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Two centuries tick by on Dockyard clock

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The Belfry Gate of the Trincomalee Naval Dockyard, a national architectural monument, is unknown to many. The once twin-towered belfry is now a single tower with its twin long gone. It has served as loyal timekeeper for sailors in the dockyard for 200 years and continues to do so

by Randima Attygalle

The strategically located natural deep water harbour in Trincomalee has been coveted by traders and colonists since ancient times. The earliest reference to this port of call once known as ‘Gokanna’ is found in Mahavamsa – the great chronicle of Sri Lanka. During the colonial days, Trincomalee or Trinco as it’s commonly called, was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British. The fort which was built by the Portuguese to keep rival sea faring nations at bay was expanded by the Dutch.

The British captured Trincomalee from the Dutch in 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars. Under the Treaty of Amiens of 1802, the Dutch ceded Ceylon to the British. H.A Colgate in his, The Royal Navy and Trincomalee- the history of their connection (The Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1) documents that ‘in the days of sail, Trincomalee owed its importance to the variations of the monsoon, the prevailing winds in the Indian Ocean. A squadron defending India had to lie to the windward of the continent. It also required a safe harbour in which to shelter during the violent weather occasioned by the change of the monsoons in October and to a less extent in April. Only Trincomalee could fulfill these conditions. Thus its use was the key to the defence of India and the inestimably valuable British trade with India and China, which passed through the adjacent seas.’

The British used Trinco as an anchorage for Royal Navy ships in the Indian Ocean and when the steam powered ships were launched, the Royal Navy erected a coaling station to support bases throughout the British empire. Lieutenant Commander (Rtd) Somasiri Devendra, an authority on maritime archaeology, says that the Royal Navy constructed all its dockyard-related buildings along the coastline at the entrance to the port.

“The buildings were completed by 1812 and soon after this, the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars ended the threat to the Royal Navy from the French and the Dutch and the expansion of the dockyard was halted. Trincomalee became a backwater for most of the 19th Century with its major role being that of a coaling station. Coal was stored in bulk on old ships at anchor known as coaling hulks.”

Devendra explains that all buildings within the dockyard premises were accessed through the gates popularly known as Belfry Gates. These with their twin towers were built by the British in 1821. Only one tower remains today. The exact reason for the demolition of the twin and when it was done is not established. It is presumed that one of the towers was demolished when roads were being widened for heavier traffic. “This must have been somewhere between the first and the second World Wars,” says Devendra.

Most of the civilian labour working for the Navy lived outside the dockyard and the bell possibly would have been rung to mark the time of opening and closing of the gate, he said.

“The large house near the dockyard gate known as as Belfry House in which I once lived is now two houses,” he recollects. The belfry gate stands where three roads meet, marked by a traffic light believed to be the first in the country. The lights that still work well were probably needed to manage and ensure the safety of numerous vehicles carrying building material, ammunition, artillery, spare parts, and sailors and soldiers who were busy fortifying the naval dockyard and attending to the needs of ships and craft anchored in the harbour.

“When I got my driving license, there was only one set of traffic lights in Colombo – at the Kollupitiya junction. So the Trinco traffic light is probably the first in the country,” says Devendra. He adds that one of the roads controlled by these lights goes uphill to the Dutch Fort Ostenburg where the Dockyard Signal Station was situated. “It’s a steep road through forest and made of concrete, supposedly the first such road built here.”

Those who served in the Dockyard remember the belfry very well. “Traditionally, when naval officers who long served there are transferred they’re presented a replica of this landmark for display in their homes to remember their time at the dockyard,” says Rear Admiral (Rtd) Niraja Attygalle who had served many years there during his naval career.

“Two hundred years is certainly a long period for a clock to tick giving the accurate time for men in white and men in overalls in workshops as well as for naval civilian workers in the dockyard. Also, the gear mechanism and electrical circuits of the traffic lights still work perfectly.”

