Friday, May 11, 2012

Curry, spices and everything nice

Tonight the Travelife team was very kindly invited by H.E. Nawalage Bennett-Cooray, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Philippines, to a private dinner at his home, to discuss the highlights of my recent visit to Sri Lanka in March.

It was a wonderful and relaxing dinner -- perfect for a Friday night of winding down after a fairly busy week that had involved three countries and an event almost every night. We talked about how I'd finally managed to climb Sigiriya Rock on this latest trip, and about the lovely boutique hotels in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle and the many new developments in Colombo.


On this last trip, I'd discovered some great home furnishings stores and I'd also gone to Colombo's most stylish hotel -- it has only 10 rooms and when I went in, I was reminded of the stark, classic style of the London-based designer Anoushka Hempel.

Read more about this hotel and Sri Lanka's many nice boutique hotels in the June-July issue of Travelife Magazine, out on the newsstands on June 15.

Actually, I'd bumped into the Ambassador of Sri Lanka two nights in a row at two functions, and tonight was the third. This was a pretty amazing record considering I'd just returned to Manila from a long trip on Wednesday afternoon, and it was just Friday.

But that's how small Manila can be. And last night, I'd arrived at a party just as the Ambassador was leaving, and he'd stopped to ask me: "What do you want to eat tomorrow night?"

I'm sure he already knew the answer, but I replied anyway, with a smile: "Sir, you already know the answer."


The official Sri Lankan cook of the ambassador makes very delicious Sri Lankan food, and an especially mean dal curry. So whenever I have dinner at the house of the Ambassador, I have several helpings of this dal curry and the Ambassador is always amused.

Tonight, we sat around his living room watching some portions of the three episodes of Travelife's Frequent Flier that focused on Sri Lanka. We shot one episode in the Cultural Triangle, another in the cultural capital Kandy and the elephant orphanage of Pinnawela, and a third episode in Colombo and the old fortress town of Galle.

When I walked into the Ambassador's home, there were a couple of Sri Lankan embassy officials in the living room and the large television was already playing in succession the three Travelife shows that had just aired on Living Asia.

I sat to watch part of one episode, and it was the first time I'd seen it on a very large television set. Until then, I7d only done edits on my computer; and I have to admit that the colors and the quality of the shots were just beautiful.


Then it was time for dinner, and as we went into the dining room, we all stopped at the entrance as the Ambassador's chef had set up the table so beautifully with Sri Lankan food laid out family-style. The Travelife team just had to take lots of photos, including myself.

Most of us have had the pleasure of dining at the Ambassador's residence, but two of our team were attending a sit-down dinner here for the first time. Everyone oohed and aahed as Sri Lankan food is spicy and at the same time healthy, and so much of it is completely different from Filipino food.

Because there's an abundance of herbs and vegetables, Sri Lankans use copious amounts of vegetables to make all kinds of vegetable dishes. This is most apparent if you go to a buffet at a Sri Lankan hotel -- you'll see about 15 chafing dishes filled with all kinds of vegetable dishes you never thought possible.


The upside to all these vegetables is that Sri Lankan cuisine is really healthy, even if it's really spicy. Tonight, my favorite dal curry was present, and we also had an incredibly tasty potato and dried fish dish that was so fiery that even I had to drink lots of water with it.

Then there was a very nice chicken dish, a very spicy dish of beans and  a unique dish of almost fresh tomatoes and onions on a bed of boiled eggs. I didn't think I would like the latter but I actually had three servings of this. Everything was served with tasty yellow basmati rice.

To end a meal, Sri Lankans almost always have fresh fruit because they have so much of this. And afterwards, all this talk about Sri Lanka and the great meal we just had tonight made me want to visit this lovely, old-fashioned island country again.

So I'm going back in November when we organize a special Travelife tour of Colombo and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Sigiriya and Pollonaruwa. Call Meg at Travelife Magazine (8138400/ 8922620) if you'd like to be placed on our mailing list for this tour -- or make sure you get a copy of our June-July issue for more details.


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