Monthly Archives: August 2012

New Things I Learnt About Colombo – August 2012

Firstly I say sorry to my followers – I have started a new job which has kind of taken over my life so I haven’t been blogging much. Do not worry I’m not giving up blogging or sharing recipes, just bear with me whilst I get settled into the new routine.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you my experiences of Colombo. I have been visiting this city for 7 years and BOY has it changed AND BOY is it changing still.

I lived in Dehiwela for a little while on and off in 2006/2007, in a company apartment and loved it. It had sea views but was small and cosy and local enough to be home for me…nothing posh or special but the flat remains in my heart because it was from there that I got to know the real Colombo rather than just passing through and stopping at tourist spots like  Odel’s and Majestic City.

Anyway, after my stays there I always thought I had the authority of Colombo knowledge when people asked me about it once I was back home in the South. How wrong I was and still am.

I don’t think I have ever seen a city change so fast so quickly. Every time I go something changes, new buildings arise out of nothing, restaurants and bakeries that I used to frequent have disappeared, yet more streets are one-way and don’t even get me started on the traffic lights. I think even the real Colombo residents don’t know half the time.

So today I met a good tuk tuk driver “friend” of mine and  asked him to take me and my friend to the Old Dutch Hospital (from Punchi Borella) so we could have some lunch and a drink before getting the bus back home. He didn’t have a clue where it was (!!), so he stopped at Colombo Fort  Railway Station to ask for directions – I more or less knew where the place was but he wasn’t listening. We ended up being overcharged by him but he claimed it was because he had to stop and ask directions. Ripped off by somebody who I trusted. Damn this didn’t bode too good….lesson learnt. A tuk tuk friend in Colombo is not the same as a tuk tuk friend in my home town, Aluthgama.

The Old Dutch Hospital – nothing to fault it really. Beautiful building, wonderful restaurants, cafe’s and bars. IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT. Since when did Colombo become London?? We had a drink but skipped lunch. Sure we could afford it but we were in the mood to go home by now. I guess I would have to go back on a Friday evening to get a buzz. Tuesday lunchtimes = dull.

Finally – last Colombo lesson learnt – if you’re only going a short distance (i.e. Old Dutch Hospital to Bus Station)…get a bloody metered tuk tuk. The one outside quoted us 200 rups. We ignored him and got into a lovely old uncle’s metered tuk tuk and he took us where we wanted to go for 100 rups and spoke brilliant English whilst telling us a quick story of his Burgher youth – bargain.

Some good, some not so good, such is life. But don’t stop changing Colombo – it makes you more intriguing and fun to visit. Photo’s to follow soon.

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Filed under Just stuff, Sri Lankan life

Sri Lankan Men in Tourist Resorts – you either Love them or Hate them

Hikkaduwa Ford; melted many a heart in his life

Hikkaduwa Ford; melted many a heart in his life

This is one of my rants. Forgive me if any of you take offence…I am just saying it how it is. Also note I am with one of these Sri Lankan men who grew up in a tourist resort, so I probably fall into the former category of actually seeing them in a good light. Don’t get me wrong – I could quite happily kill him sometimes but fortunately we know each other well and can generally sort shit out (the day after, sometimes 2 or 3, haha).

I’ll get back to that in another post but firstly in case you have just stumbled on this post and know very little about Sri Lanka – *ONE WORD OF NOTE* – do not let this put you off coming here for a fantastic holiday, even if you are a single female travelling alone. The country will welcome you with open arms but I hope this post may make just that little bit wiser about how you go about your day-to-day holiday adventures.

Unemployment is a big problem in this country, not because it is absurdly high, but because there are no social security measures in place to aid these people. A problem the Government needs to address – but that is for another post as well. So if you have no job, you have NOTHING. Lots of people get small unreliable work in the agricultural sector which is weather dependant and where they get paid not by the hour, or day, or month…NO but by what they actually bring to their SUV-driving boss in his posh house. If the weather is shit, they go home with nothing to feed their kids. Add to that fishermen and masons (brickies) who are usually self-employed and don’t have the correct HR systems in place to safe-guard them should their work dry up or if they are unable to work because of illness or disabilities.

