Rice and Curry

Location

Matara

Sri Lanka

5° 56′ 24.2196″ N80° 31′ 32.8296″ E

Date:
Sun, 03/03/2013 – 7:02am
Spicy Kottu
Introduction::
Sri Lankan food is some of the spiciest food in the entire world. The staple meal is rice and curry, but I learn how to create delicious pol sambol with my host grandmother.
Food variations in different cultures are always exciting and sometimes difficult to adjust to.  In America, I eat a wide variety of food, my favorite being Mexican and Italian food.  I enjoy hamburgers and pizza but when traveling abroad it is important to realize that typical American foods are not always accessible.  This is the case in Sri Lanka.  In Sri Lanka, my diet has completely changed compared to the foods I eat in the U.S.  The staple food in Sri Lanka is rice and the staple meal in Sri Lanka is rice and curry.  When I say staple I am serious because usually Sri Lankans eat rice and curry three to four meals a day.
What food did I try?: 

What exactly is rice and curry?  Well, obviously, the base of the meal is rice, and a lot of it.  In general, South Asian food culture is full of rice because it is easily grown in this climate and it is inexpensive.  In addition to the rice, there are numerous types of curries.  A curry is a spicy dish made many things such as vegetables, potatoes, fish, chicken, pumpkin and dahl.  With a mixture of spices, coconut milk and chilies, Sri Lankan curries are considered some of the spiciest foods in the world. One particular curry that I love is called pol sambol.  It is a spicy coconut mixture that is one component of a rice and curry.

How did I feel when I tried it?: 

The first time I tasted it was with my host grandmother who made a special meal for me on the first night in the house.  I am not really used to spicy foods so I knew I was in for a surprise.  I took one bite and my mouth was on fire. It took an entire plate of rice and many glasses of water to cool it off.  After a few bites I did not want to eat anymore because my mouth hurt, but the despite this, the flavor was fantastic.  I continued eating and began sweating profusely but I did not want my host grandmother to think that I cannot handle the hot food, so I just kept on eating.   While spicy, the food was delicious which is why I continue to eat Sri Lankan food despite my inability to control my sweating during meals.

How is the food prepared?: 

I have spent many hours in the kitchen with my host grandmother trying to figure out how Sri Lankan food is prepared.  In my experience so far, the food is prepared in a very particular, exhausting manner.  For just pol sambol, one curry, the process takes about 20 minutes.   Add four more curries and rice and each meal takes about two hours to create.  Step one is to obtain a white coconut (pol) from a roadside shop.   Next, the coconut must be cracked in half with a large machete knife.  The next step is to grind the coconut flesh out of the shell by using special coconut grinder.  After the flesh is ground into small pieces the flavors are added.  Two garlic cloves, one medium onion and handful of chili flakes are all added to the mixture then blended together in an electric blender.  After this process, the special ingredient of blended moldy fish is added to the dish.  Moldy fish is exactly what it says, moldy fish.  The fish dries outside for days and then mold begins to grow on it.  Once the mold has grown over the entire fish it is ground up in a blender and stored for curry use.  After the moldy fish addition, a little salt and limejuice is mixed with the concoction and the pol sambol is complete.

Is this food connected to the local environment? How?: 

All foods are extremely connected to the local environment in my neighborhood.  There is a large grocery store, just like an American grocery store, about ten minutes bike ride away that sells everything I need.  However, most Sri Lankans primarily shop at local stands along the road to buy food.  As I learn more of the language, I have begun shopping more often at the local roadside shops.  All the vegetables and rice are grown near the neighborhood and sold in these shops.  The food is very fresh and delicious and I usually buy small quantities every day.  Fish is sold along the beach, which is a 30 second walk away so that is very local and fresh.  Lastly, there is a coconut tree in every yard along with chili bushes and fruit trees.  Overall, all Sri Lankan food is found within immediate vicinity of the house, which indicates an intimate connection to the environment.

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