K Words

For some reason there seem to be a lot of “K” words in Sinhala, especially when it comes to vegetables.

Food is an important part of the culture of Sri Lanka, and discovering some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables and how they are prepared has been a joyful experience I’ve shared with my friends – and sundry farmers and stallholders – these last twenty years.

Since I became a blogger, my cataloging has become more methodical and a while ago I was surprised to find I had a little collection of “K” vegetables which I put aside to make into a post when Frizz’s Flickr Comments reached Tagged “K”.   What to do?  This week I’m supposed to be finalising the ‘for sale’ lists and taking measurements and photographs, deciding how much I can ask for the sofas and the lovely old Jaffna Chest that I can’t take out of the country because of its’ ebony inlay … but I can’t forsake the “K” veggies!

Kessel Muwa – the flower pod of the banana – always treated as a vegetable

Kessel Muwa Primary

Karapincha – a pretty small tree of the Murraya family than which there is no smell more redolent of the Sri Lankan kitchen – especially of it being roasted, or flash fried to be served as a crispy accompaniment, as one might do parsley.

KarapinchaKarawila – bitter gourd, an acquired taste perhaps, but absolutely delicious fried and made into a tangy symbol with sweet red onions and tomatoes …  the hairy little green balls of the header shot are a different variety of karawila called Thumba.

Kohila Ala – a water-loving root vegetable with spectacular spear-shaped leaves on softly barbed stems, and large tuberous roots.

Kohila Ala (Kola)

Kathuramurunga Mal – The large fleshy white flowers of the kataramurunga tree (the leaves of which are famously used in Jaffna prawn curry, or Mo’s kakuluwo (crabs) curry

Kadju – fresh, crunchy cashew nuts have a slightly milky flavour and are refreshing to eat, as is, if you see a woman shucking them at the flower market, but really, they make the king of vegetable curries – a white curry of kadju with fresh green peas.

KankungIpomea aquatica – water spinach, morning glory – absolutely delicious as a stir fry, no matter what name you give it!

and last, but not least, the green rice and garlic soup known as Kola Kanda – green eats, traditionally served at breakfast (or pre-dawn at the monasteries) can be prepared from any number of greens.  A little like the Italians, Sri Lankan housewives love to collect fresh herbs and grasses from the veggie patch to prepare this delicious soup.

A gorgeous grass green, welpanilla kola kanda is more bitter than Atawardi kola kanda and one is tempted to have the occasional nibble of the traditional shards of hakuru (jaggery/palm sugar)

A gorgeous grass-green, Welpanilla kola kanda is more bitter than Atawardi kola kanda and one is tempted to have the occasional nibble of the traditional shards of hakuru (jaggery/palm sugar)

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38 thoughts on “K Words

    • I’ve been so lucky to have had a really good cook as a friend – she showed me how to make a few basic recipes when I moved into my first ‘home’ here, and from then on every trip to the market has been an adventure. I was amazed the other day to eat something new and I’m sure when I go up to Jaffna next week there will be a whole new repertoire for me to draw on!

  1. It’s interesting how Sri Lankan call the vegetable known as Kangkung in Indonesia, Kankung. By the way I always wonder how banana flower pod tastes like, and I love bitter gourd, especially when it’s fried with shrimps and chili.

    • Yes, it’s fascinating how some things turn up in many places, with many names. In Vietnam and Cambodia Kangkung/Kankung is called (in English!) morning glory. I can imagine bitter gourd with shrimps and chilli must be wonderful – the smoky bitterness of the gourd and bite of the chilli offset by the sweet shrimps must be like an explosion in the mouth!

  2. Such an assortment of foods I’ve never seen before — well, that’s not entirely correct. About 2 weeks ago in an Indian market, I saw Kessel Muwa, though none of us had the slightest idea of what to do with them. Even though I now know, I think I’ll wait until I can find them professionally prepared before I “try this at home.” I’m not that brave. 🙂

  3. It is incredible how many different things are in the world…I love this choice…Culture is not only made of language, history or religion…But food and drink as well…!!!! Great!

  4. my mouth is watering just looking at the photos … all so delicious and stunning to look at especially with the blue and white bowls … S is studying the photos of kessel muwa so i think we might be trying that one soon, and i will look up a recipe for kola kanda, since i so love bitter greens … sumptuous feast thanks meredith!

  5. oh wow, these are beautiful (not to mention yummy) photographs. i am so glad to learn a lot of new vegetables (and dishes!) through your post.

    • Perhaps a few more than just the K repertoire, EllaDee – but yes, the range of vegetables in everyday diets here is exciting and makes it very easy to adopt an almost 100% local diet (though I do miss cheese … ). 🙂

  6. What a brilliant idea for the K challenge! I am surprised that none of the names are similar to the Tamil! The curry leaf called Karawepille here, comes closest. Kadju is more like the North Indian Kaju!! Thanks for the Sinhala lesson Meredith:-D

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