Seeni Sambol (Spicy Onion Salad)

ORIGIN
Sri Lanka

STORY
The refugees had very little, and vegetables were hard to find. If found, it was often onions. Sometimes umbalakada, the Maldive fish, was available but shared in small portions. This salad is a Seeni Sambol, or onion salad.

INGREDIENTS
6 large onions
3 cloves
at least 2 cinnamon sticks or 2 tablespoons Tarmarind juice
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
4-6 crushed chillies
4 garlic cloves minced
curry leaves or 2 tablespoons of curry powder
and vegetable cooking oil
umbalakada cured tuna, if available

METHOD
Ready a pan with cooking oil heated

Slice the onions thinly, salt and pepper and place into the pan until golden brown. Once golden brown add in chillies, curry, garlic and maldive fish—stir for a few minutes and add the tarmarind juice. Remove from heat.

SERVING
This is eaten as a salad but if you have tandori available it is a good filling. Rice milk is delicious with it.

REFLECTIONS
I had this salad in Anradapura, the house I was staying at within a hotel compound. It was here that I literally ran into an elephant, a wild elephant. Being American and my first time there, I did not have fear. The great beast stared at me and I stared back with awe, and love. This was reciprocated and I sat down on the bench near the water tank just outside the compound. The elephant did a dirt bath and laid down for 30 minutes while I journal. The elephant got up and showed my its right leg as hurt and wandered off into the jungle. The owner of the compound ran out and was in disbelief since no one lives to tell a story of running into a wild elephant. The game reserve officers were called to see if it would come back in order treat the leg. The next day in the classroom where I was teaching the Kolo engendered format, everyone had already heard about it. I was asked to go sit at homes where the elephants come yearly and destroy their crops.