alternatively titled: It’s All About the Food
The closest thing I had to a guide book in Sri Lanka was one page of a website written by Yulia, a Russian woman who writes in English and is married to a Sri Lankan. The page is called The Ultimate Guide to Sri Lankan Food: 50 Must Try Dishes. When I first arrived in the country, I was sort of using the page as a reference to get some names of dishes and see what I recognize. After a couple weeks in the country, without even trying, I realized I had made it more than half way through Yulia’s list. It was only during my last week in Sri Lanka that I really started making an effort to find dishes on Yulia’s list that I hadn’t tried already.
For example, why bother ordering biryani when it’s a pretty standard rice dish in so many South and Southeast Asian countries? It was on Yulia’s list so I tried it one evening in Aluthgama:
After the biryani dinner Yulia sent me on a fun expedition to track down homemade toffee. Did I find kiri toffee?
On the way back to my hotel from the toffee adventure, I completely randomly came across kadala tel dala (stir-fried chickpeas) — the only time I saw those in two months in Sri Lanka. Wow, they were super tasty. I wished I hadn’t filled up on toffee.
As far as food goes Yulia doesn’t complain much, but she doesn’t like kola kenda:
I quite liked it, enough to stop almost every time I saw it. I mentioned kola kenda on this blog before.
Yulia’s other food complaint is that appa (aka hoppers) are served at dinner rather than breakfast. Well, here I found them at a very basic breakfast place:
Certainly without Yulia’s help I never would have found lamprais — “rice, vegetables, and meats (chicken in my case), wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked slowly”. I saw the word lamprais written on a sign in Hikkaduwa, and remembering Yulia’s blog I went in. They said to come back in the afternoon. I did and was treated to a tasty lunch.
Like biryani faluda is common in South and Southeast Asia:
On my last full day in the country I found the jackfruit man at the market in Negombo and bought a kg of jackfruit seeds (kos atta) from him. I attempted my first kos atta curry back here in Antalya. It was tasty, and how often do people eat jackfruit seeds in Turkey??!! Yulia was my main secondary source for the jackfruit information in a previous post.
One of my favorite veggies in Sri Lanka was winged beans. I wish I had brought some seeds back to Turkey. I bet they’d grow well here.
We mustn’t forget Sri Lanka’s national dish, kottu:
but my favorites were (of course) the widely-available-at-lunch-and-dinner rice and curry meals:
Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget that Sri Lanka was more than just good food. Between Unawatuna and Negombo I spent a couple nights at the beach town of Hikkaduwa.
I did some snorkeling in Hikkaduwa, but perhaps more exciting was seeing the water monitors in the canal on my morning walks.
Even bicycling through the most densely populated part of the country I managed to find some quiet areas.
Of course there were temples (as always):
and as I got closer to Negombo, I started to see more churches again.
I passed this mosque:
in Poruthota on one of my morning walks from Negombo. It reminded me of Oman, perhaps because everything here felt gritty and sandy. Or perhaps because of the nearby dhows?
Negombo Beach is a grim has-been tourist strip. The city (a bit separate from the beach) is good enough for some last day shopping and a covid PCR test before my 32-hour Colombo-Dubai-Istanbul-Antalya airplane fun.
As far as tourist sites in Negombo, the best thing I did was walk along the canal lined with fishermen repairing their nets, drinking coconut arrack, or both.
Bye, bye, Sri Lanka.