Memoni Food: An Amalgamation Of Cultures And Places

We are all quite aware with Pao Bhaji, Chole Bhature, Sarson Ka Saag, Biryani, and Nihari, but what about Akni, Masoor Pulao, and Dhokray? You're missing out if you haven't tried these yet. Memon food is unique and utterly delectable, packed with flavour and contrasting textures. A community of just over 6,000 people on an island with nearly 22 million people is the Memoni community. Despite being small, the island's residents are close-knit; they publish their own magazine and work with the Memon Association of Sri Lanka to protect their culture. The families of Memons in Sri Lanka have lived in numerous towns along their travels from Sindh to Gujarat, then on to parts of Sri Lanka and many more regions. As they travelled, they interacted with several groups and civilizations, modifying their own cuisine and eating routines. The Memon households, however, also treasured their culinary traditions. 

Memoni cuisine is significantly dissimilar to Sri Lankan cuisine, even though it may seem familiar to northern Indian and Pakistani cuisines. For example, long grain basmati rice is used in Memon biryani. The majority of Sri Lankans use the smaller grain samba rice to make biryani, which they cook in a pot with spices like curry and pandan leaves and layers of oil before plating with grilled or fried chicken. Memon community prepares their rice with chunks of succulent chicken marinated in curd and spices, potatoes smothered in butter, onion raita, and cilantro. Snacks like beef kebabs and crunchy samosas are served with a cup of masala chai to start Sri Lankan Memoni meals. However, the majority of islanders favour powdered milk tea or simple black tea with sugar. 

The Sindh region of contemporary Pakistan is where the Memons' history begins. Memons of Sri Lanka, a 2016 book by Asiff Hussein and Hameed Karim Bhoja, explains that Memonis are descended from the Sindhi Hindu trade group known as the Lohanas. Many Lohanas converted to Islam in the 15th century in the presence of Muslim kings. According to the book, some Memon families migrated to Gujarat as a result of "converted Memons being persecuted or socially shunned by those who were not in favour of their accepting Islam." 

In their search for profitable trading centres, Memons merchants eventually found Sri Lanka in the 1870s. Early Memons arrived to the island to trade, but some of them decided to make Sri Lanka their permanent home in 1947 during the Partition. The majority of Memons from Sri Lanka work as textile traders. Memon-owned apparel stores may be found lining the streets of Pettah, the busiest bazaar in the nation. 

The majority of Memons who immigrated to Sri Lanka coexisted with Sri Lankan Tamils. They grew close, picked up Tamil language skills, and fell in love with Tamil cuisine. Memoni food has been influenced by a variety of geographical regions and cultural traditions because Memoni families' ancestors crossed the subcontinent as traders. However, in other areas of Gujarat, their forefathers didn't have a lot of meat, so they used pickled fruits and vegetables and dry-climate crops like lentils instead. In the past, people regularly consumed khichdi, a dish comprised of green grams, rice, and vegetables. They consumed ringna no olo as a side dish, which is a Gujarati dish made from charred eggplant. Only on extraordinary occasions did they consume meat. Memons from Sri Lanka also adore pickles. Gajar nu athanu, a popular pickle made from hot carrots, is one example. Another variation combines coriander, chile, garlic paste, and vegetable oil with sun-dried unripe mangoes, green chilies, and bitter gourd. While there isn't any conclusive proof of how khowsuey, a traditional Burmese dish of noodles and gravy, entered Memoni cuisine, Memons think that during their time in Burma as businessmen, their ancestors altered it. Like those from the subcontinent, most Sri Lankan Memons use khadi instead of the dish's typical coconut milk basis.