Back to the Tourist sector; all along the coast from Colombo to Matara the young generation has grown up with tourists, even during the war and in the aftermath of the tsunami (different types of tourists, yes, but they still had money to spend). They see tourists as “work” – whether from teaching them how to surf and taking them on proper tours to commission greedy boys that will demand 10% or 20% of whatever the tourist buys in certain shops. I haven’t actually got a problem with these commission “guides”. Why? Because they have no alternative employment, no decent education to speak of BUT yet they speak 4 or 5 languages enough to actually take these holiday-makers to the best markets, the best spice shops, the best gem and jewellery shops AND the best beaches, best local temples, lagoons and waterfalls etc. These guys put in their days work too, usually on foot in the sweltering heat. YES, they will pocket some money on top of the market price of goods but the shop keepers are in on all this and if a lone tourist enters the shop alone and chooses an item which is not priced, the shop will make a 100% mark-up anyway. Most of these “guides” are from poor fishing communities and help their folks, wives or if single, they will buy the arrack for all the others in the evening. They are not evil. If you don’t want their help, tell them to fuck off. They understand and leave you alone. Many have met Europeans who have helped them and their families to build houses and live a better life, some get married and move abroad – surely in my view this is progress for Sri Lanka.

You can of course get ripped off BIG STYLE, but this is usually down to the stupidity of the tourist. Look at Hikkaduwa for example…you go to Mambo’s for a beach party during the season. If you are a young backpacker you may want to get some drugs to enliven your your evening (I am not casting judgements here…been there, done that, luckily I had fun and good friends, including the Mambo boys), BUT sometimes you may get ripped off. Do your research guys, ask around, what is the going price etc. Don’t just get steaming on Arrack and Bacardi at the bar and then decide to score 2 E’s. You’re wasted, you have a pocket full of cash. Any drug dealer in the world will think you are easy prey. BE SMART. Keep your head – I agree it’s not always easy when dancing barefoot on the beach with Techno blasting and you are beyond caring but you wouldn’t lose your head at home so don’t here. The Sri Lankans will respect you more for it.

There are so many bad reviews on the internet about the so-called “beach boys” and “commission guides” in Sri Lanka. Yes it happens, but you can also make them your friends and then these “beach boys” and “commission guides” will look after you and ensure your holiday is safe and memorable. Yes they make some money, but considering they give you the time and advice, surely they deserve it. Add to that the fact that you will see parts of this wonderful country which big tour agencies do not visit and very often you will be invited to their family home for rice and curry – local style. Nothing is better than that plus you will have a friend for life. Respect and be respected.

BE SAVVY, STAY SAFE! And enjoy the paradise that is Sri Lanka! Who knows you might even find true love, whether for the country, a beach dog, a gorgeous smart shy Sri Lankan girl, a clever funny intelligent Colombo guy or a delicious looking cheeky beach boy. Enjoy and love but mainly respect them in their country: Sri Lanka. Your life will never be the same.

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Filed under Just stuff, Sri Lankan life

Spicy Sri Lankan Devilled Potatoes (Ala Tel Dala)

When I  first came to Sri Lanka in 2003 I have to be honest and say that it took some time for my western palate to adapt to some of the fiery dishes on offer here. The following dish, however, I was instantly addicted to. I adore potatoes and to have them served fried with onions was already a favourite. Add some fragrant spices to that and I was hooked. Here is my own recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 500 (1lb) potatoes
  • Good sprig of curry leaves (10 to 15 leaves)
  • 3 onions (finely sliced)
  • 2 tsps hot chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp dired red chilli pieces
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (Kaha)
  • 2 small green chillies (very finely cut, de-seeded if liked)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • Vegetable oil

* some people add maldive fish (dried sprats) but I’m not a fan

Method:

  1. Peel and boil potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. They should still be firm to avoid getting mashed potatoes later! Drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the curry leaves, onions and mustard seeds until the seeds start popping.
  3. Add the green chillies and fry until the onions brown a little.
  4. Add the chilli powder, chilli pieces, turmeric and salt and fry for a few seconds before added the potato cubes.
  5. Fry the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes until the flavours have merged together and the potatoes have a reddish hue.
  6. Finally add the lime juice and serve.

This serves 4-6 people.  Eat it as part of a rice and curry meal.  I also like to smash the potatoes with a fork and slather it in between two slices of buttered fresh bread.  It makes a very spicy vegetarian sandwich.  Enjoy!

Sri Lankan Devilled Potatoes

Sri Lankan Devilled Potatoes

 

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Filed under Sri Lankan food & recipes, Vegetarian recipes

Egg Hoppers – Sri Lankan Food Porn

I love eggs. My previous post was dedicated to eggs because they are just so good. No recipes or knowledge or nutritional facts, nope, just photo’s, drool-worthy images. We all know eggs are good for you bar a bit of cholesterol but all in all they’re good and cheap and just well….tasty.

Unfortunately in Sri Lanka I often come across over-cooked eggs. This is a shame – it makes them rubbery, strips them off their goodness and ends up in unappealing looking eggs with blueish yolks.

