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Friday, May 7, 2010

Subha Aluth Avuruddhak Wewa

Did you make any new year's resolutions this year? Planned to reduce your macaron intake? Wean yourself off Gossip Girl? Combat the Tight Pants Fairy's evil work? And did your good plans disappear as quickly as that box of macarons and the sight of your toes?

Well fear not, because the new year has only just begun! The Sri Lankan New Year begins on either 13th or 14th of April each year, with the exact time and date dependent on the time when the sun moves from Meena (Pisces) into Mesha (Aries). The recent new year began on the 14th of April (at 6:58am to be precise), and I was lucky enough to join in the Sri Lankan Cultural Society of Western Australia new year celebrations on Sunday the 18th of April.

It was held at Centenary Park in Wilson on a beautiful sunny Autumn day. I was enjoying the warmth of the sun in a singlet (and shorts, I might add) which turned out to be a clever idea as friends were able to find our group by spotting my blindingly white skin amongst the more melanin blessed crowd.

I was barely there for two seconds before food was being thrust upon me. I got the feeling I was going to enjoy celebrating the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year.

We decided to load up on foods and find some grass to relax on so there would be no injuries should we go into simultaneous food comas. The foods on sale were written up on a whiteboard, and I was glad to have my own personal translator, my friend Lil deVious, to explain the dishes. Fish Roti and Buriyani were fairly obvious to someone who is familiar with Indian food, but I was a little confused by the Cutlets, Chinese Rolls and Wadai under the Shorties part of the menu (though not quite as confused as I was by the chips, fish & chips and hot dogs on offer).

While we were lining up, I was a little alarmed by the apparent popularity of the chips and hot dogs, but I guess if you make your own yellow rice and curries at home every day, it might be nice to treat yourself with a bucket of chips on a Sunday. 

Chinese Roll (2 for $3.50) and Cutlet (3 for $2.50) - thanks to lovely hand model Lil deVious for giving some added authenticity to my photos

The Chinese Roll and Cutlet are somewhat similar, both containing a spicy fishy filling which tasted like a spicy, aromatic version of my Mum's tuna patties. I love my Mum's tuna patties and I loved these. The Cutlets are round crumb-coated balls of the fish mixture, while the Chinese Rolls are like a spring roll that has been crumbed before frying.

Wadai (3 for $2.50)

The next tasty fried shorties were wadai, spicy fried lentil patties. The outer layer was perfectly crispy and I loved the amount of heat contained within each naughty morsel. These would be perfect with a cold beer.

Rice and curry ($7.50); yellow rice ($8)

The "rice and curry" came with "fish, potato, beans, dhal", while the yellow rice came with "chicken, potato, eggplant", and both had a dollop of spicy spicy chilli. Both were aromatic, well spiced, filling meals. I would have liked a bit more of a kick to it, but was able to achieve this easily by adding the chilli to my forkfuls. I can understand that they couldn't exactly have every component knocking your socks off with the heat, as they were cooking for a large crowd and even with a mostly Sri Lankan crowd you sadly cannot assume everyone is a chilli fiend. 

Hot chips ($3)

One of the other non-Sri Lankans in our group got these chips. He's a Kiwi. I like to think he got them purely to entertain us with his pronunciation of "chips". They looked nice and crunchy but I was not willing to spare a single chip worth of stomach space.

The Hopper Man, working his magic

This was my first Sri Lankan hopper experience and it will not be my last. Oh no, as the magical Hopper Man is my witness, I will never go hopper hungry again! Hoppers are basically thin pancakes made in quite concave pans. There are many varieties of hoppers, but on this day we had a stack of plain hoppers finished off with an egg hopper on top. The egg was perfectly cooked such that there was no "snot" on the white (thanks Dad for giving me such a classy vocabulary) but the yolk was gooey and begging to be dipped into with pieces of hopper. The accompanying chicken drumstick was tender and spicy and the coconut sambol was heaven in a hopper scoop.

A plate of hopper joy

Goopy goopy googy egg

In addition to the good eating, there were a number of games being played throughout the day. I'm not sure what they are called in Sinhalese or Tamil, but I would call them hitting a claypot piñata, pillow fighting, and of course a good old game of cricket.

