Sri Lankan Photos & Food in Staten Island, Plus Chicken Stew for “Blizzard” II

Mrs. Chithra Balasuriya chooses spices at Meth Lanka Grocery, Victory Boulevard

It may look dour now in Snow Takes Manhattan, Round Two but unless things get really blizzardy we’re still hoping to head out for a taste of Sri Lanka on Staten Island. Little Sri Lanka, better known as Tompkinsville, is where natives of that tiny tear drop-shaped country in Southeast Asia have managed to find fresh produce and traditional spices of their homeland — like, tropical fruits, curry leaves, lemongrass, rampe and fermented coconut juice from palm leaves — to make authentic powders, vinegars and curries, which are usually cooked slowly in clay pots over an open fire (but work nicely over a brownstone’s gas stove). And one of those natives, photojournalist Sri Walpola, documented this successful culinary scavenger hunt in two dozen photographs on display now through February at the New York Public Library’s St. George branch on the island, with plans to turn the collection into a cookbook.

Read about it in the Library’s Huff Po blog, including the women’s resourceful replacements and the things they say they’ve stopped looking for (like “a beautiful red fruit” called goraka). Also note the write-up for a recipe on Sri Lankan Chicken Stew with cardamon pods, coconut vinegar, cinnamon, curry and cloves. Sure beats this old can of chicken noodle we’re always debating about.

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