Anyone who’s spent any time in Sri Lanka will have seen the ubiquitous meekiri (buffalo curd) stalls by the side of the road – tables groaning with clay pots containing the delicious yogurty dessert, usually served with coconut syrup or honey to sweeten it. It’s arguably Sri Lanka’s national dish, and a hangover from the days before refrigeration, when fermenting milk was the best way to keep it fresh.
On my recent trip to Sri Lanka I spent a morning at a buffalo farm in Tissa (near Yala), learning about buffalo farming and meeting one of the families who make meekiri. Here’s my story.
The family home is on a large plot of land next to a lake, which provides a suitable amount of pasture, drinking water and wallowing mud for the buffalo.
Every day, Mr Jinadasa gets up with the sun to start milking the buffalos. Normally he gets enough milk for five large pots of curd, but on the day I visited there was a large number of newborns on the farm and the mothers were producing more milk than usual, so he was able to gather enough for ten pots.
The milking done, Jinadasa’s wife & daughter take over the curd fermentation process by boiling and aerating the milk. The job is done over a wood fire in a poorly ventilated room and the smoke is choking, but it doesn’t seem to bother them! Meanwhile, Jindasa finally gets to eat breakfast.
Finally Jinadasa’s daughter Sudath pours the milk into clay pots, from a height so air bubbles form in the curd to give it its unique texture. Once it has set it will be taken to the roadside to be sold. One pot fetches around $1, but by welcoming tourists to their farm for a couple of hours the family can more than double their daily income – essential at a time when Sri Lanka’s inflation rate is so high and living costs are increasing daily.