Rice morning, noon, and night in Sri Lanka | Fork the System

My mom is an effective prepare dinner.

My father is simply barely higher. That’s how my youthful sister would at all times describe my mother and father’ meals. She’s proper. My mom cooked scrumptious curries. However my father cooked the meals we maintain pricey.

My father grew up in Nabiriththawewa, a small village in Kurunegala, about 120km (75 miles) from Colombo.

In contrast to his two older brothers who have been extra focused on going out with their mates, my father accompanied my grandfather to each village marriage ceremony. From what I might collect, my grandfather was the chef at each perform within the village. He had cooked to feed tons of.

“I adopted him like a thread follows the needle. That’s how I realized to prepare dinner,” my father would say.

Though I want I had met him, I by no means noticed my grandfather, he was already a distant reminiscence once I got here to this world.

A photo of lush green fields with trees in the background
A paddy area by the street in a small village in Wellawaya, 282km from Colombo [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

After I was eight years outdated, my household lived in a small home by the rice fields in my father’s village. My father labored a tedious workplace job, commuting for hours on a passenger prepare on daily basis.

However when he was residence, he would spend time doing two issues: gardening and cooking.

My father lived a frugal life so he might construct a safe future for his two daughters.

He was additionally a frugal prepare dinner, making use of each ingredient so nothing in his kitchen ended up within the waste pit. He mastered the artwork of scrumptious snacks, like tub aggala, a Sri Lankan candy he makes utilizing coconut and leftover rice and that marked our teatime ritual rising up. In Sinhala, aggala are candy ball-shaped snacks and tub is cooked rice.

At residence, teatime was once I cycled residence by means of the rice paddies from the neighbours’ to seek out my little sister nonetheless in her shiny sequined nursery gown together with her colouring books. Exterior, children can be flying kites as males labored within the fields and girls in vibrant headwraps reaped golden-yellow paddy with their sharp sickles.

My mom, who was a authorities faculty instructor, can be simply getting up from her afternoon nap to make tea with powdered milk for us.

Through the week, teatime meant a cup of tea with a packet of biscuits or a loaf of white bread to dip. However on the weekends, it was my father’s tub aggala, eaten as we sat on the verandah watching the world. Generally, my mother and father would inform us about their childhood. Or we’d simply watch colonies of bats dart throughout the night sky as night time fell, and giggle over one thing my little sister mentioned.

As I look again on these teatimes spent at residence, I miss the sounds and colors of these evenings that held us collectively, and the style of my father’s tub aggala.

A photo of someone's hands as they add coconut to rice
Roasting for about 20 minutes offers aggala a brown color and nutty style, which is how my father makes it [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

It is just now that I perceive that, for my father, tub aggala was greater than candy rice balls he made for his household. For him, it was benefiting from rice: a grain beloved to him and all Sri Lankans.

The beloved grain

“Udetath tub, dawaltath tub, retath tub” is a well-liked Sinhala saying which means “Rice for the morning, afternoon, and night time.”

Nothing displays the essence of my island and other people higher than that. Rice just isn’t solely the primary staple for Sri Lankans, it’s greater than that.

In island kitchens, rice boils on daily basis in clay pots over firewood or steams in electrical rice cookers. A pot of steamed rice dominates our tables typically, paired with different dishes and condiments. When rice just isn’t cooked this fashion for breakfast or dinner, one other rice-based meals blesses our empty plates.

It could possibly be kiribath, a sticky mix of rice and coconut milk eaten for breakfast. Or rice flour is used to make idi appa or idiyappam, discs of steamed skinny noodles. Or appa or appam, bowl-shaped snacks with crispy edges and fluffy centres. Or dosa, skinny, crisp flatbreads made with a fermented rice-lentil combine. Or levariya, sweet-savoury pockets of rice noodles crammed with caramelised coconut.

We use soaked, floor rice to organize sweetmeats for our New Yr each April and when visitors come over, we prepare dinner rice with aromatics like curry leaves and cinnamon and garnish it with crunchy cashews to organize golden kaha tub.

When meals is scarce, households soak leftover rice to eat within the morning with kiri hodi, a turmeric-infused coconut gravy soured with lime. This modest meal was my father’s favorite breakfast, paired with recent inexperienced chilli.