Unless you find a good Egg Hopper kade (my local shop knows exactly how I like them and gives me extra lunu miris; a hot onion and chilli sambol (recipe repeated below)), or have them at a good hotel in Colombo where you can specify how you like them. Often I have had them hard-boiled and folded, nowhere near as tasty but still ok.

Alternatively you can make them at home. They are quite time consuming to make because you need the special aluminium hopper pans and certain types of rice flour & yeast but life would not be living without some trial & error, no? 🙂

Perfect Egg Hopper; soft-boiled in the middle but with crispy edges

Perfect Egg Hopper; soft-boiled in the middle but with crispy edges

So here goes the recipe for Egg Hoppers.

Best made in special hopper pans:

Sri Lankan Hopper Pans

Sri Lankan Hopper Pans

MAKES 16

Ingredients:

For the Egg Hoppers:

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • Vegetable oil, for the pan
  • Eggs

For the Lunu Miris

  • 2 tbsp of chilli flakes
  • 2 or 3 fresh red chillies (optional)
  • Half a tsp of salt
  • 1 or 2 red onions (very finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp ground maldive fish (optional) – again I leave this out but others swear by it.
  • Juice of a half a lime or lemon (or more)

Method:

For the Lunu Miris:

  1. Grind the all the ingredients above except lime (or lemon) in a mortar and pestle (wangediya). Again you may find the food processor does wonders, but be sure you turn the mixture into a pulp. Crunchy is good 🙂
  2. Squeeze in the lime juice, mix and serve when fresh.

To make the hoppers:

  1. Combine yeast and 1 3/4 cups warm water (approx. 50 Celsius, 110 Fahrenheit) in a bowl; let sit until foamy, 8–10 minutes. Combine 1 tsp. salt, flour, and sugar in a bowl; add yeast mixture and stir into a batter. Cover, and let rest for about 2 hours. Add coconut milk and baking soda; stir until smooth. Chill batter for 1 hour.
  2. Heat a hopper pan or an 8″ nonstick skillet over high heat and grease lightly with oil; add 1/3 cup batter, and immediately swirl batter around to cover inside surface. Cook until batter begins to set, about 1 minute.
  3. Crack the egg into the centre of the pan. Cover, and cook until set and edges are crispy, about 2 minutes. Remove egg hopper from the pan and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hoppers with lunu miris.

And there you have it – Egg Hoppers, food porn on a plate and it’s tastes tremendous too.

Perfect Egg Hopper, crispy edges ideal for dipping into the yolk.

Perfect Egg Hopper, crispy edges ideal for dipping into the yolk.

With lunu miris if you dare!

Lunu miris; hot onion and chilli chutney with lemon

Lunu miris; hot onion and chilli chutney with lemon or lime.

Lush for breakfast, snacks or a late dinner. ENJOY!

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Filed under Healthy food, Snacks, Sri Lankan food & recipes, Sri Lankan life, Vegetarian recipes

Sexy Eggs

It’s a Saturday and I was getting ready to research the recipe and write my next post on that wonderful Sri Lankan food; Egg Hoppers. BUT sorry folks I got distracted…

By what? Eggs. Yes Eggs.

If you don’t like them I suggest you stop reading now or have a look and maybe you will be tempted.

Simple, tasty and sexy. The beautiful egg.

I’m not a food photographer (I would not be my size if I was!) and these photo’s are not mine but they are stunning. If they are yours shout and I’ll credit you.

SEXY EGGS:

Soft-boiled with soldiers - my favourite breakfast when I was a kid

Soft-boiled with soldiers – my favourite breakfast when I was a kid

Poached egg porn

Poached egg porn

Perfection on a plate

Perfection on a plate

Eggy bread at its sexiest

Eggy bread at its sexiest

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Yolky yumminess

Yolky yumminess

Dribble dribble

Stunning

Eggs and soldiers

Eggs and soldiers

How can you resist? Sri Lankan egg hoppers coming up soon!

6 Comments

Filed under Food photography, Just stuff, Vegetarian recipes

Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki

This is for my friends and blog commenters who have asked me why I have been avoiding the Olympics in my blog. Well…

  1. I have been too busy watching the Olympics on TV to blog much
  2. Two – not all of the sports interest me unless they involve great athletic prowess, a huge record breaking headline, controversy (doping scandals etc.) or Holland (who are 10th by the way in the medal rankings in case you were wondering 😉 ). Sri Lanka…well lets not even go there.
  3. I’m feeling very poor after my trip to Bangkok and have been working my backside off.

