What would have been the wild game meat of the Sri Lankan Indigenous tribal people (Vedda tribe) would have been like? Most of the time when they were out hunting it would have been sambar deer, porcupines, iguanas, or wild boar. At other times it could have been any small animal they could have set a trap for and captured like spotted mouse deer or macaques.
Let’s call it a wild game under one umbrella term. Wild game meat for them is an important source of protein and essential nutrients. It was lean protein, organic, wild caught.
From what I can read and research, I need a lean red meat for recreating traditional wild game recipes as authentic as it can be. I would love to go with goat meat for this curry, but I have a lamb leg today and I decided to recreate Vadda style wild game meat curry with leg of lamb. This recipe would also work wonderfully with pork.
Sri Lankan wild game style lamb curry I created simply ended up being so amazingly flavorful, I ended up advancing it along my recipe posting schedule, to today. Even though it uses humble few ingredients, the depth of flavor of the Vadda style lamb curry exceeded my wildest expectations. I feel like I came across one of the best cooking methods for lamb, because this recipe is a keeper.
Sri Lankan Vedda tribe, their wild game hunting methods, diet, and lifestyle.
The Ancient, resourceful, and very resilient last Indigenous people of Sri Lanka are called Veddas. They still live in Sri Lankan northern and eastern forests, little villages bordering wilderness. In the past, they hunted, foraged, and lived in small tribal villages of clustered mud huts inside the thick jungles of Sri Lanka. They had little reason to come out and interact with villages except for trade dried meat for the essentials that they could not supply from the jungle.
How did they originate? Romantic legend goes that a rebel prince from India shipwrecked in Sri Lanka’s seashore, met a tribal princess, fell in love and with her and with the help from her and his army defeated tribal leaders to became first king of Sri Lanka.
Despite the romance, he later abandoned the tribal princess and her children later, for a royal princess coming from India. The heartbroken princess and children went back to live in the wilderness, Vedda tribe we know today comes from them.
Despite legendary folk tales, unmistakable evidence of lifestyle and cooking methods indicates that the Vedda people may have links to the first migration wave from Africa and many migrants from southeast Asia and pacific islands. Some archaeological evidence links them to balangoda man believed to be evolved in Sri Lanka around 40, 000 years ago. Origin of these last indigenous tribes of Sri Lanka is not yet clear and research is ongoing, but what’s important is they are unique in their heritage, have unique language and customs and religious rituals that says they were the first humans to live in Sri Lanka.
They live in handmade mud and straw dwellings that are clustered to form small villages. They cook on open fires and over wood fire stoves, forage for honey, wild tubers and hunt wild game with handmade tools, make woven mats, and crafts. They sell crafts, dried meat, and honey for extra income.
Most of the older lifestyle of the Indigenous tribe has been lost to deforestation, slash and burn farming and intermingling with surrounding farming villages. They a getting used to the more rustic homesteading lifestyle today, but some villages and families still maintain rituals and culture of the old paleolithic hunter gatherer lifestyle. They still go hunting for wild game, foraging for honey and root vegetables, and cooking their food the traditional way. Display their traditional customs to Tourists is one of their main income sources today.
Cooking techniques of the Vedda tribe of Sri Lanka is also intermingled with food preservation techniques that they have learned and kept through generations. Traditionally, their food recipes consisted of the ingredients that they could gather from surrounding woods. Wild game meat, tubers, honey, and nuts from the jungle. Fish from the streams. Their knowledge of wild edibles and ability to track and harvest wild honey is impressive as ever. So as their ability of tracking and hunting with rustic bows and arrows. It is admirable to notice their relationship to the wilderness and how much they value and practice sustainability in their lifestyle. Nothing was wasted from the harvest of wild game from the hunts.
Among other things, what was most fascinating about their cooking techniques is how the recipes lacked coconut cream and curry powders but included lots of wild edible green roots and green chilies. The curries were cooked in a spiced broth with green chilies, turmeric, onions, and ample black peppers and cinnamon bark and water. Sometimes vegetables are cooked along with dried wild game meat in one curry. Curries were served with boiled root vegetables, flat bread, or red finger millet balls made fufu style (Kurakkan thalapa).
These were different curries to regular Sri Lankan curries with complex layered spices and curry powders and coconut milk. These were simply refreshingly simple curries yet insanely flavorful.
Spices and herbs are used in cooking wild game by Vedda tribe.
Every handmade mud hut has a dedicated room for a small rustic kitchen with a corner for wood burning stove and a hanging shelf for smoking and drying meat above it. Piled on either side of the stove will be some cooking pots and chopped wood and twigs for firewood.
People gathered around the half wall or a front porch area for chat and relaxing time with betel leaf chewing session while food was being prepared in the kitchen.
Cooking wild game curry
Guide recipe for my curry today came from the “Mas Anama” first published by Sri Lankan renowned chef Dr. Pabilis Silva in one of his books. I will be using lots of his ingredients except for replacing salt for birds’ nests and adding some yellow curry powder.
Wild game meat like deer or boar from the hunt is cooked with herbs from the jungle, green hot peppers, ground up turmeric root, tamarind, cinnamon bark and black pepper with millet and Edible bird nests (swiftlet nests). In my case in northeast USA some of the ingredients difficult to find like Sri Lankan wild game meat and swiftlet nests. Because of that I decided to do a customization to the original recipe while keeping authenticity of the recipe intact as much as possible, to suit my needs.
Wild game curry of Vedda tribe with Lamb
- 2 lb lamb meat or goat meat
- 15 hot green chilies
- 20 curry leaves
- 1 red onion
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp tamarind paste
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 slice preserved lemon
- 1 inch Stick of Cinnamon
- 2 tbsp Red finger millet or lentil flour
- 1 tsp yellow curry powder
- 1 tsp crushed black pepper
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 cup shredded banana flower
- Crush garlic. Roughly chop onions, green chili, curry leaves, and ginger.
- Place everything except banana flower and millet four in the curry pot
- Add water to cover the pot and cook until meat becomes fall apart tender. keep the heat low.
- When the meat is cooked add shredded banana flowers on top. Cover and cook until banana flowers are cooked through and soft.
- Mix Finger millet flour in half a cup of hot water. Add to the curry and cook covered for additional five minutes until sauce becomes bubbly and thick.