Rice feeds us, builds us, and shapes us in some ways. This humble grain that thrives within the mud holds a spot in each Sri Lankan meal and has crept into each nook and cranny of our society.

Laid out on a banana leaf are a coconut, a bowl of shredded coconut, two trays of dry rice and a bowl of cooked rice
Elements for tub aggala. Clockwise from the best: leftover sundried rice, grated coconut, cooked and raw rice, and a coconut [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

Rice has a big share of the island’s agriculture, frames its economic system, and unpacks our historical past. And our love for it has given start to a number of flavourful dishes.

I realized how rice grew after we moved to our father’s village. Paddy – the phrase for the plant and the grain earlier than eradicating the hull – flourished within the fields due to the farmers toiling within the solar.

My father grew paddy in a small area inherited from his mother and father, which grew sufficient rice for us. Whereas he readied the sphere, I might run behind him, getting my toes muddy. A couple of times, I helped him plant seedlings.

The earliest stone carving of paddy cultivation in Sri Lanka dates again to 939-940 AD, says Professor Buddhi Marambe, who specialises in weed science and meals safety. Historical Sri Lankan rulers constructed reservoirs to harness rainwater whereas folks developed and preserved rice varieties for greater than 3,000 years.

However when the island was colonised by the British in 1815, money crops like tea and rubber have been imposed on farmers to earn money for the colonisers. British propaganda campaigns additionally inspired folks to exchange rice with wheat of their weight loss program. “By the Forties, Sri Lanka needed to import 60 p.c of the rice wanted for the nation’s meagre six million inhabitants,” says Marambe.

Within the following a long time, refined wheat flour and white bread rose in reputation whereas native rice was changed by high-yield varieties to maintain the rising inhabitants – varieties that wanted chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

A young farmer walks smiling down a dirt path towards the photographer, with a hill in the background set against a bright blue sky
A baby walks to the fields with a Mammootty to assist his mother and father in Pussellayaya, a village by the Wasgamuwa Nationwide Park [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

In 2020, there was sufficient regionally produced rice to feed Sri Lanka’s inhabitants of 21 million, Marambe says. However the then-government abruptly banned artificial fertilisers in April 2021, forcing farmers to show to natural fertilisers they weren’t used to. Farmers misplaced their harvest, and lots of abandoned their rice fields.

By the point the ban was lifted in November final 12 months, Sri Lanka didn’t have sufficient overseas forex to import chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The onerous forex scarcity additionally resulted in a gasoline disaster, and farmers need to pay extra now for reaping and threshing machines.

“Most individuals [in our village] are abandoning their fields now,” my mom mentioned once I rang her not too long ago. “The machine is charging 240 rupees [$0.66] per minute. They’ll’t afford it.”

Sri Lanka’s future rice manufacturing now relies on a crippled economic system and tentative overseas loans which will or might not come.

Prior to now, leftover rice was thought of “poor man’s meals”, so folks stopped consuming meals like diya tub (fermented rice porridge with coconut milk) for breakfast, reaching for refined white bread slathered in preservative-laden bottled jam as a substitute.

However, in June, meals inflation was greater than 60 p.c in Sri Lanka and has since stored climbing. Costs soar day by day, and most low-income households eat only one or two meals a day. As folks rethink their meals decisions, frugal cooking has made a comeback.

My mother and father now not purchase biscuits or white bread. A packet of biscuits that value 200 Sri Lankan rupees ($0.55) per week in the past is now 600 rupees ($1.65). “Who would pay that a lot for biscuits,” my mom mentioned. She desires me to deliver her some from India, the place I’m presently travelling.

My father makes tub aggala extra typically now. It’s a dish he realized to make by watching his mother and father and older sisters, he informed me not too long ago on the telephone.

On a banana leaf is a coconut, a bowl of shredded coconut and a tray of bath aggala
‘For my father, tub aggala is meals safety. It’s minimising waste,’ writes Rathnayake [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

When my father was a teen, Sri Lanka was battling drought and an financial disaster within the Seventies. Regardless that his household had land to develop rice, there wasn’t sufficient water. So my grandparents made essentially the most of what was out there.

“They informed us by no means to throw away rice, not even a single grain of it,” my father mentioned. “After I noticed a bit boy digging in a dustbin for meals at college, I realised what it means to have meals on the desk.”

