When I first moved to Melbourne 5 and a half years ago from Malaysia, I didn't have any problems adjusting to this city at all! Melbourne is quite possibly one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world.
"In 2006, 35.8% of Melbourne's population was born overseas, exceeding the national average of 23.1%. In concordance with national data, Britain is the most commonly reported overseas place of birth, with 4.7%, followed by Italy (2.1%), Vietnam (1.6%), China (1.5%), and New Zealand (1.5%). Melbourne has the world's third largest Greek-speaking population after Athens and Thessaloniki (Melbourne's Greek sister city), and the Vietnamese surname Nguyen is the second most common in Melbourne's phone book. The city also features substantial Indian, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian-born communities, in addition to recent South African and Sudanese influxes." - Source: Wikipedia
Those stats I've copied off Wikipedia is merely an illustration of just how diverse the people living in Melbourne really are. The cultural diversity is reflected in Melbourne's restaurants serving various international cuisines. You'd also be amazed at how easy it is to find authentic ingredients from overseas in various international grocers - Asian grocers, Indian grocers, Sri Lankan grocers, Japanese grocers, Korean, Malaysian, Greek, etc... you name it, we probably got it at some part of Melbourne in a suburb somewhere.
The reason why I've started my blog post with that introduction is pretty much to explain why my posts mostly consists of exotic food you probably would never have heard of. I am a huge fan of trying new and exotic foods from other countries - and I was first introduced to Sri Lankan cuisine a few years ago, when the Sri Lankan community from our church put on a Sri Lankan feast at church to raise money for something (I can't remember now, too long ago! Possibly the extension of our church building?).
The real difference I find between Sri Lankan cuisine and Indian cuisine is in the different taste and textures of their curries. The Indians I find somehow have a creamier curry and their spices taste somewhat different to Sri Lankan spices. Sri Lankan curries are spicy with a strong kick, and less creamy, and their spices have a distinct flavor to it which I can't quite explain but I absolutely love. Sri Lankans are also big on lentils, and they also serve their breads with Dhal, very similar to Indian cuisine. Sri Lankans are also big on their side dishes e.g. pickles, chutneys and "sambols" (very similar to our Malaysian sambal?) - which usually consists of dryer things e.g. coconut or dried fish and lime juice, and these side dishes could very easily be served with rice without any curries as their flavors are enough to satisfy a family with a lower weekly budget for food expenses.
One of my favorite Sri Lankan dishes is the Hoppers. "Hoppers are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy, which lends a sour flavor and fermentation ability. If toddy is not available, yeast is often used. The batter is left to rise, then cooked in a hemispherical wok-like pan. There are many types of hoppers including egg hoppers, milk hoppers, and sweeter varieties like vandu appa and pani appa." - Source: Wikipedia
Over the weekend, hubby and I went to a Hoppers Night organised by the Calvary Worship Centre in Springvale to raise money for their Student Ministry. We paid $14 for All-You-Can-Eat Hoppers. Sweet deal, right? They served up both plain hoppers as well as the egg hoppers - I especially love the egg hoppers for the gooey softness of the york in the middle which goes really well with the curries and side dishes.
I love the side dishes particularly that mix of red onions and spices which was actually the spiciest side dish of all, and I love it spicy. Combined with the dried coconut mix and Dhal, my Hoppers experience was as good as it has always been ever since I first tasted this dish a couple of years ago. The beef curry was very spicy too, and we were served super sweet cordial to go with the meal - and I soon understood why our drinks were so sweet - to counter the super spicy meal we were digging into!
So there you have it, a little "educational" post for a change. Apologies to my Sri Lankan friends if I gotten any of the terminologies wrong in this post - I blame Wikipedia for any wrong information presented, lol.