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Femi Mar 3rd, 2009 05:27 PM

Anthony Bourdain in Sri Lanka
I just finished watching the Sri Lankan episode which I had taped. Fascinating! Sri Lanka now appeals to me more than ever. One of the major realisations that dawned on me is that I knew nothing about Sri Lankan cuisine prior to watching this. Absolutely mouthwatering colors, blends of flavors and textures. Have I not been paying attention to the trip reports? Seems like food should have been given more emphasis.

I've had my ideas of a trip to Sri Lanka on the back burner for a while, and continue to shape the details. Perhaps a culinary tour of Colombo? Prior to watching this show I had planned to stay in Colombo the night of arrival only. Now it occurs to me that it deserves more time from an already tightly packed schedule.

The show also touched on the ongoing rebuilding after the tsunami, the civil war, and a culture I had never heard of, the Dutch Burghers (sp?).

Sadly, it seems my visit is still a ways off because of the poitical troubles and warnings against Yala which I would really like to see. But 'wow', was what I kept thinking as I watched.

Did anyone else see the show?

Kathie Mar 3rd, 2009 05:38 PM

We did have wonderful food in Sri Lanka. I'd be interested in seeing the Anthony Bourdain episode. I'll have to see if I can find it. Having no TV is occasionally an inconvenience.

computergeek Mar 3rd, 2009 06:31 PM

The Sri Lankan food looked great and I would love to learn how to cook food from that area.

shanek Mar 3rd, 2009 07:01 PM

Yes, Sri-Lankan food is amazing.
I was born in Sri-Lanka, of Dutch Burgher heritage, and 41 years of living in Australia has not shaken the love of a good Sri-Lankan curry out of me.
The most unique thing about the cuisine are the Carbohydrate elements, obviously plenty of rice, but different variations like the yellow (saffron), Buriyani (cooked in a stock), but also my favorites, Stringhoppers (a rice noodle that is prepared in a layered disc) and all different types of Roti's.
There is also the other type of Hopper, a pancake type mixture cooked in a deep concave pan, Soft in the centre and crispy on the edges, cooked with or without an egg in the middle. Served with either a curry and sambol or with jam.....magnificent.
Another great and unique offering are Lumpries. It is a rice cooked in stock with various curries, meatballs, eggplant and sambol, traditionally warmed in a bannana leaf but more commonly these days in foil. It is a feast or celebration food and can usually be bought frozen at asian grocery stores in most major cities.

Femi Mar 4th, 2009 09:45 AM

Shanek reading your response makes my mouth start watering all over again. Every dish you mention was included in the show. I cannot believe I have never had Sri Lankan food before. Boy have I missed out!

One Sri Lankan who hosted a meal was of Burgher heritage, and in discussing this it seemed to be a very sensitive subject. Most of her family had left Sri Lanka for Australia etc. I still don't understand why so many Burghers felt the need to leave Sri Lanka...

cruisinred Mar 4th, 2009 09:49 AM


The show covered all the dishes you mentioned, and Anthony spent time at a Dutch Burgher club.

shanek Mar 4th, 2009 01:19 PM

I can go on about Sri-Lankan food for ages. I dont get to have it all that regularly since we moved from Melbourne to Mildura 3 years ago, away from Mum's cooking and all the great little Sri-Lankan Cafe's in the outer suburbs.
Another thing you must try are the multitude of "fingerfoods" in Sri-Lankan cuisine, what my mother refers to as "short-eats". Pan Rolls are my favorite, a dry curry of various types,wrapped in a pancake,rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried...delicious.
I must try and watch that Anthony Bourdain special, we only get him on pay TV here, I might do a search on Mini-Nova and try and download it.

What was the Dutch Burgher club that Anthony went to? Mum and Dad belonged to one in Nuwara Eliya in tea plantation country. I think it was called the Hill Club.

The Burgher's, as far as I know, felt threatened by the conflict between the Singhalese and the Tamil's and started fleeing Sri-Lanka in great numbers in the 60's and 70's. I was very young when we left in the late 60's and most of our extended family had already moved away.

cruisinred Mar 4th, 2009 01:39 PM


Here is Anthony's itinerary in Sri Lanka:

shanek Mar 4th, 2009 03:58 PM

Thanks for the rundown cruisinred. The thought of watching Anthony and the local have a night on the Arak and then head out for Kottu Roti makes me want to watch it even more.