Rice and coconuts

I don’t keep in mind us ever shopping for rice. Even once I left residence to reside in Colombo, my mother and father would go to me with tightly packed grocery baggage of rice from my father’s fields. However not too long ago once I known as residence, my mom mentioned she might need to purchase rice for the primary time in her life.

“The [threshing] machine will solely come if we give them diesel,” my mom mentioned. “And we will’t get diesel.”

Many households within the village are actually consuming diya tub within the morning, my mom mentioned.

Making diya tub includes a number of steps when you, like my father, wish to eat it sizzling. Many individuals eat diya tub chilly, which is quicker.

If there’s rice left over after dinner, my father soaks it in water, letting it soak in a single day and draining it the subsequent morning. Then he heats up the coconut milk in a pot, provides dried purple chilli, curry leaves, onion, salt, half a teaspoon of turmeric powder, and Maldive fish flakes (dried, cured tuna fish), and lets it simmer.

A bowl of rice sits next to a bowl of diya bath toppings
Diya tub  as my father eats it with kiri hodi, served heat [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

For sourness, he squeezes in half a lime or provides a number of pods of darkish brown sun-dried tamarind. (This concoction alone known as kiri hodi). When it’s prepared, my father pours it, piping sizzling, onto a bowl of rice and eats it with recent inexperienced chilli and, typically, fried dried fish.

Chilly diya tub is a no-cook meal: combine two cups of coconut milk with one cup of soaked rice. Then add thinly-sliced purple onion, two tablespoons of lime juice, three-four roasted dried purple chillies, one teaspoon of grated Maldive fish, and salt to style. If you happen to prefer it sourer, squeeze in some extra lime juice.

Some folks like recent inexperienced chilli as a substitute of dried purple chilli. Maldive fish is non-obligatory, nevertheless it provides a pleasant umami punch. Many elders consider that diya tub, with its fermented rice and coconut milk, cools the physique and prevents heartburn.

Talking of coconut milk, once I make diya tub, I attain for coconut milk that is available in sealed cardboard containers however my mother and father have by no means purchased coconut milk of their life, they make it. My father plucks coconuts from our backyard, removes the fibrous outer husk, halves the nut, and scrapes it with a hiramanaya – a conventional grater with a picket seat for the particular person to sit down whereas grating. He mixes the grated coconut with water, squeezing it a number of instances together with his arms to make coconut milk.

Making coconut milk is laborious, however my mother and father nonetheless do it. If rice is our staple, coconut is its mate. It thickens our curries, binds our sambals, flavours our meals, and balances meals with wholesome fat. Coconuts additionally make our condiments richer to pair with humble rice.

A farmer drives a tractor in a muddy field as white birds flutter nearby
A tractor at work, ploughing the fields for paddy cultivation in Pussellayaya, by the Wasgamuwa Nationwide Park [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

Greater than aggala

Whereas folks often boil recent rice for aggala, my father soaks leftover rice to make sugary, coconutty balls with a slight crunch. For him, tub aggala is meals safety. It’s minimising waste.

To make this teatime snack, he ferments leftover cooked rice in a single day in water. Within the morning, he drains and sun-dries the rice till it’s crisp, then roasts it for about 20 minutes in a skillet on a low flame, till it turns brown.

After I made tub aggala not too long ago, I roasted the rice for 5 to eight minutes and switched off the range earlier than it modified color, so it stayed white. Do as you want, roasting for longer offers aggala a  golden-brown color and nutty flavour.

Utilizing a pestle and mortar, my father grinds the nice and cozy, roasted rice till he will get an uneven texture with items of damaged rice that add a pleasant crunch. You should use an electrical grinder as I do, simply don’t grind it into powder.

Take 250g of this floor rice and add about 100g of grated coconut, half a cup of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt, and half a cup of water. Combine it nicely along with your arms and form it into little balls. Some folks desire a little bit of a spice kick to their aggala, which is well carried out by sprinkling a touch of black pepper into the combination.

As soon as prepared, at all times serve with a cup of tea.

A view of palm trees on the far shore of a river with two colourful boats docked to the shore
Like rice, coconut makes up a big chunk of Sri Lankan delicacies. Photograph taken in Koggala [Nathan Mahendra/Al Jazeera]

My father’s tub aggala is a sworn statement to Sri Lanka’s longstanding relationship with rice. It bears witness to the island’s typically troubled historical past and current, twisted and framed by politics and financial pursuits.

