Very unfortunately, on two days of the three day World Spice Food Festival at the Galle Face Green the weather was unkind, blustery and rainy, keeping people indoors. I was to go on Friday and Saturday with two lots of friends but the first batch backed out on Friday due to the rain. On Saturday it kept fine all evening, so two others and I thoroughly enjoyed the ambience, and of course the food, at the Hawker Street like food festival organized by the Tourism Promotion Board of Sri Lanka.
It was difficult to select what to eat of the eighteen speciality national foods laid out. Should we Sizzle with hot wooden oblong plates deliciously full of steaming food or go for East Asian rice and stuff or go Mexican or make a beeline to the Mango Tree to taste hot tandoori and rotis. It needed thinking, surveying, weighing mentally and then finally opting for one’s choice. Having finally made up our minds, we decided to sit near a stall rather than under the huge marquee under which tables were laid with white tablecloths.
For dessert our choice was an Indian sweet and appetite permitting, to try the sago pudding offered by two hotels or ice cream. The man in charge of the sweets section of the Indian stall deep fried us jalabis and soaked them in heavenly syrup. Five were on offer for Rs250. We disdained the first batch – too small - and the second batch not twisted enough. So the person preparing them made us extra large heavily convoluted jalabis and piled in six for us.
That was the spirit that prevailed. What was specially striking was the friendliness of the staff in every food stall. They wanted to please you, never felt too tired to explain all that they had on offer and patiently awaited your choosing. We spoke with a young man and woman from Hong Kong who were supervising a food stall having flown across for the Festival.
The Green was alive with music. Everyone was smiling; toe-tapping, warmed by the open fires, braziers, ovens and fired woks, and of course eating. Meals were very reasonably priced with most costing around Rs 350 per person. HSBC card holders had the bonus of a ten percent reduction. Tourists were the main target of the spice food festival and we saw a fair number of foreigners.
Parking as promised by the organizers was no problem since the entire run of the promenade between the Green and the sea was made available for vehicles.
Congratulations go unreservedly to the organizers and the hotels and restaurants that participated, eighteen in number. It was not easy to cope with the crowds on Saturday - certain stalls had queues forming, the others had many giving orders over others’ shoulders. The servers in all stalls coped smilingly. Again the gripe from me against the weather – how unfortunate that on Friday and Sunday it rained. Sri Lankans are generally afraid to get wet!!.
-N P W.