The responsibility of maintaining both the belfry clock and traffic lights lie with the technical staff of the dockyard and their work needs to be appreciated, says Attygalle. “Even though the original bell has not rung for years to ensure its conservation, a smaller version has taken over that duty. The quartermaster of today’s Navy Dock, standing in the shadow of the belfry, announces the time by ringing the bell as done onboard on a man-o’-war,” he says.

Although unknown to many, the Naval Dockyard Belfry which marks its bicentennial this year (its exact date of unveiling is unknown) is an iconic landmark. “This unique structure reflecting British architecture during the occupation of the Dockyard by the Royal Navy must be acknowledged for its 200-year history as part and parcel of the Dockyard fraternity,” reflects Deputy Area Commander (East), Rear Admiral Anura Danapala. “Every single Naval Officer and sailor serving today and those who have retired will undoubtedly recall with sentimental pride, the unique service the belfry has rendered over two centuries.”

“The belfy had been the timekeeper for the naval fraternity in the dockyard and may it continue to serve for several more centuries,” says the officer.

(Pic credit: Somasiri Devendra, Niraja Attygalle)



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Peanuts good to keep heart healthy

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The peanut, also known as the groundnut, goober, pindar or monkey nut, is a legume crop grown mainly for its edible seeds. It is widely grown in the tropics and subtropics, important to both small and large commercial producers. It is classified as both a grain legume and, due to its high oil content, an oil crop. Wikipedia

Scientific name: Arachis hypogaea

Health Benefits of Peanuts

Surprisingly, peanuts are not actually in the nut family. They are classified as legumes along with foods like green peas, soybeans, and lentils. The peanut plant likely originated in South America in Brazil or Peru. Scientists have found 3,500-year-old pottery in the shape of peanuts, as well as decorated with peanuts, in South America.

Peanuts grow below ground as the fruit of the peanut plant. In the early 1800s, Americans started growing peanuts as a commercial crop. On average, Americans eat more than 6 pounds of peanuts per year. Today, 50% of the peanuts eaten in the United States are consumed in the form of peanut butter.

Health Benefits

Many people believe the peanut is not as nutritionally valuable as true nuts like almonds, walnuts, or cashews. But actually, peanuts have many of the same health benefits as the more expensive nuts and should not be overlooked as a nutritious food.

Heart Health

Much attention has been paid to walnuts and almonds as “heart-healthy” foods, given their high content of unsaturated fats. But research suggests that peanuts are every bit as good for heart health as more expensive nuts.

Peanuts help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. They can also stop small blood clots from forming and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Weight Loss

Foods with a lot of protein can help you feel full with fewer calories. And among nuts, peanuts are second only to almonds when it comes to protein count. Studies have shown that people who include a moderate amount of peanuts in their diet will not gain weight from peanuts. In fact, peanuts could help them lose weight.

Longer Life Span

Eating peanuts might help you live longer too. A large-scale study found that people who regularly ate any kind of nuts (including peanuts) were less likely to die of any cause than were people who rarely ate nuts.

Because the study was observational, it cannot prove that peanuts were exactly what caused the lower death rates, but they are definitely associated with them.

Lower Diabetes Risk

Peanuts are a low-glycemic food, which means that eating them won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that eating peanuts can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

Reduce Inflammation

Peanuts are a good source of fiber, which helps reduce inflammation throughout your body as well as aids your digestive system.

Cancer Prevention

Research has demonstrated that for older people, eating peanut butter may help lower the risk of developing a certain type of stomach cancer called gastric non cardia adenocarcinoma.

Nutrition

Peanuts are rich in protein, fat, and fiber. While peanuts may have a large amount of fat, most of the fats they contain are known as “good fats.” These kinds of fats actually help lower your cholesterol levels.

Peanuts are also an excellent source of:

= Magnesium

= Folate

= Vitamin E

= Copper

= Arginine

= Nutrients per Serving

A ¼ cup serving of raw peanuts contains:

= Calories: 207

= Protein: 9 grams

= Fat: 18 grams

= Carbohydrates: 6 grams

= Protein: 9 grams

= Fiber: 3 grams

= Sugar: 1 gram

Things to Watch Out For

While peanuts are healthy foods, not everyone can enjoy them. An allergy to peanuts is the most common food allergy in the United States, causing the majority of all food-allergy-related deaths.