Anyway back to the subject at hand.

The first modern-day Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, with 241 athletes (all male) from 14 nations competing in 9 sports with 43 events. Volleyball wasn’t one of them.

Athens hosted its second Summer Games in 2004, this time with 10,625 athletes (4,329 women and 6,296 men) from 201 nations competing in 28 sports with 301 events – including volleyball and beach volleyball. All that progress deserves a tasty Greek treat.

This dish can be prepared with lamb, chicken and pork although the recipe below is best with either lamb or pork. I don’t actually eat lamb so I make it with pork or chicken but some prefer lamb for the better depth of meaty flavour.

Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki:

Ingredients:

For the souvlaki

  • 1 kilo boneless pork or lamb (e.g. leg fillet or steaks. I use pork loin)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp rigani, or dried oregano
  • 150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 onion, grated or very finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, roughly torn (if not available omit these)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tzatziki

  • ½ cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g/5oz thick Greek-style yoghurt (I think you could safely substitute curd here)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Cut the pork or lamb into 2cm/¾in cubes, trimming off any gristle or other unwanted fat.
  2. Mix all the remaining souvlaki ingredients and then pour over the meat.
  3. Turn so that all the pieces are coated, then cover and leave to marinate for at least two hours, but preferably nearer to 24 hours, in a cool place (or fridge).
  4. To make the tzatziki, spread the cucumber dice out in a colander or sieve, and sprinkle over the vinegar and a little salt.
  5. Leave to drain for one hour, then pat dry with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.
  6. Mix with the rest of the tzatziki ingredients, then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve either lightly chilled or at room temperature.
  7. Back to the souvlaki. Soak wooden skewers in cold water for an hour or two, and then thread the meat on the skewers. Don’t push the cubes right up against each other, but leave a minuscule gap between each pair, just enough space for the heat to curl round every cube, cooking it evenly.
  8. Preheat either the barbecue or grill or an oiled griddle pan (place over a high heat for about 3-5 minutes), then cook the kebabs close to the heat, or on the griddle pan, turning and brushing occasionally with the leftover marinade, until they are crusty and brown.
Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Serve sizzling hot, with a wedge of lemon, the tzatziki and warm crispy pitta breads.

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Filed under Meat recipes, Middle Eastern recipes and influences, Salad recipes, Snacks

Healthy Oven Fried Chicken with a Sri Lankan Twist

Ok, ok I have a weakness for KFC. Zinger burgers are pretty tasty (although I hate the KFC chips – greasy, sloppy & anaemic – gah). Yes I know it’s crap fast food and unhealthy so I’ve been trying out some new healthier and spicier variations at home and one of these turned out very nicely so I’m letting you in on the recipe.

The Sri Lankan bit arose from me trying to give traditional fried chicken a little bit more of an ethnic zing. The healthier bit is simply by baking the chicken pieces in the oven instead of deep-frying them. You can still get lovely crispy edges by using the flour, egg, and bread crumb method…

Healthy Oven Fried Chicken with a Sri Lankan Twist:

Ingredients (serves 2 to 4 people):

  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (wings, drumsticks, thighs, breasts)

For the marinade:

  • 2 cups milk or plain yogurt or curd (I am using “cups” here not because I like the American way of listing ingredients, just because the measurements need not be exact!)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsps roasted curry powder
  • 1 tbsp salt (or 3 to 4 tbsps of soya sauce)
  • 1 tbsp black pepper (freshly crushed pepper corns taste best)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder

For the breading:

  • 1 cup wheat flour (see note above about “cups”)
  • 1 tsp unroasted curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 cups bread crumbs

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the chicken parts in the bowl. If the liquid does not cover the chicken, add more water. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours (or longer).
  2. After chicken has marinated for 2 hours, set up 3 large soup plates side-by-side.
  3. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
  4. In the first plate, mix together the flour, curry powder, and ground cumin.
  5. In the second plate, beat together the two eggs, salt, garlic powder, and olive oil.
  6. In the third plate, put in the bread crumbs.
  7. Take one chicken piece out of the marinade, submerge it in the flour mixture to coat. Next, dunk it in the egg mixture, and finally dredge it in the bread crumbs until completely covered. Place in a oven proof pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
  8. Bake at 200 degrees celcius for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned AND CRISPY!
Healthy Oven Fried Sri Lankan Chicken

Healthy Oven Fried Sri Lankan Chicken

You can serve this as a main meal with rice and salad or simply as a snack with some chilli sauce. Enjoy.

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Filed under Healthy food, Meat recipes, Sri Lankan food & recipes