The street to restoration is lengthy. However for now, I’d wish to be lulled into candy teatimes at residence. One tub aggala at a time.

A new Hajj booking system leaves tour operators out in the cold | Business and Economy News

As overseas Hajj pilgrims return to Mecca following a two-year absence, the worldwide business surrounding the annual holy occasion within the Islamic calendar faces an unsure future after new guidelines brought on monetary and logistical chaos for a lot of travellers.

Final month, weeks earlier than the beginning of Hajj, Saudi Arabia launched a brand new on-line portal, Motawif, through which all pilgrims from Europe, the Americas and Australia should now guide utilizing a lottery system. This implies longstanding tour operators in these nations might be minimize out, even after taking bookings this yr.

On common, United Kingdom-based journey operators organise journeys for about 20,000 – 25,000 pilgrims yearly, however a lot of them have been solely knowledgeable of the dramatic adjustments concurrently the general public.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah mentioned it had taken the measures to make entry simpler, preserve numbers manageable and combat potential fraud by disreputable brokers, claiming an automatic, one-stop store would streamline and safeguard the visa, flight and lodging processes.

However final week there was mass confusion as many British, European and North American Muslims have been left stranded at airports, turned away at their locations, complained of costs leaping on the final minute, an absence of amenities for disabled and aged pilgrims, and in some circumstances, having to share lodge rooms with strangers.

“The Saudi Arabians made a really late and really fast determination, which affected us little question”, mentioned Mohammad Arif of Haji Excursions in Manchester, a journey company with franchises throughout the UK specialising in pilgrimage packages to Mecca and Medina.

“I’m not questioning the choice however merely the size of warning. We have been solely instructed in regards to the reserving system concurrently everybody else – regardless that we have been an permitted firm,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

He mentioned that regardless of having to shuffle a few of his clients into the Motawif system, he was nonetheless concerned in serving to a few of them. “I had to make sure wheelchairs for an aged couple, and folks to push them, they’re not arrange for that but.”

“We’ll be grateful to Saudi Arabia if we by some means stay a part of the Hajj course of from the UK, however we’ve needed to act in a rush.”

The British Labour Social gathering politician Yasmin Qureshi, chair of the All-Social gathering Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah, mentioned she has been in touch with the Saudi authorities over the rigmarole going through pilgrims from the UK.

She instructed Al Jazeera: “Regardless of writing to them many instances we’ve finally heard again that the Saudi authorities has despatched a workforce to Britain to deal particularly with serving to these going to Hajj, and we’ve some assist on the different finish on the British consulate basic in Jeddah.”

Digital age

The digital transfer has been coming for a while, says Seán McLoughlin, Professor of the Anthropology of Islam on the College of Leeds. He instructed Al Jazeera: “The Motawif system is actually a 3rd technology of Hajj tour-related enterprise.

“You had unbiased travellers within the West from the ‘60s onwards after mass migration from Asian and African nations with giant Muslim communities, then across the late Nineteen Nineties – 2000s you began getting bespoke Hajj tour operators in Europe and past, and now you might have the leap to on-line.” Since 2006, Hajj visits might solely be booked through licensed brokers.

McLoughlin has been learning British Muslims’ experiences of the Hajj because the late Nineteen Nineties and is the creator of the report, Mapping the UK’s Hajj Sector: Transferring in the direction of communication and consensus (2019). He continued: “Saudi Arabia has been making an attempt to develop a type of spiritual tourism because the Nineteen Nineties, and what’s taking place now needs to be seen by way of that.

“Although it appears this transfer might have come about instantly, it has been on the horizon for a while, and lots of tour operators in all probability sensed that however maybe didn’t know what kind it’d take.”

The primary challenge for Haji Excursions’ Arif was that as quickly because it was introduced Hajj was again on, his firm began taking bookings, however then he needed to refund or rebook a lot of his shoppers on the final minute so they might use the brand new, official channels.

“We repaid any reserving deposits, even when cash was nonetheless owed to us additional down the road,” he mentioned, including that he has bought off a few of his property to assist pay the refunds. “As our shoppers are good to us and we wish to be good to them, and we’ve at all times had good relations with our Saudi companions.

