was then sieved, and called coconut cream. We repeated the process, producing a thinner liquid which is referred to as coconut milk.
Together, Karuna and I made five different curried dishes: carrot & green bean, beet, dhall (aka lentil), potato, and chicken. All were delicious, and although they all had similar foundations and steps, they each had a unique taste to offer.
I think the dish that I will always associate the most with my time in Sri Lanka is dhall curry, so I’m excited to share the recipe with you here!
Once completed, the dishes were DIVINE, and gloriously spicy. Now, I ache for food with Sri Lankan-spice, and I fondly remember my mouth watering (Pavlov-style) instantly at just the smell of curry being cooked up.
AHHHHH028T4HEIJOGIEJRJoijaogrj WHERE IS THE SPICE NOW?!
I am incomplete without it.