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Friday, April 12, 2013

Sri Lankan Home Cooking at Bazaar Spices in DC

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be part of a conversation around Sri Lankan Home Cooking. How many times have you heard about Sri Lankan food? How many Sri Lankan resturants have you seen in Washington, DC? How many times have you had Sri Lankan curry? Likely, very few. This is why it was so exciting to bring in Gastronaut Skiz Fernando, Author of Rice and Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, a New York Times notable cookbook. Through his recent book, his Pan Asian cooking channel on Youtube, and his blog Rice and Curry, Skiz has successfully put Sri Lankan cuisine on the map. He has helped to popularize the delicious cooking within the United States.

During the discussion, we heard about how Sri Lankan food is very similar to food from Kerala, India in that it uses quite a bit of coconut milk and coconut oil. The coconut tree is found all over Sri Lanka and is a very healthy fruit. One of the popular dishes Skiz described (and also detailed in his cookbook) was Coconut Flat Bread or “Pol Roti” made simply with rice flour, shredded coconut (available at Bazaar Spices), salt and water. These delicious treats are often eaten for breakfast or dinner, as Skiz mentions in his book.

It was also interesting to hear more about the differences between Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine. India is a vast country, and the types and variations of foods vary from region to region. However, one of the main differences between Sri Lankan and Indian food is the way the spices are used. Skiz described that many of the spices used in Sri Lankan food are roasted and ground before using them. Roasting the spices releases essential oils within the spices. Though my aunts in India often roast their cumin and other spices, the general practice of roasting spices isn’t as common in India as it is in Sri Lanka. 

Skiz described the adventure of eating at home in Sri Lanka. He mentioned that the term “Rice and Curry” is often used to describe food in general. Lunch is one of the biggest meals in Sri Lanka and you may often see a whole table full of many different colorful curries and vegetables and you often mix everything together, eating primarily with your fingers. 
Skiz went on to talk about some of the essential spices in many Sri Lankan dishes--coriander, cumin, black mustard seeds, shredded coconut, ginger, garlic, cloves, bay leaves, saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, turmeric, lemongrass, and fenugreek. (all of which are available at Bazaar Spices). He also touched upon the Ayurvedic system of medicine, or the science of life, which tells us holistically about certain foods we should eat, how to incorporate yoga and exercise into our lives, and how to take care of ourselves before illness sets in. 

The event culminated with an overview of his book, "Rice and Curry" and a demonstration of how to make his famous Sri Lankan Curried Chicken, a big hit for everyone who attended.  Check out the delicious recipe in his book now available at Bazaar Spices. The event brought cultural insight into the art of Sri Lankan cooking to Union Market and Washington, DC. Don’t forget to stop by BazaarSpices to get all of the necessary spices for your favorite Sri Lankan recipes! 

*We also had a wonderful sign language interpreter at our event yesterday for many of our students from Gallaudet University.

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