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Frances's Thoughts on Food
Being a tourist in an Asian country I had expected to have been overwhelmed with curry and spicy food. However this was not the case. In Hikkaduwa all the restaurants served a western menu with a few Sri Lankan dishes such as egg curry. The traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of roti or hoppers and curry was only served in a few places as it was out of season. Roti is a kind of flat bread that is cooked in a griddle pan. It can be made with or without grated coconut or with fillings such as egg or spicy vegetables. There were several small roti shops serving slightly more local food- in that they served roti but it was adapted for the tourists by the addition of cheese and tomato- i.e. no curry. Usually for breakfast we just ate toast, at 12p a slice. In most establishments it was served with butter and jam - the only flavour tending to be pineapple jelly, which we came to really like by the end of our stay! However, when we did manage to find local food it was delicious! Several times we had the customary rice and some really nice dahl as well as spicy meat dishes or griddled fish. We found that pudding was often pineapple or bananas as these were in plentiful supply. Wandering around Galle one evening we came across a traditional local roti shop off the beaten tourist track. We sampled the traditional egg roti with coconut sambol- (grated coconut mixed with spices). It would have been a shame to leave Sri Lanka without sampling the local food!
While we were there our knowledge about tropical fruit grew- We sampled several different types of bananas including some with red skins. We ate lots of lovely pineapple- it was not sharp like ones in England sometimes are. We also had fresh papaya which neither of us had sampled before- with the seeds removed it looks a bit like an orange melon. With the seeds left in it is distinctly recognisable. Most restaurants would serve papaya as a dessert- this is because it was available all year round. By the end of people's visits there was a cry of –‘oh no not more papaya- everybodys favourite’ as the locals brought out some more. We certainly ate enough to last us a while.
Although there was a plentiful supply of fruit on the Island we found it hard to obtain from the local shops. We later found out that it was available from the local market in Hikkaduwa. Bananas made a good nutritious snack, that you knew were safe to eat as long as the skin was not broken.
We only drank bottled water throughout our trip- the locals all know that if tourists drink the local water then they will get sick. Bottled water is readily available and cheap- but if chilled it is often more expensive. We also sampled the local fizzy drinks. There is Sprite, Fanta and Coke available, but they are in glass old fashioned bottles which are washed and re-used. The colour of the Fanta is somewhat archaic as it is bright orange but it tastes great. I also sampled some Ginger beer produced by Elephant House- the cream soda was also really good.- Drinks are very cheap about 25p a bottle. Don’t be put off if the bottle looks rather dirty- the contents inside will be fine.
Here is a recipe for traditional Sri Lankan roti- I have made it a few times- they go well with jam for breakfast or with curry- try not to overcook them or they will end up a bit like crisps- and quite hard.
Poll Roti- Coconut Roti Bread
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Cup Scraped Coconut (or desiccated Coconut)
1 tbs Margarine
1 tsp Salt
Warm water as required
Mix together flour and salt.
Using pastry blender or fingertips, add margarine into flour until coarse crumbs form.
Add the coconut and mix thoroughly.
Add warm water gradually and keep mixing until a smooth dough forms.
Divide dough into 4-5 equal size balls.
On a floured surface roll each ball to a thin circle 4-5 inches in diameter.
Cook on a hot griddle. Keep turning on both sides until Roti is cooked