Watching a talented piñata smasher bust open the clay pot was amazing. All of the children that had been impatiently waiting around the sidelines rushed in faster than I could capture with my camera, eagerly grabbing at the freed treats while the triumphant stick-wielder pumped his fists in the air. I felt a little sorry for him - to pause for your success to be captured on film, or to make sure some of those liberated lollies make it into your pockets? A tough choice.

The pillow fighting went on for hours, with many heats leading up to the finals. Watching the men's finals was something else, these guys really meant business. I think they had been training in their backyards. The ultimately triumphant pillowman had a winning technique of absorbing all the force of his opponent's whacks in the side of his head before making his move with one or two hits to throw his opponent off balance and send him tumbling off the log.

I didn't watch much of the cricket, but I did manage to capture a little mini Muttiah Muralitharan deliver a killer doosra all of about 2 metres, forcing the batsman to run forward more than half the length of the pitch to reach the ball.

I didn't want the celebrations to end, and luckily they continued the following night when Lil deVious invited me around to her place for dinner. The place smelled so good when I arrived I could have just walked around chomping the air and almost have been satisfied. Almost. Fortunately for my bundy (stomach) we got to eat the source of the smells, and the kiribath (milk rice), chicken curry and seeni sambol were right on the rupee. Bohoma sthuthi, Lil deVious, your cooking is truly rasai. I'm worried my bundy is going it pack its bags and migrate to Sri Lanka without me.  

Seeni sambol, chicken curry and kiribath (milk rice)

Rasai dins, round 1


Jo - SecondHelping May 7, 2010 at 4:21 PM  

Oops, nearly missed the word 'on' when you said you were finding "some grass to relax" LOL

Looks like a great day!

NikiTheo May 7, 2010 at 8:36 PM  

I need a Sri Lankan festival to go to... and eat...

Hannah May 7, 2010 at 9:21 PM  

I don't think I've ever made New Year's Resolutions in my life, actually... though if I'd made the Gossip Girl one I would have succeeded straight away. That show has become more and more sickening and the characters less and less appealing as it goes on (in my opinion, anyway :P), so I stopped abotu two months back. What on earth is the POINT of Vanessa? What does she ever DO?!

*Ahem* Really enjoyed your showcasing of these Sri Lankan treats. I love me some lentils, and hope I can lose my hopper virginity sometime soon too.

P.S. Thinking the best for you :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 7, 2010 at 9:28 PM  

Oh that looks goooood! And hehe yes when I was growing up I was dying for anything non Chinese so I sort of do get them trying other foods whereas you're going for the Sri Lankan! Oh and there's a Sri Lankan theme running through my post tomorrow! What a coincidence!

Pam May 7, 2010 at 10:39 PM  

Your posts always make me smile. It looks like a fun time with FANTASTIC food!

Anonymous May 7, 2010 at 11:29 PM  

What a fun celebration! I would love to try these scrumptious specialties!

bunkycooks May 8, 2010 at 12:14 AM  

This looks like so much fun! I am glad I can start over with this New Year since my own New Year's resolutions went right out the window a long time ago! ;)

MaryMoh May 8, 2010 at 12:36 AM  

Wow...that looks like lots of fun and food. The food looks familiar and very delicious.

denise @ quickies on the dinner table May 8, 2010 at 1:45 AM  

It's almost 2 am here, and I'm having my third, I think, Cooper's Ale and trying not to melt in this infernal heat and I'm thinking - "boy those greasy fried thingies would be gorgeous right now" and the text is starting to swim just a bit, before my eyes. Hope I made it through this comment without any typos ROFL Great post Conor - few things beat grass to relax ON and beer to drown in ;)

Trix May 8, 2010 at 5:58 AM  

I want a hopper and I want it now!!! Sadly, there's no chance I will get one.

Panamahat May 8, 2010 at 6:43 AM  

I want a hopper too!

Karen Harris May 8, 2010 at 8:35 AM  

The evil tight pants fairy has sadly taken up permanent residence at my house. She loves the all of the food you described. What a fun day.

