When my dad told me stories about growing up in Sri Lanka, he often talked about food. He lived on the southern coast of the island and to hear the tales, you’d think that as a child all he did was swim in salt water long enough to become ravenous, run home to a lavish lunch spread and elbow his siblings for the best pieces of marrow or fish at the table. He’s a meticulous, deft and opinionated cook and those lucky enough to know actually request his specialties when invited over for dinner. He can make a well balanced tamarind fish curry and also the best scrambled eggs. I can’t fully express how I was nourished, encouraged and influenced by him in the kitchen. Here are some of his food memories and inspirations.
What is your favourite snack?
Cookies, especially oatmeal cookies; dark chocolates.
What did your mom (or someone else) make for you when you were sick? Did it comfort you or was it strictly to make you well?
When I get sick the first thing I get is a herbal drink, made with coriander (seeds) and ginger mostly, to make me well.
What made you begin cooking?
Since I was the youngest in the family I was always behind my mother. When we give dana (offerings) to the temple, Mom wakes up early in the morning to cook and by watching and helping her, (it) encouraged me to cook as well.
What are your signature dishes, the ones that people ask you to make?
Everybody liked my fish curry and also fish ambul thiyal and green chili sambol*; as I am a vegetarian now I do the same dishes with tofu.
What food do you miss most from home (Sri Lanka) or what is one of your fondest food memories?
The foods that I miss mostly are fresh jack fruit and bread fruit curry, or these boiled with lunu miris and grated coconut.
What would you like to make that you haven’t made or made successfully?
I would like to learn to make some Indian dishes like thosai and stuffed godamba roti.
Where was or where would your favorite meal be?
In Sri Lanka at my sisters place.
Any tip or advice for cooks?
Learn to cook in more healthier ways, use less fats and more spices and you will always have tasty dishes.
Any cook or chef you’d like to cook beside or eat with?
No one special.
Any other advice or stories to share with us?
Men in every household should learn to cook.
*My dad makes reference to many dishes from Sri Lanka and India. I wish I had recipes for all of them on my site, but they can be easily found online. Here is his famous green chili sambol recipe he refers to, which goes perfectly with the vadais he is frying up earnestly in the picture below. His vadai recipe and a few more of his fantastic recipes can be found here.
(Thanks, Dad! Happy Birthday.)