As we reached the end of our trip in Sri Lanka, all we could think is that we did NOT want to go home. We HIGHLY recommend you check out Sri Lanka for yourself! Starting at number 1 and then ending back at number 1, here is where we went!
When we travel we like to experience the local culture as much as possible. For us, it doesn’t get much better than a homestay. Our driver’s boss, Aruna, offers his guests the option to do a homestay at his beautiful home in Embilmeegame, Kandy. So, we eagerly accepted his offer. From left –> right you can see Sumeda, Julia, Seth and Randima. Ravindi, Randima’s older sister didn’t make it into this photo.
While at this homestay we had a nice mix of structured activities such as cooking lessons (more about those in a bit) and a tour of their backyard garden. We also had plenty of time to explore their neighborhood on our own! During our exploration, and completely unplanned, we ended up ankle deep in mud helping some farmers harvest their rice crop! They were so thankful, they gave us an unexpected and GENEROUS gift! If you’d like to read more about that whole experience, check out 3. Kandy – Our Homestay Experience (Part 2)
Each night Sumeda graciously taught us how to cook a number of different Sri Lankan dishes. “Our” sambal recipe is actually hers! She also taught us how to make traditional Sri Lankan dal, curried potatoes, curried egg plant and even her own take on fried rice!
To make so many dishes during a single meal, Sumeda used at least five different pans and even more clay pots. Her cooking skills were top notch. When it came time to eat, she and her daughters insisted we eat until we were very full!
At the beginning of each cooking lesson, we all went out into their back yard garden/spice garden. There, we gathered some of the ingredients we needed for the particular dishes.
Fresh From the Spice Garden
For example, we cut sections of pandan leaves right of their own pandan bush as well as gathered coconuts that had been harvested from their own trees. We ate the bananas from their own trees and even used black pepper that they had grown and then dried in their own back yard! In the picture below, the large yellow fruit, jackfruit, wasn’t yet ripe, but later on in our trip we even had a jackfruit curry.
Not only did their backyard garden contain foods that we both had never seen growing before, but the fact that they and many of their neighbors considered it completely normal, if not expected, to have a backyard garden, also warmed our hearts.
Though the difference an individual backyard garden makes in regards to addressing such large issues as global climate change and food insecurity are quite small, en masse, backyard gardens can have quite a dramatic impact. Sumeda and her family did not need to buy coconuts, coconut milk, tomatoes, eggplants, pepper, nutmeg, bananas, jack fruit, pandan leaves, ginger or even tumeric, as they all grew in their backyard. Shopping local is a good start, but growing your own food is one of the most fundamental ways to address many of the larger problems in our world, and we found it beautiful and inspiring to see this all in action!
If you would like the recipes for any of the dishes mentioned in this post, either click on the links above, or click here to go to our cooking section!