Sinhalese & Tamil New Year: Keeping Traditions Alive

AT THE GEDERA TABLE No. 3

- THE MAIN DISH - 
Musings on life, food, and culture.

Sinhalese and Tamil New Year just happened, and I was so happy to celebrate, here in Sydney with my blood and chosen family. It is special that my parents are with us and to spend time celebrating with traditions, cooking together, and loads of fun. 

Everyone had a great time! We lit oil lamps to symbolize prosperity, played fun games, and feasted on delicious Sri Lankan new year food and sweets. We boiled milk and watched it overflow in in a pot, symbolizing good luck and abundance. 

Growing up in Sri Lanka, we greeted Sinhalese & Tamil New Year with community.

It’s a huge celebration where everyone is on holiday and enjoying each other’s company. Just thinking about it, I’m transported back: The streets were filled with people mingling, dancing, snacking and bursting firecrackers. In the kitchen, I would sneak bites as we prepare traditional new year food in the kitchen. 

I’ve been reflecting on the importance of cultural rituals and food preparation traditions.

Take kokis, for example, they’re a delicious, crispy snack made of rice flour and coconut milk (recipe below!). Kokis can be hard to make without the right equipment and practice. But my sister and I grew up watching my mom make them, so it comes naturally for us.

I think about the care and labor that goes into Sri Lankan traditional foods, some that you can’t replicate accurately in the diaspora, depending on where you live and what ingredients and cookware are available. 

I find so much joy, hope, and responsibility in teaching my children these traditions, alongside my Ammi in the kitchen. I try to make it as fun as possible and teach them why these things are important for us.

Later on, when they experience nostalgia for their childhood celebrations, I don’t want them to feel regret that they don’t know how to make something. Rather, I want to give them as many tools as they can to experience these traditions and create their own versions from the mix of experience and perspective they have. In turn, it’ll help carry on these age-old traditions into the future. 

This really ties into what we’re doing at Gedera & Co.

We want to keep the essence of our Sri Lankan heritage and flavours by modernizing the methods — so people in Australia, New Zealand, and someday around the world can cook delicious Sri Lankan food. 

I think about the layers of generational memory that are infused in these traditions, and how we’re all adding our own piece in the mix. I’m filled with gratitude and awe. 

by Jayani // edited by Samia


- THE RECIPE - 
Joyful, yummy, and fun eats.

How to Make: Kokis

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Oil for deep frying

Instructions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, coconut milk, water, turmeric powder, and salt. Mix well to form a smooth batter. The batter should have a pancake batter-like consistency.
  1. Heat oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking.
  1. Dip the kokis mold* into the hot oil for a few minutes to heat it up.
  1. Dip the heated kokis mold into the batter, making sure the batter covers the mold but not the top edge.
  1. Immediately dip the mold into the hot oil. Hold it in the oil for a few seconds, then gently shake or tap the mold to release the kokis into the oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, turning once to cook both sides evenly.
  1. Once cooked, remove the kokis from the oil and place it on paper towels to drain excess oil.
  1. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, reheating the mold in the oil before dipping it into the batter each time.
  1. Allow the kokis to cool before serving. Enjoy this crispy and delicious Sri Lankan snack with a hot cup of tea 

*Kokis molds are readily available in Sri Lankan grocery stores or online!

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