Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sri Lankan New Year Celebration

Tucked away in the bosom of San Jose CA, is a humble, unobtrusive little house. Casual passers-by would hardly give it a second glance, as it appears to be just another typical house in a typical residential neighborhood.


However, there is something very special about this house. Its doors are (usually) unlocked, allowing one to freely walk in, where one is met by the warm smiles and friendly greetings of ... Buddhist monks.

Buddhists monks? Yes, this single family residence has been lovingly converted (using funds donated by Buddhist devotees) into a Buddhist temple. There is a large prayer hall inside which houses the image of Buddha:


The monks and many of the devotees who worship here come from Sri Lanka. It is no surprise therefore, that this temple has become a gathering place of sorts for the local Sri Lankan community. So when the Sri Lankan New Year came recently on April 13th, the temple was a natural venue for a celebration.

Upon receiving an invitation from one of the monks to join the celebration, my wife and I immediately accepted. It was a chance to reconnect with the monks (who are friends of ours), to make new acquaintances, and to just soak up the positive, peaceful energy of the temple. Since the celebration also featured a potluck feast, it was also a great chance to get a taste of Sri Lankan food!

I was very excited, as this was my first introduction to Sri Lankan food. Sri Lanka is an island nation, and its residents eat a lot of fish. But, adhering to Buddhist principles, only vegetarian fare was served during the celebration. Among the offerings were: acharu - pickled papaya seasoned with peppers and onions (very good, but fiery hot!)


...sini sambola - fried onions mixed with chili peppers (its strong spicy taste goes very well with rice):


...There were a couple of dishes made from sweet rice mixed with coconut. The light, refeshing sweetness of these dishes provided a nice contrast to fierce spiciness of the other dishes:


The temple also has quite a number of Vietnamese devotees, who made their presence felt with dishes like Vietnamese sweet rice with accompanying condiments of deep fried onion bits and ground peanut:


...and jelly cakes shaped like lotus flowers (lotus flowers have deep symbolic significance in Buddhism):


After the feast, the celebration was highlighted by some very fun children's games like: a singing contest, sack races, hands-free donut eating contests, and smashing a pinata. With these games, the temple came alive with the joyful shouts and delighted squeals of children at play.

Here's a pic of the kids diving in to devour their donuts:


Everyone was having great time. Even us grownups had a chance to play, with our own hands-free donut eating contest (in which yours truly finished dead last - but hey, I got a free donut! ;-)

Good food, good friends, good times - that's what it's all about.

The temple can be found at:
402 Knowles Ave
San Jose, CA

7 comments:

House of Annie said...

That meal looks like a lot of tasty fun!

AsianFoodFanatic said...

The celebration was truly a lot of fun - great food plus lots of fun and games! Now that I have been exposed to Sri Lankan food, my next quest is to find a Sri Lankan restaurant in the Bay Area...

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience! Such a wonderful way to learn about a new cuisine!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

AsianFoodFanatic said...

Thanks Jenn! I am excited about being a member of the Foodie Blogroll community!

skiz said...

I'm all about trying to expose the amazing cuisine of my homeland, and have just completed a book on Sri Lankan cooking called Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking. Please feel free to check it out online at Blurb.com. I am trying to get a publisher to pick it up, but no one seems interested in tiny little Sri Lanka and its food. But one taste (as I'm sure you know) and you're hooked!

AsianFoodFanatic said...

Hi Skiz

I saw your book on Blurb.com, the cover photo looks gorgeous! Did you take that photo yourself? What dish is that in the photo?

Best of luck on your book. By the way, have you considered publishing and marketing it as an e-book?

cheers
AsianFoodFanatic

Sarah Throlson said...

Sri Lankan desserts are some of the best I've ever had!

Sarah | travelsrilanka.co.uk