String Hoppers and Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambol)

I wanted to invite the Kiwi friend who inspired me to start this blog over for a Sri Lankan meal. He was already a fan of  Sri Lankan food and made things like Yellow Rice regularly. Recently he text me asking where to find Rampe (Pandanus leaf) and Goraka (dried rind of the Garcinia cambogia plant- used as a meat/fish tenderiser and also to add the “sour” component of the curry) for his “Miris Maalu” (hot fish curry made without coconut milk). So I had a dilemma. What was I going to cook for such a connoisseur?

I finally decided on String hoppers (steamed noodle cakes made of rice flour) and Coconut Sambol (a condiment made with freshly grated coconut, chillie, salt, Maldive fish flakes and lemon juice) with a Chicken Curry and Ala Hodi (Potato Curry) to go with it. I decided to turn it into a cooking lesson and asked him to come early enough to help make the String Hoppers. This is him doing some of the “grunt” work involved…..

Everything turned out beautifully and the evening was a success even if I say so myself…..You might ask why I chose this particular dish because it is quite an involved process. Part of it was because I had made it recently and was confident about  my ability to get it right again. But more importantly, String Hoppers and Pol Sambol mean a whole lot more to me than just another dish I liked to cook. To me it symbolises love and friendship.

Many years ago in Secondary School, a few of us got together every lunch time to share whatever we had in our lunch boxes. There were 6 or 7 of us; I can’t remember who they all were, but one thing I do remember is this particular friend who commuted an hour and a half each way to school every day. Since school started at 7.30 that would mean she probably left home around 5.30am every morning. But the commute wasn’t the amazing thing, it was the fact that her mother woke up early enough every single morning to make String Hoppers and Pol Sambol for her school lunch.

At lunch time she would hand out a single String Hopper and some Sambol to each of us in the group and we would give her something of ours. Most people would prefer to eat String Hoppers with some type of gravy because it is quite dry  just with Pol  Sambol.  But I like it dry and String Hoppers and Pol Sambol has remained a favourite of mine since that time.

To me this dish symbolises the love and dedication the mother had for her child. It was her way of contributing to her daughter’s success, a true labour of love. In this day and age of packets of this and packets of that in our children’s lunch boxes it is also a lesson for us all. It teaches us of a time when convenience wasn’t the only deciding factor. The dish also symbolises the friendship between a bunch of adolescent girls who each shared with one another a bit of the love sent from home in their lunch boxes.

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