An immersive encounter for which the basis is local food: Muslim inspired biryani along with a bevy of spicy condiments, an assortment of hoppers and accompanying curries, or a simple but wholesome plate of rice and curry featuring seafood. It brings to the fore the diversity in cuisine that Sri Lanka boasts of. Through a cooking session hosted by Mrs.Shahira Mahuroof, a renowned force in Southern Sri Lankan fare, learn the intricate methods involved in the preparation of a few of these local staples and delicacies. The meal is made richer through the narration of her life’s plentiful, experiences.
The Island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) has served for centuries as a focal point for the confluence of different groups of people and cultures. The settling of these various ethnicities was often accompanied by the assimilation of their cuisine and culinary traditions into those of the nation’s. In the process, and due to the intermingling of these early groups, numerous ingredients, spices and flavours influence our palates today. Our cuisine draws heavily from the simple food of native, traditional agricultural society, the spice-heavy cuisine of South India, certain flavours found in parts of East and North India, Muslim influences stemming from North Africa and the Levant, Javanese cooking traditions from the Malay Archipelago, the cuisine of Portugal and the Netherlands due to their colonial influence, and to a lesser degree even the hunter-gatherer diet of our aboriginal population- the Veddhas.
Within the cozy setting of her spacious kitchen and beautiful, open-styled home, Shahira introduces some of these flavours through a scrumptious full meal. The passing down of age old recipes is an intimate and emotional affair. Mindful of this notion, she imparts this culinary wisdom to those who partake in this unique, local experience in a loving manner, while also sharing numerous simple kitchen secrets that are essential in the authentic preparation of any Sri Lankan meal. She expertly guides you through the individual steps that go into preparing each course and ensures that the participants are actively involved throughout.
The biryani is much loved due to its decadent but versatile quality. The saffron-hued, fragrant rice and tender meat form the centerpiece of the meal; ably supported by a list of pickled items and condiments. The rice and meat burst with flavour due to the spices such as clove and cardamom that are used in their preparation. The biryani is a session many who partake in this experience opt for, due to the its still, mystical nature in world cuisine. Its local variant emerges from the Moor (Muslim) tradition of Sri Lanka and it is, now, widely enjoyed by the various Sri Lankan communities.
Hoppers are essentially crisp, bowl-shaped pancakes prepared from fermented rice flour. It is believed that they first made their way to Sri Lanka from South India, possibly through the influence of the Sri Lankan Tamil community. Hoppers (Anglicized), or ‘appa’ as they are referred to locally, have certainly become culturally synonymous with Sri Lankan cuisine today. They are enjoyed mostly at dinnertime. As accompaniments, several tasteful curries incorporating either fish or meat are offered, along with a fiery chilli and onion based condiment that is a must-have with any hopper meal.
Rice and curry is a staple in Sri Lanka, and it is consumed on a daily basis by nearly every ethnicity here, in its various forms. It has heavy influence from Sri Lanka’s ancient farming tradition and is simple fare for the most part. White or red rice is the foundation through which the flavours of the curries, sautés and tempered leaf preparations are delivered, in a meal of rice and curry. An everyday food here, rice and curry has garnered fame across the world for being a wholesome, full meal packed with intense flavour.
Mrs.Shahira Mahuroof is the quintessential Sri Lankan mother- part liberal, a tad conservative, entrepreneurially gifted, an amazing cook, a skilled storyteller, a loving wife and a kind mother to her children. She hosts the ‘Cook like a Local’ experience within her home, and you can sense that it comes to her naturally. Shahira has entertained countless friends, dignitaries, socialites and family members over the decades and, therefore, this immersive food-based encounter unfolds effortlessly within her charming abode. A fourth generation resident of Galle, her upbringing in a prominent family from this seaside city afforded her numerous opportunities to expand her knowledge and experience the world. She narrates her life’s many trials and tribulations including that of her family’s immense setback post the tsunami that hit in late 2004, all the while fully consumed by the process of preparing a delectable meal along with you. She multitasks with ease! And there is ample time for you to jot down a few notes on the recipe and the steps involved. This is a one of a kind local experience and best of all you get to savour the mouthwatering home cooked meal that you helped cook, in her vibrant company!