With all the political, civil, and military turmoil throughout the island, a welcome and necessary relief can be found while enjoying the simple details of life. A quick snack or shared meals can be both a chance to step away from the country’s worries for a moment and an opportunity to strengthen connections with friends and colleges. And as with many other countries in the region, Sri Lankan tastes lavishly indulge on piquant, bold flavors. Whenever stopping by someone’s home, families can be expected to serve a multitude of spicy, baked and fried, crunchy snacks somewhat akin to pretzels; and on the weekend, vendors of both green mango slices and dried banana chips generously sprinkled with chili powder hawk their treats at public parks and other outdoor attractions. In some way perhaps this choice of flavors derives from the hot tropical climate.
Most people in Sri Lanka seem to share a uniform belief that nearly all of their traditional foods are simply too spicy for foreigners to handle without breaking down into tears. While perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, chili and various curry spices do factor heavily into the local culinary culture. Fortunately, I favor fiery food and surprised my colleagues on my first day at the office when I chose to eat a standard rice and curry “lunch packet” sold at small lunch stands on nearly every other street. When we began to eat, they intently monitored my visage for the expected signs of discomfort and sat with a bottle of water at the ready.
I am familiar with searing off half my tongue’s taste receptors, and compared with typical European or North American cuisine, the curry’s main burn would easily rate as ‘hot’, just edging towards ‘very hot’. I find that the typical whole chili found in Sri Lanka and used in many varieties of local dishes initially presents with a slight sweetness progressing to a smooth, even burn. However rather than mere intensity, the local variety’s distinctiveness comes through how the spice seemingly permeates directly from the mouth to one’s bloodstream. Almost immediately sinuses begin to clear, a rush of blood can be felt on the face, and exacerbated by the perpetually heat from the beating sun, cooling beads of perspiration begin to swell on the skin’s surface. After at first preparing for the worst, my colleagues are gradually expressing less concern while we eat lunch together.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Nov 25th, 2007