You've read about my desire to learn how to cook Sri Lankan food. My first attempt at making curry was a disaster but I finally signed up for a cooking class when we visited Fort Galle.
The chef and I started out by going to the vegetable, spice, and fish markets. We didn't buy anything because the food was purchased before the class but he showed me the veggies that are grown in Sri Lanka. They include (in order of appearance): red onions, yams, wild potatoes, snake gourd, green chilis, bitter melon, banana flower, (large purple bud, like an artichoke inside) radishes (they look like white carrots) and a sort of cucumber (the orange and green balls in the last photo).
This part of the "class" was very helpful because now I can semi-confidently go into the grocery stores here, look at the produce and know what I'm buying. I've starting purchasing radishes to go into our salads, etc.
Next we went to the spice market to smell and taste different curry powders, saffron, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon. The sales pitch was strong and I purchased two types. The bill was 1,900 LKR! That amounts to approximately $13 but the salesperson took me for a ride. (It happens frequently here.)
Last up, the fish market. It is set up on the beach near where the fishermen pull in the catch each morning. It is interesting to me that the fishermen, salesmen, and patrons were all men. Even though the women usually do the cooking in the home, the men shop, haggle over, and buy the fish. I did see women in the vegetable market but it is mostly the men (at least in Galle) who do the food shopping. Check out the beautiful Red Snapper and tuna in the photo below.
After going through the markets we went to The Paddy Island where they have an outdoor, covered kitchen for cooking. We made 10 different dishes and it was hot and hard work. I have no idea how Sri Lankan women can makes these elaborate curries day after day! I guess they get used to it but you need almost two dozen ingredients for EACH curry. Besides the spices, onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, meat, veggies, all have to be cleaned and prepared. That doesn't even include the rice which has to be washed three times and boiled.
Most homes have a two burner stove so it is a stream-lined process to prepare a curry, move it off the stove and cover it, in order to start on the next one. Usually for dinner, a typical curry meal would include rice, a meat curry (such as prawn curry) and two vegetable curries (beet root for instance) and/or dahl (lentils). Look how much food we had when finished... It was insane.
I learned so much and used my new skills to make chicken curry the other evening for James. We both agreed that it was pretty good. (You can watch a video I created of the steps in the curry process here.) The cooking class was worth the time and money. Below is a short video documenting the experience. Thank you for reading and watching.