Anonymous May 8, 2010 at 9:34 AM  

Oh gosh, don';t do this to me. I'm down with the food poisoning bug and you show me the ultimate comfort food??? Deepfried, gloriously spiced indian? MMMM. gotta love those hot chips too. hehe :)

Happy new year!

tasteofbeirut May 8, 2010 at 11:08 AM  

Excellent! I love to make New Year resolutions all year long, so now you are giving me an excuse to make a whole new set! Looks like a fun time!

Renee May 8, 2010 at 11:39 AM  

oooh that googy egg looks amazing! HAHA your dad is too funny...'snot' I'll remember that!

Amy @ cookbookmaniac May 8, 2010 at 6:33 PM  

Sounds like a great day out. 'Snot' on the egg... love it!

Iron Chef Shellie May 8, 2010 at 6:33 PM  

ahhh thank goodness for other country's new years being placed through out the year. I didn't make any resolutions, maybe it should be to get some hoppers in ma belly though!

penny aka jeroxie May 8, 2010 at 9:47 PM  

Jealous! Looks so sunny over in Perth. And jealous again - hoppers!!

Evelyne @ CheapEthnicEatz May 8, 2010 at 10:28 PM  

Oh I just love participating in such cultural activities. Lucky you! Wow what a feat, I want a hopper and a Wadai too. How was the food coma?

And love the pillow fight!

Food lover May 9, 2010 at 10:52 AM  

I love that about Australia - you get to experience so many different and wonderful cultures in your own backyard! Looks like you had a great day, Conor! I had never seen the 'hopper' before; keen to give it a try.

pierre May 9, 2010 at 5:55 PM  

hi conor
this is great to attend all the new years eve because first you can party all year long and second you always have good new resolutions !! Good work girl !!
Pierre de Paris

Forager May 9, 2010 at 7:29 PM  

Wow - how interesting! I'd love to try some authentic Sri Lankan food and a festival attended by lots of Sri Lankans sounds like the perfect venue. My only Sri Lankan friend tells me "lankan" cuisine, as he calls it is much like Indian only 10 times spicier. Quite frankly it scared me. Did you think it was crazy spicy?

Jenn [Defunkt Gourmet] May 9, 2010 at 9:26 PM  

What a fabulous event!!! Well, the Western New Year has passed as did the Chinese New Year... maybe it's time to make resolutions again for Srilankan New Year, why not!
Oh the food does look delicious and the day beautiful, sun shining. I am killing time before brunch and my sister has specifically told me not to eat prior. Apparently I can have one glass of water. Hmmm... if I could only reach into your post and grab some of the food, that might alleviate the hunger pangs.
Great post!

Anonymous May 10, 2010 at 7:12 AM  

Great post about sri lankan food! I absolutely love hoppers...

Conor @ HoldtheBeef May 10, 2010 at 11:05 AM  

Jo - haha!! That might've been a good idea actually, with all that food to eat ;)

NikiTheo - you do. They rock.

Hannah - I used to, years ago, but I've since discovered it is a pointless exercise for me! Oh Vanessa, I really don't know. You have to get hopperfied soon, seriously. There's gotta be a helpful hopper man around there somewhere! And thanks xx

Lorraine - all the cool kids are getting their Sri Lankan on! :D

Pam - that's great to hear, thank you :)

5 Star Foodie - heaps of fun and sunshine too!

bunkycooks - I knew better than to make any :)

MaryMoh - yes it seems Sri Lankan food shares different aspects and similarities with a few different cuisines, like it is straddling between Indian and some parts of SE Asia.

denise - oh yeah baby I think they would go perfectly with a first, second or third ale :) no typos at all, I would never have guessed, hehe. Thanks!

Trix - I'll eat extra for you next time I get a chance!

Panamahat - you know, I'm surprised you don't own a hopper pan! ;)

Karen Harris - damn her damn her damn her! Doesn't she have better things to do than try ruin our fun?

vickys - I'm so sorry! But... this is my way of helping you get your appetite back! I hope it worked a little bit, you poor recovering thing.

tasteofbeirut - that's a much better idea than making some once, then forgetting all about them until next new year.

