Visiting a local village and discovering how Lankan locals live was an eye-opening and intriguing experience. From using traditional modes of transport to cooking up a staple dish, we really got to see how rural life used to be, and still is in many regions.
We were taken to the river by a Ox-drawn cart, which was the most uncomfortable ride ever. The wheels must have been square, as every bump was like going over a massive pothole and you were periodically jolted out of your seat.
To much relief, we finally reached the waters edge where a boat took us the remaining distance to the village. One man rowed four of us so it was very slow paced, but it was perfect for taking photographs and enjoying the views!
When we reached the village, we were welcomed into the home of a lovely family, where we were instantly made to feel easy by their warm smiles and enthusiastic “Ayubowan” greetings.
Cooking up a Storm
With much assistance, we cooked from scratch a stable Sri Lankan lunch dish – Pol Roti and Coconut Sambal.
We started off by beating barley grain to separate out the husk. It was then grounded into a fine powder using a stone mill on the floor, which was harder to move then it looked!
The coconut is a central part of Sri Lankan cooking and this meal was no exception. Firstly, we drank the coconut water which was a refreshing (albeit slightly warm) drink. The coconut meat was then scraped out using an unusual instrument, which you had to sit on to operate.
The Pol Roti was then made using the coconut meat and flour, as well as some onions and chilies. They were cooked in between coconut leaves on top of a wood fire, which in turn smoked out the entire home.
Whilst waiting for the Rotis to cook, we began making the Coconut Simbal. We grounded between two rocks: onions, chilies, lime, tomatoes and (of course) coconut to make a mouthwatering red paste.
The final dish was definitely the best Pol Roti and Coconut Simbal I tasted in Sri Lanka – maybe because I helped made it!
Once again the coconut tree is used, but this time to make the roof of their home. They wove the coconut tree’s leaves together by crisscrossing them between each other. This made a semi-water tight and surprisingly strong section of roof. They then overlaid each section and wove together the separate pieces.
Amazingly, they had to replace the roof every year, so you can only imagine what a time consuming process this is.
Other Handy Work
There was an enormous tree house in the garden built for when elephants came into the village. They would run up there and throw firecrackers down to scare them away. It was the tallest tree house I’ve ever seen and you could comfortably fit an entire family up there.
I was most impressed by how they use every part of the coconut, from cooking to thatching the roofs of their homes. Certainly nothing was wasted!
I couldn’t recommend this experience enough and as you are asked for a donation not a entrance fee, it can be very budget friendly. Although I suspect you will want to tip generously, thanks to the great experience and their warm hospitality.
The experience we went to was in a village named Palwehera (near Dambulla). Just ask any of the locals to point you in the right direction!