Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Supermarket Experience - The Sri Lanka Chronicles

Wherever I go I like to check out the markets. I love markets and I don't discriminate between supermarkets, wholesale markets, or local markets - I love them all! Our second visit to Sri Lanka was a relatively long one (18 days) and since we were staying in a bungalow with a fully equipped kitchen I knew I would not only be visiting the markets as a tourist but I'd be shopping too. Markets are a great way of getting a glimpse of the food culture of a place and supermarkets can give you a broader perspective, beyond fresh fruit and veg.

For practical purposes I shopped at the supermarket because communication was easier - the staff at the supermarkets usually had at least basic English so I could ask for stuff and even get basic instructions and descriptions about unfamiliar ingredients and products. Supermarkets are very popular in Sri Lanka and we'd see one nearly every half a kilometre whenever we stepped out to go anywhere in Colombo. I saw them frequently on the highways on our trips to Galle, Kandy, and Dambulla too. Basically, you're never too far away from a supermarket in Sri Lanka! Take your pick from the Cargill's Food City outlets, Arpico Super Centres, Laugfs, and Keells Super outlets, to name a few. 

Though I found Cargill's outlets very near our house next to the University of Kelaniya, I preferred the Arpico around 10 minutes away at Wattala. It is a huge store and I spent many a happy hour browsing in the aisles, drooling over the meat and fish counters, exploring the vegetable section, and picking up random things from the kitchen good department. They even have Noritake! The local Cargill's outlets are also very well stocked but being smaller were restricted mainly to food. For fresh produce both at absolutely at par. 

Fresh fish, cleaned, cut, and each piece individually wrapped

All sorts of fish and conveniently labeled 

On one of my visits to Arpico I saw this and it completely spooked me! There nestled among the chicken nuggets and other ready-to-fry goodies sat this hideous carved face. Eeeek! 

Milk is of excellent quality and there are many varieties of flavoured milk. Apart from the usual chocolate and vanilla, we also found this falooda flavoured milk which the hubby absolutely loved. It didn't have sabja seeds or the actual falooda noodles but was a fun flavour all the same 😋

Good old Maggi in Sri Lankan flavours 

Fresh veggies at Cargill's. What I loved about shopping for vegetables was that there were plenty of familiar veggies and a good number of new things to try so cooking wasn't a daily challenge where I had to constantly Google before I cooked. 

If you like salad then you will love Sri Lanka! The veg shelves are packed with varieties of salad greens and they are as fresh as ever. I don't think I saw one wilted leaf anywhere! 

Fresh pork at Cargill's

And at Arpico

Elephant House is a big brand in Sri Lanka and they also make some amazing pork products. Here's a part of the haul I brought back home to Mumbai with me. 

My prop and equipment loving self also went a little nuts at Arpico! It's not like you don't get stuff in our supermarkets here but the joy of finding all manner of unfamiliar bits and pieces or just mundane things but of good quality made my heart sing. take for example this display of coconut and kithul wood spoons - 

I think I bought a few EVERY time I stepped into Arpico! 😊

I didn't buy a single mortar and pestle even though they are so pretty! I need a prize for such self restraint! 

And that is Noritake on the shelves at Arpico. Noritake has three or four ranges in quality and the middle range is available at Arpico. I loved this classic white and gold set but since we don't drink tea at our house I couldn't justify bringing an entire tea set with me regardless of how much I liked it. Sigh!

The one disconcerting thing about the supermarkets is their lavish (and wasteful) use of plastic. At the checkout coutners I struggled every time to get them to use fewer bags (getting your own bag wasn't allowed). Nearly every category of goods would be bagged separately and on my first visit I came home with more than 10 plastic bags!  Seeing individual pieces of fish, pork chops, steaks, etc., wrapped in miles of clingfilm made me unhappy too. It's such a beautiful country, I hope they cotton on to basic concepts of keeping their enviroment clean and safe really soon. 

We were lucky to have been in Sri Lanka for a long-ish visit and one where we weren't in a hotel. Our breakfasts and numerous meals were home cooked where we tried out local products and local variations of familiar things. I could even host a dinner when the hubby's friends and colleagues from the University of Kelaniya came over one evening. 

Daal, rice, jeera aloo, pan grilled masala chicken, and fish curry

It was lovely to live a bit of the Sri Lankan life doing mundane things like going to the supermarket and running a house in Kelaniya. It wasn't very different from our life here in Kharghar but there were many new flavours. Even if you're staying in a hotel do visit a supermarket near you so you can try some of the local stuff. There's no better way to enjoy local food beyond what you get at restaurants. 

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