“However you can’t organise a Hajj journey on brief discover, you want time, so we reinstated our methods months in the past after COVID, such because the flats we at all times use in Mecca and Medina – we’ve used the identical folks for over 10 years. We have been prepared as quickly as we knew Hajj was on once more.”

International turmoil, uncertainty

The turmoil has been felt throughout the Hajj tour business globally, with many now going through uncertainty and in excessive circumstances, a possible finish to their enterprise, and in a fragile scenario as they rigorously negotiate with Saudi officers.

The UK commerce affiliation, Licensed Hajj Organisers, in a press release to Al Jazeera mentioned: “Something we are saying might be taken out of context and might be thought-about biased and we don’t wish to carry Hajj into disrepute.

“We respect the truth that KSA [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] is a sovereign nation and it has its personal guidelines and laws that are in place to help its imaginative and prescient of empowering its personal residents. Our ideas and prayers are with all pilgrims and particularly with these from non-Muslim nations.”

There isn’t a query that Riyadh’s Ministry of Hajj is performing in something apart from good religion because it irons out wrinkles to the Motawif system. However, a number of folks and teams approached by Al Jazeera have been reluctant to remark or be named, in case they have been seen to be criticising Saudi officers.

Nevertheless, even per week after Hajj started, the tone has modified a bit of, noticed McLoughlin. “I feel a few of that preliminary reticence has changed into extra open dialogue, in that the operators see they will push again a bit and the Saudis are slowly taking up board what they are saying.”

New restrictions

The lottery system is designed to maintain numbers down to 1 million or beneath, by comparability with 2019 when 2.5 million Muslims made the journey for Hajj earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit. However the scheme for 2022 bars these over 65 years outdated and any Muslim who has accomplished Hajj within the final 5 years.

That is clearly unhealthy information for aged Muslims who’ve waited, and saved, a lifetime to carry out Hajj of their autumn years, however Arif hopes Saudi officers will study and adapt from how issues play out this yr.

He mentioned: “Let’s see what suggestions we get, that can assist the Saudi officers and our business perceive how the long run will look. It’s for a lot of Muslims one thing they’ve saved for his or her entire lives, and one thing they may do solely as soon as, so they need it to be excellent.

“A part of the difficulty is that each Muslim going to Hajj has distinctive wants, and the net system typically might not be capable of accommodate that. That is why the bespoke service that Hajj tour operators supply has turn out to be so essential.”

In addition to increasing into personalised high-end Umrah excursions – a non-mandatory, smaller pilgrimage that may be undertaken at any time – that non-public component might be a saving grace for the business, mentioned McLoughlin. “One of many many potential futures for Hajj brokers might be to promote their abilities again to the Saudis.”

Parliamentarian Qureshi mentioned the change to Motawif had been achieved too rashly, and may have a everlasting impact on the Hajj sector within the UK. “They’ve been destroyed, within the UK alone, round 200 or extra good operators have had their livelihoods destroyed.”

China tests missile interception system | Military News

The Chinese language defence ministry says the check was defensive and ‘not geared toward any nation’.

China has carried out a land-based missile interception check that “achieved its anticipated objective”, its defence ministry mentioned, describing it as defensive and never geared toward any nation.

In a short assertion late on Sunday, the ministry mentioned that the “ground-based midcourse anti-missile intercept expertise” check had been carried out that evening.

“The check reached its anticipated objectives,” the ministry mentioned. “This check was defensive and never geared toward any nation.”

It supplied no different particulars.

China has been ramping up analysis into all types of missiles, from these that may destroy satellites in house to superior nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, as a part of an formidable modernisation scheme overseen by President Xi Jinping.

Beijing has examined missile interceptors earlier than; the latest earlier public announcement of a check was in February 2021, and earlier than that in 2018. State media mentioned China has been conducting anti-missile system assessments since not less than 2010.

China, together with its ally Russia, has repeatedly expressed opposition to the US deployment of the Terminal Excessive Altitude Space Protection (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.

China argued the tools’s highly effective radar might penetrate its territory. China and Russia have additionally held simulated anti-missile drills.

China has given few particulars about its missile programmes, apart from occasional temporary statements by the defence ministry or in state media.

In 2016, the defence ministry confirmed it was urgent forward with anti-missile system assessments after footage appeared on state tv. Beijing says such expertise is required for nationwide defence and safety.