By Anjalika Abeykoon
Wherever we go, whatever we eat, we as Sri Lankans will always love our Sri Lankan cuisine.
The Sri Lankan Food Fest that took place at The Barnhouse Studio on 22 June was a treat for all.
Popular for destination weddings among many others, The Barnhouse Studio, located in the outskirts of Panadura, is built in resemblance of an old English barnhouse amidst four acres of rubber.
We had a short walk along a gravel path in the middle of the rubber plantation to the studio and were greeted with several ladies playing raban, a one-sided traditional drum played with the hands by several middle-older ladies dressed in redda and hatta, the jacket and wrap around which is one of the traditional Sinhala attires.
The entrance had the ang thattuwa and was covered in hay, which made us feel like we were entering an actual traditional Sri Lankan village house.
By the time we arrived, the place was already crowded. There were several Sri Lankan food stations and an array of curries.
There were Sri Lankan-style salads at the entrance, soup with a bread corner, a hopper station, a kottu station, pittu, and string hoppers whilst the majority of the space was reserved for the rice and curry section that had three choices of rice – white, red, and yellow rice – with about 10 curries.
In the farthest corner of the studio was the dessert section filled with Sri Lankan sweet delicacies.
Like any other typical Sri Lankan, we decided to start off with rice and curry. We served ourselves a plateful of yellow rice with slow-cooked dhal curry, fried fish, devilled chicken, pol sambol, papadam and red chillies, a mouth-watering crab curry, mango curry, pickle, and a kiri hodi with what we suspected to be spinach.
The yellow rice turned out to be actually a “dun thel batha” – rice prepared using ghee oil, cinnamon, cardamom, and raisins. The mixture of these ingredients with several other spices gave an amazing texture and flavour to the rice.
Our favourite curries out of the ones we tried were the crab and mango curries, because they were filled with flavour and cooked to perfection. It was a simply mouth-watering first round which enticed our taste buds even after the festival.
We decided to go for a second round and tried our luck with roast paan, crab curry (yes, that’s how much we loved it), black pork curry, and pol sambol. Trust us on this – black pork, pol sambol, and roast paan is an amazing combination.
The pork, which was cut into generous pieces, was slightly spicy and well-cooked. The richly flavoured crab curry also added to the spring of flavours, which was very palatable. The crabs having soft meat cooked to perfection made us happier.
Then, we ended our course of mains with an egg hopper prepared at the live hopper station. It had a runny egg sprinkled with pepper and salt by the chef.
The seeni sambol that came with the hopper was quite spicy and had a hint of sweetness to it, just like it should be.
Without further ado, we decided to move on to the dessert section. We tied the pol pani pancake, which had caramelised coconuts inside it, paeni walalu, sago pudding, bibikkan, and watalappan. Pani walalu and pancake oozed sweetness and were rich in texture.
We were glad that The Barnhouse added watalappan too – one of our all-time favourites. Bibbikkan is a slightly less sweet dessert that is a bit lumpier than cakes and it was our first time having it. We wish we had space in our tummies to try out the other traditional sweetmeats like dodol and curd as well, but we could barely breathe after dessert.
Apart from raban, there was a band that played Sri Lankan folk music and for the first time ever, we were introduced to music created using vegetables like pumpkin, carrot, and bitter gourd.
It was definitely an exciting experience and a new discovery for us, and we loved the entertainment by this talented band while we enjoyed scrumptious Sri Lankan cuisine at The Barnhouse Studio.
Photos Saman Abesiriwardana