Renee - I expect to see it in your reviews from now on ;)

Amy - can't wait til next year!

Iron Chef Shellie - that sounds like the perfect resolution. We should all make it, demanding hoppers across the country, and see how long until they are made on masterchef ;)

penny aka jeroxie - The sunshine continues! Sorry your hopper quest was unsuccessful, hope you get hopper satisfaction soon.

Evelyne - this would have been right up your ethnic alley! :) Food coma was well worth it, oh yeah.

Food lover - totally! We're very lucky in that respect. Definitely give it a try if you get the chance, they were great.

pierre - the continuation of the partying with this had the added bonus of having no hangover the next day, apart from a food hangover. Thanks!

Forager - the perfect way to try all the short eats, that's for sure. Most of the dishes were lightly to moderately spiced - it seems that when cooking for company it is common to go lighter on the heat and then allow the guests to crank it up with sambol if they want. Totally manageable for non spiceheads, but maybe take some tissues just in case :)

Jenn - I wonder if we have any more new years left? One measly glass of water? That would surely just be a tease! I hope the wait was worth it! Thanks :)

Ellie - thank you! Me too, now that I have a taste for them.

Cakelaw May 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM  

LOL - another opportunity to make resolutions that I am sure to break. The food looks fab - it looks like it was a great day out.

Perth Breakfast Bitch (Liz) May 10, 2010 at 2:54 PM  

I used to work with a Sri Lankan guy and he used to bring the most amazing lunches! He would always let me try some!

Hoppers are my favourite!

I could never eat spicey food until he slowly got me used to it. I can now eat raw chilli's!

Nice one Conor! Looks like you had a rad time!

Agnes May 10, 2010 at 7:32 PM  

Gasp, clearly my life has no meaning (yet) because I've never had a hopper before.

And those kiwis and their chups.

Simply Life May 10, 2010 at 7:47 PM  

oh what a fun event to be able to experience!

Von May 10, 2010 at 10:18 PM  

I didn't know Sri Lankan new year was in April! And my friends are Sri lankan...*sigh*

The hoppers look really interesting- I've never had one before but they look really good!

Looks like it was a really fun day!

Anonymous May 11, 2010 at 6:26 AM  

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Spicie Foodie May 11, 2010 at 10:16 PM  

Happy New Year! :) The food looks so good, I wish I could have been there. I've only had Sri Lankan curry and loved it , so I'd be very curious to try more dishes.

Devan May 11, 2010 at 11:07 PM  

Wow that food is to die for! I'll definitely be adding this into the calendar for next year.

You have a friend named DeVious?

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite May 12, 2010 at 7:20 AM  

Conor that all looks wonderful but I cannot get past the image of the "hot chips". THAT is so Australian and something I miss..

Conor @ HoldtheBeef May 13, 2010 at 7:04 PM  

Cakelaw - let's just make a group resolution to have some good eating in the year to come? All agreed? :)

Perth Breakfast Bitch (Liz) - ooh, lucky, although the food smells so good it would be torturous to work with someone who brings it into work all the time. Well, if they don't share, that is! Brilliant, glad he got your chilli tolerance up :) Thanks!

Agnes - oh no! Don't fear, I only just had my first one, there is hope for you yet! hehe, chups..

Simply Life - it sure was! Keep your eyes peeled for such things near you!

Von - you got ripped off! Demand hoppers from them! At least you know for next year I guess?

simauma - hello, thanks for visiting!

Spicie Foodie - you too! I can totally recommend all the dishes. I think I need to get myself a Sri Lankan cookbook. Or get my friend to move in.

Devan - I think I'll be adding the Thai(?) one you went to into my calendar too! Yep, I sure do, though perhaps it's not the name on her birth certificate ;)

Mardi - I know! Smothered in sauce too, just how they should be!

Megan D May 13, 2010 at 10:51 PM  

I myself am not terribly fond of the ol' snotty egg. It just doesn't seem quite right. I always think "well, I'll eat it - but I won't enjoy it."

Conor @ HoldtheBeef May 13, 2010 at 11:55 PM  

Megan D - well, kudos for eating it anyway, snot and all. You're a trooper all right.

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About Me

My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

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