The Aliya Resort & Spa, near Sri Lanka's famed Sigiriya (Lion Rock) monument, is themed to provide guests with an appreciation of local wildlife and culture. One of the specialized services on offer is a meal prepared in a traditional kitchen by a local housewife, and eaten under the palm thatched veranda of the resort's Paddy Museum.
When my husband and I visited Aliya, we were invited to observe preparation of our meal, which involved traditional methods for grating coconuts, chopping leafy vegetables, grinding and cooking on a wood-fired stove and in clay pots. The result of all the bustle was a feast of many dishes, richly seasoned but not fiery hot: fish curry; fried lake fish; dhal; long beans in coconut milk; baby jackfruit curry; leafy, crispy mallum (a kind of vegetable salad); and pol sambol. The only true heat came from a vinegary pickle. For dessert, we had a local sweet, steamed in a banana leaf.
Perhaps most importantly, the food was served on a banana leaf--and eaten with our hands! I finally understood what Sri Lankans are on about, when they extol the virtues of experiencing the complexity of their dishes 'first-hand'. It was an extraordinary experience.
It was also one of the best meals I've had in this land of great food!