The ongoing 27th Surajkand Mela has something more to boast about other than bringing national and international handicrafts under one roof - figuratively speaking. As fairs remain incomplete without some traditional food, the mela too is witnessing an interesting line-up of international cuisine including food stalls from China and Sri Lanka.
A variety of traditional Sinhalese sweets are on sale for food lovers. Kept in colourful handmade baskets, they are a mix of fried and baked sweets. Different in appearance and taste, when compared to sweets prepared in India, these bear very exotic names like Asmee, Athirasa, Mun Keum, Aluwa to name a few.
Full of curiosity one points a finger towards an item that has been fried dark brown. “These are all traditional Sinhalese sweets and this one that you are pointing at is called Asmee,” says Nishanthan, the stall in charge. “It is made of rice flour, sugar syrup and coconut oil and is cooked in all Sri Lankan households during festivals,” explains Nishanthan.
Aluwa, is also cooked on major festivals. Made from rice flour, sugar, milk, butter, cardamom and cloves, Nishanthan apprises one about the sweet’s simple recipe. “To the coconut milk we add rice flour, cashews and then stir it. When the mixture thickens, it is transferred on a flat board and cut it into pieces.” Though the recipe seems simple while listening, we are quite sure that there is more to it than meets the eye.
As Nishanthan, removed the cover from the next basket, there was something that brought smiles to our face.
Jaggery mixed with dry fruits and other ingredients is packed in butter paper in the shape of toffees and called Talagali.
As we move on to the other items laid out, we discover that the light brown fried item is Athirasa. Though crisp outside it seems soft on the inside. “It is sweet cake made from rice flour and jaggery. The paste is flattened into several circles and fried. On occasion it is served along with other sweets such as Kavum, Kokis and Aluwa,” says the stall in charge.
Another interesting sweet in the shape of fish called Mun Keum, is made especially during Sinhala and Tamil New Year season. It is prepared by mixing rice flour, greem gram flour, coconut, butter and fried till light brown.
Then there are Kokis, better known as Achappam in Kerala. We have very little doubt that the thin and crispy Kokis are definitely yummy. Pity there is no more space in the tummy!