Being a life partner to Chris also means learning about his heritage… or at least, the culinary heritage that comes with being Indian with parents who have roots in India and who have also lived in Malaysia and Australia. To me, the easiest way to learn and get acquainted with a culture with which you are not familiar is to eat their food and learn about its nuances; so much about one’s culture, religion, and tall tale stories can be found from the different types of food that is part of a people.
I’m not one of those traditional wives who thinks that just because my husband is of a certain background that I absolutely need to cook the food he grew up eating; in fact, I resent that type of expectation. I only know and cook Indian food because I really love the process, and I love how many of these dishes came to be. A lot of it is laborious and requires a slightly insane number of spices, but now I have a varied enough spice collection where when I want to make something Indian, all I really need to do is buy some form of protein and some extra onions or tomatoes from the market.
Hoppers, or appam, is one of those dishes that Chris loves that I have also come to love since his mom first introduced it to me in 2012. It’s traditionally a breakfast food in southern India, and it’s made from fermented rice and freshly grated coconut, and then cooked in a rounded pancake-like pan. It’s then served with different chutneys and a curry stew of some sort. We went to a place called Hoppers today for lunch with Chris’s cousin, who also loves eating appam. Appams are called “hoppers” in Sri Lanka, and when we were eating there, I loved every single thing that came to the table. So that made me realize how ignorant I was about Sri Lankan cuisine, so I started researching that.
Sri Lankan cuisine has a lot in common with southern India, or the area where coconut-based curries and dosas/appams come from. Their curries are heavy on the coconut, but supposedly their usage of spice is supposed to be more pronounced. Cinnamon (real cinnamon, not the cassia that stands in as “cinnamon” in the U.S.) is featured heavily and curries, and caramelized onion chutney is frequently found on Sri Lankan dinner tables. Curry and pandan leaves are used; I was used to using curry leaves, but the pandan leaf usage is definitely different than what I have heard of in Indian cuisine.
And to get me even more excited, I just found out that a decent Sri Lankan population lives in Staten Island, which also means that I can find more Sri Lankan restaurants there than anywhere else in New York City. I’m definitely planning to go out there once the weather gets warmer and have Chris come with me.