Back from Sri Lanka to sunny Shap…

March 16th, 2010

We have just got back from the most wonderful trip to Sri Lanka, land of my (and my Mother’s) birth!  I’d not been back since I was eight, I have no idea why – it is an amazing country.

They only seem to have one smokehouse, run by the main supermarket chain – Cargill’s.  We went to their shop in Nuwara Eliya (pronounced New Railia) which I remember.  They still have a long, dark wooden counter along the back – but rather more freezers and instant foods than I remember!

The local food is so tasty – really spicy curries where the flavours edge the heat; rice and curry is eaten for breakfast lunch and tea with side dishes of hoppers – bowl shaped pancakes made with fermented batter, or string hoppers which are like patties of thread noodles.  Their chutneys – or sambols – are also fabulously tasty, made with coconut, maldive fish (dried and smoked – we saw a shoal of fishes laid out on the roadside drying in the baking sun!) lime juice etc.  I did have one seeni sambol that was too hot even for my Ceylon-educated taste-buds!  Everywhere we stayed chefs were delighted with our interest in the food and I was able to learn (and practice!) how to make hoppers and sambols.  My return luggage looked like a supermarket and a cookshop…

Like most visitors to Sri Lanka we had a chauffeur/guide for the first part of the holiday.  His name was Jally – Hafiz Jaleel, and he absolutely made our holiday!  I promised I would link to his website so I hope you will forgive a little plug for him  He used to work for Kuoni, but went solo last year.  He has a good fan base on Tripadvisor – but links aren’t allowed.  He helped with all my strange requests tracing my roots – searching out my old family home and church and my Father’s office at the old brewery.  My Father and my Grandfather ran the Ceylon Brewery between them from the 1920’s to the the 1960’s and it was my Father who started brewing Lion Lager (and Lion stout)  which is still going strong today.  We raised many a glass to my old man as we negotiated the hills, beaches, kitchens and other wonders of  Sri Lanka.  Who would have thought that an island the size of Ireland would have seven – yes, SEVEN World Heritage Sites?

If you are thinking of a trip to Sri Lanka – and why wouldn’t you? – I would be delighted to talk to anyone considering asking Jally to accompany them.  We cannot recommend him too highly; but being one of the best he can get booked up months in advance – just make sure he is available before you book your flights!

Jally our driver, guide and friend with Smoky Georgina!

Jally our driver, guide and friend with Smoky Georgina!

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