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Month: January 2022

Culinary Stories- Kiribath, Sri Lanka’s favourite breakfast

Culinary Stories- Kiribath, Sri Lanka’s favourite breakfast

When speaking of Sri Lankan food, one cannot escape the fascinating tale of the Sri Lankan kiribath.

If you are Sri Lankan, the chances are that you have milk rice for breakfast at least once every week. If you are Sri Lankan, the chances are that despite the rampant frequency with which you consume the dish, you never get tired of it either. If it’s your birthday/anniversary/wedding, your mother will cook you a pot of milk rice. If it is someone else’s wedding/birthday/anniversary, your mother will cook you a pot of milk rice. Is it New Year? Are you going for an exam? Are you starting something new? Or is it the 1st day of every month? Sri Lankan mothers will cook you a huge pot of milk rice, serve you a plateful and expect you to eat it all. And when you do finish your serving, albeit, with some difficulty, they will serve you more and expect you to eat it too.

Kiribath plays such a huge part in the lives of us, Sri Lankans, that it is the first dish that babies taste when transitioning from breast milk to solid food at the age of just 6 months. Not that they consume plates of it. This is just a symbolic ritual where just a grain of rice is touched to the infant’s lips as a gesture of feeding the baby solid food.

Every April at Sri Lankan New Year, the head of the household (strangely enough, Sri Lanka is a patriarchal society where the father is considered to be the head of the family. Yet this particular ritual is almost always performed by the mother) makes the members of the family stand facing a certain auspicious direction as dictated by the litha and feeds them milk rice, one bite each at the auspicious time. And thus starts the New Year with a bite of the milk rice heralding prosperity and good fortune, followed by the magnificent feasts of Sri Lankan sweets adorning our dining tables.

We Sri Lankans sure do love our kiribath.

Known as “kiribath” (‘kiri’ meaning milk ‘bath’ meaning rice) the Sri Lankan milk rice is basically rice cooked in coconut milk with a hint of sea salt until well cooked and slightly soggy. The rice that is commonly used is white rice, however, in the south of the island, red rice is used. Raw rice is preferred or ‘kekulu’ rice as opposed to parboiled rice which gives kiribath its unique texture. The rice is then poured onto a large, shallow plate, sides and top levelled and cut into diamond shapes and served with a fiery salsa known as ‘lunu miris’ that is made out of dried red chillies, onions, salt and lime. A side of fish ambul thiyal definitely enhances the dish while some also love a bit of seeni sambol to gobble down whole platefuls of the stuff. Some take the sweeter path and consume milk rice with a ripe banana or a piece of jaggery. Me, I like my kiribath with a good splash of the spicy Sri Lankan chicken curry, although that is not a well-known practice.

For us Sri Lankans, milk rice denotes good luck, prosperity and blessings and is an integral part of the Sri Lankan culture. All new beginnings and auspicious occasions are marked with the consumption of milk rice, large bricks of it at that, mixed together with one’s fingers, with lunu miris. The taste is sublime, it is incredibly creamy and rich with the exotic notes of coconut coating the mushy rice, giving it a risotto-like consistency. The squares of kiribath in themselves are rather solid, but break in with fingers and mash it together with the lunu miris before directing it mouth ward for a taste and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well the creaminess of the coconut-infused rice and the feisty fierceness of onion, chilli and lime go together. The lunu miris counteracts against the abundant richness of the milk rice, making it a rather unique experience. The sumptuous smoothness of the milk rice fills the mouth with an opulence that is so satisfying that the earth stops spinning, just for a while. The lunu miris aims its spicy kick but is overwhelmed by the soft cloudiness of the milk rice, calming and lethargic. The world moves at a slower pace after you’ve consumed the kiribath. It makes you so blissfully drowsy that you can happily drift away to deep sleep or wander around all day with a huge grin plastered across your face. Yes, kiribath has that effect on us Sri Lankans. And it is an effect that we happily embrace.

On New Year at the auspicious time, milk rice is cooked in a newly bought clay pot which lends the kiribath a distinct taste. I have grown to love this taste and especially look forward to it at New Year. It is different from the milk rice that is made in everyday seasoned pots. This particular dish has a refreshing newness that is strangely refreshing and intoxicating. The only one who has experienced this would know what this means.

Kataragama- The Abode of the Gods of the South

Kataragama- The Abode of the Gods of the South

Kataragama Deviyo also called: Skanda Kumara, Kartikeya is a guardian deity of Sri Lanka. Although the main shrine Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya dedicated to Kataragama Deviyo is situated in Kataragama in Moneragala District of Uva Province in southeastern Sri Lanka many other shrines dedicated to Kataragama God are found in many parts of Sri Lanka in many devalayas aligned to Buddhist temples and in many Hindu Kovils. Thousands of devotees both from Sri Lanka and other parts of the world including India visit the Devalaya daily. Many political leaders also visit the shrine and ancient kings too visited the Devalaya and prayed for the prosperity of our motherland as Buddhists believe that Kataragama God protects Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka as Buddha had visited Kataragama with five hundred arahats at the site where the present Kiri Vehera is situated.