Another dish that comes to mind is a breakfast cuisine called Pittu (pr...PIT-TWO). It is a coco-nut based concoction that is steamed in a metal cylinder and served with mild "breakfast" curry....MMMMMM.

Femi Mar 5th, 2009 08:56 AM

Thanks for the link Cruisinred.

shanek Mar 6th, 2009 02:38 PM

Many thanks for recommending this show. I managed to download a copy and just finished watching it.
It really showcased what is the ultimate "foodies" paradise, as long as you can handle the spice.
It was just a pity that Anthony was a little off color in the opening few scenes as he wasn't as enthused about my absolute favorite dish, Hopper's, as he might have been after his bout of Colombo belly.
I really enjoyed the way he highlighted all the street food and home cooking as that is what Sri-Lankan food is all about.

Femi Mar 6th, 2009 03:27 PM

I took Anthony's being off-color as a warning, it looked like heat exhaustion.

Femi Mar 6th, 2009 03:35 PM

The travel warnings haven't changed since I started keeping track last year (sigh).

shanek Mar 6th, 2009 03:35 PM

You ae probably right, the heat in Colombo is pretty powerful. Nothing a good curry and a cold beer wont fix.

Dont let the political trouble put you off Femi. There is a lot of Sri-Lanka that can be seen in safety.

Femi Mar 7th, 2009 04:33 AM

Hmmmm. This episode really peaked my interest in Sri Lanka again. I even went as far as sorting through my frequent flyer miles (itinerary was done last year). When was the last time you went back for a visit Shanek?

shanek Mar 7th, 2009 12:40 PM

I haven't been back for over 10 years Femi. We wanted to wait until the kids were old enough to fully appreciate it and the youngest is only 7 so we may still wait a few years. Travel is a bit more arduous than Thailand and we dont want the kids to find it a chore.

Femi Mar 8th, 2009 04:35 AM

Understandable. I usually find that travel warnings are slightly hysterical, but I've never been to a place that had such strong warnings from the British, American and NZ sites, hence my hesitation. But then Anthony Bourdain went, which makes it seem more reasonable to go. However, he ended up trapped in Lebanon during the last rash of fighting. I think I will wait a little longer. Hopefully things will improve by late 2010/early 2011.

Kathie Mar 8th, 2009 08:49 AM

Hey! Anthony Bourdain isn't who I'd follow on his travels. But consider your fellow Fodorites who have been to Sri Lanka in the last two years: Robbietravels most recently, Craig before that and Cheryl and I were there in Nov 2007. We all lived to tell the wonderful tales!

Femi Mar 9th, 2009 11:41 AM

Yes, Kathie I've been following the trip reports closely which is what makes my decision even more difficult. Thanks for sticking with me through the seemingly never ending should-I-or-shouldn't-I saga.

I know that ultimately it's my decision, but I do value hearing the views of like minded travelers as I weigh the options. I may also be paying too much mind to my non-traveling friends. I received their dire warnings prior to my more recent trips to the Middle East (including Turkey!), Costa Rica (go figure), Burma and Eritrea. My travel agent made me sign a release before she would accept my booking to Kenya. I'm still sticking to my plans for Mexico this summer. None of these places however has the State Office travel warnings that Sri Lanka does, which makes my decision so difficult. Every time I am about to leave on a trip, I get butterflies, and then I proceed to have a great time in spite of my anxiety. One would think I'd be used to this by now.

What makes you reluctant to follow Bourdain? His style of travel isn't that far removed from mine. I'm sure that as soon as I post this I'll remember all the reasons I wouldn't want to follow in his footsteps, but for now nothing comes to mind. Destinations of his that I've already visited include Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Saudi, and Mexico among others, and he makes me want to go back, if only to sample the food that I missed.

His tolerance for risk seems similar to mine, and if he found Sri Lanka safe enough to visit, it means I most likely would too. I'm just finding it difficult to ignore the travel warnings. Probably more than anything else because of the "I told you so" factor, should anything go wrong.

Kathie Mar 9th, 2009 01:41 PM

lol, Femi, I'm really joking about Bourdain (except for some of the foods he eats).

I absolutely understand that you need to decide for you whether you are comfortable traveling to a place. No one else can decide for you. If I can offer more info that will help with your decision, do let me know.

PS Are you going to be at the LA gtg?

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