According to some legends God Kataragama originally lived in Mount Kailash in the Himalayas and had a divine consort by the name of Thevani, before moving to Kataragama in Sri Lanka. After settling down at Kataragama in South Eastern Sri Lanka, the deity had fallen in love with Valli, a beautiful maiden princess who had been raised by indigenous Veddhas. Later Valli became the second consort of God Kataragama and transfigured as a deity. Even today, the indigenous Veddah people come to venerate Kataragama deviyo at the Kataragama temple complex from their forest abodes. Deviyo’s relationship with the Veddah princess Valli is celebrated during the annual Esala festival.

Kataragama deviyo is celebrated in ancient Sri Lankan lore and legend. Since those days an inseparable connection between Kataragama deviyo and his domain has existed. At some point in history, it is believed that he resided on the top of mountain Wedahitikanda, just outside the Kataragama town. The temple dedicated to Kataragama deviyo in Kataragama has been a place of pilgrimage and religious sanctity for thousands of years.

During one of his visits to Sri Lanka, Buddha visited the Kataragama area as stated above and delivered a discourse of Dhamma to the local people. Local residents were also advised to stop animal sacrifices widely practised by them in that period. Another belief about God Kataragama is that King Mahasen of the Kingdom of Ruhuna later came to be worshipped as a deity is believed to have built the Kiri Vehera Buddhist Stupa in Kataragama in the 6th century BC, after listening to the discourse of Dhamma delivered by Lord Buddha. In the Sinhalese tradition and culture, local kings, rulers and ancestors who did a great service to the country or community were ordained as deities.

It is believed that the present spiritual residence of Kataragama deviyo lies in the jungles of southeastern Sri Lanka, where he is spending his time in meditation. The area known as Kebiliththa, located in the Yala National Park is one such location where devotees visit, after practising strict religious rituals such as vegetarianism and abstinence to get the blessings of the god. However, it is believed that Kataragama deviyo visits the Kataragama temple on special occasions, such as Eslala festival days and poya days.

History reveals that the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya was built by King Dutugamunu around 160 BCE as a fulfilment of a vow made before undertaking his successful military campaign against the Chola invader King Elara who was occupying the then Sri Lankan capital at Anuradhapura. It is said that King Dutugemunu had obtained the blessings and guidance of God Kataragama to undertake his expedition against king Elara. After his victory, King Dutugemunu built the temple and dedicated it to God Kataragama.

A visit to Kataragama will take you on a colourful journey to a place where all cultures and religions congregate, and witness the true melting pot that makes Sri Lanka.

Colombo Food Coma- A Night Out in Colombo savouring the amazing street food on offer

Colombo Food Coma- A Night Out in Colombo savouring the amazing street food on offer

Colombo is a cosmopolitan city that has been influenced by multiple cultures, faiths, and traditions over the years. A deep dive into the city’s food culture is a great way to truly experience the multicultural smorgasbord that is Colombo. Join us on the Colombo Food Coma street food tour to experience the colours, flavours and culture of a vibrant city that is home to wonderfully resilient people.

Your host will pick you up from your hotel and take you to popular, as well as hidden, street food carts located in the heart of the city. Once at the Galle Face Green whilst you enjoy these culinary treats your kids will make kites with a local kite vendor and fly them in the open field with other local kids. You will get the opportunity to sample some deliciously unique treats that are bound to set your senses alight. Your night will end at one of Colombo’s oldest and most popular dessert spots.

You will be trying out a variety of local street food, but remember that it’s not mandatory to try each item. As the tour is vegetarian, vegan and celiac-friendly, suitable alternatives can be provided. However, you would need to let us know your dietary restrictions and allergies in advance. Take note that the tour is a walk combined with short transfers in tuk-tuks.

Be open-minded and adventurous. You are welcome to interact with your host and ask as many questions as you need.

We are certain that by this time, you will definitely be in a food coma!

Eskpe to Blackwood

Eskpe to Blackwood

Located in Beragala, this brand new property is owned by 4 generations in one family. The heritage behind the property is clearly shown in many old memorabilia and décor in this 5 bedroom boutique hill country property. Nestled among a working tea plantation, this stunning escape in the highlands boasts stunning views of the valleys which overlook the lowlands of the South all the way to the Indian Ocean.

The traditional welcome in the hotel consists of warm homemade Rasam (a traditional Tamil soup that includes many delicious spices), or on a hot and sunny day some traditional Butter Milk.

The dining table is located in the main hall where the rooms are located and a welcome addition on the side is the sweets table which has traditional Tamil sweets such as Laddu and Murukku made by the estate workers village.

The aim and theme of the hotel are to pay homage to a little known or recognized minority in Sri Lanka, the Tamil estate workers who were brought by the British from South India in the 1800s. Their culture, traditions and way of life are hardly mentioned in Sri Lanka, and the owners of this property being ancestors of these workers strive to make their story heard. From many types of delicious Tamil cuisine unique to this area, and using fresh organic vegetables and fruits grown right here in the estate, one time in Eskpe to Blackwood is sure to be a memorable one.

Nearby attractions to the property are endless, a day visit to Ella is possible, as well as exploring the many waterfalls such as Bambarakanda and Diyaluma Falls, or a visit to the stunning viewpoint of Lipton’s Seat, and maybe a visit to the Dambetenne Tea Factory for a guided experience into the secrets of Ceylon Tea. Further for those into birdwatching and nature, the property is home to many species of endemic birds for those seeking a more wild experience can journey to Horton Plains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is just an hour’s drive from the hotel.

This is the perfect highland escape and for those who want a truly authentic hill country experience.