A mild peanut allergy shows symptoms like itchy hives, nausea, or swelling of the face. However, a severe peanut allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include trouble breathing; a change in alertness; nausea; vomiting; seizure; chest pain; swelling of the tongue, face, or lips; extreme drowsiness; and feeling dizzy, confused, or light-headed.

It’s important to talk to a doctor if you experience any uncomfortable feelings while eating peanuts.

– BBC

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Authentic Pakistani restaurant

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Khayaban stands out for it’s aromatic and sometimes spicy flavours. The all-new authentic Pakistani restaurant, located at Food Studio at the lower ground floor of the One Galle Face Mall, is now home to the rich flavors of Pakistani cuisine.

Pakistani cuisine can be characterized by a blend of various regional cooking traditions from South Asia,  Central  and Western Asia, as well as elements from its Mughal legacy. The country’s various cuisines are derived from its ethnic and cultural diversity.

Some of the dishes available are Karachi Buriyani, varieties of naan and rotties. The relishing buriyani which is considered to be the king of South Asian cuisine and a loved-by-all dish is very popular dish made by Pakistani chefs.. Brought by migrants from India, people who would come to be called Muhajirs, Biriyani was once a dish for royalty. In the decades that followed, it took on a life of its own. border

Yet another exiting dish served happens to be Pulao Rice. In each of the regions that make up the land, the less elaborate rice dish has historically been more popular. Plainer than buriyani, in Pakistan, Pulao is cooked with basmati rice and meat, usually either mutton or beef, and an array of spices including coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, cloves, and others. And this style of Pulao is often embellished with sliced carrots, almonds, and raisins, fried in a sweet syrup. The restaurant also serves a variety of unique curries and dishes such as Tikka, Malai boti, Reshmi Kebabs and Makhini Handi as the perfect accompaniment to your meal!

Khayaban is yet another unique product of FS Culinary Concepts brand which is a part of Food Studio – the food court at One Galle Face. Khayaban is now open to the public at the One Galleface Mall for both dine-in and takeaway. Visit Khayaban for a uniquely Pakistani experience unlike any other.

FOOD STUDIO

Introduced to Sri Lanka through the high-end shopping malls of Colombo’s most prestigious mixed-use development projects, Food Studio is more than simply a food court, the Food Studio experience begins from the moment customers enter the sweeping market-style layout, with specially designed seating areas and thematic installations that adds a certain aura to the display of flavours. Our patrons are treated to a mouth-watering array of cuisines, many of which are plated up by Sri Lankan homegrown brands.

Food Studio is always specially laid out to bring together the right mix of eateries, with the tastiest ranging from the adventurous to the nostalgic, from street food to fine dining, and from East Asian sushi to artisanal gelato. Under one roof, customers can be assured of quality, variety, affordability and comfort.

www.foodstudio.lk
Pix by Nishendra Silva

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The truth about Japanese tempura

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When 16th-Century Portuguese came to Japan, they brought a special dish with them. Today, in Japan, it’s called tempura and has been a staple of the country’s cuisine ever since.

In 1543, a Chinese ship with three Portuguese sailors on board was headed to Macau, but was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. Antonio da Mota, Francisco Zeimoto and Antonio Peixoto – the first Europeans to ever step on Japanese soil – were deemed ‘southern barbarians’ by the locals because of the direction from which they came and their ‘unusual’, non-Japanese features.

The Japanese were in the middle of a civil war and eventually began trading with the Portuguese, in general, for guns. And thus began a Portuguese trading post in Japan, starting with firearms and then other items such as soap, tobacco, wool and even recipes.

The Portuguese remained in Japan until 1639, when they were banished because the ruling shogun Iemitsu believed Christianity was a threat to Japanese society. As their ships sailed away for the final time, the Portuguese left an indelible mark on the island: a battered and fried green bean recipe called peixinhos da horta. Today, in Japan, it’s called tempura and has been a staple of the country’s cuisine ever since.

No-one knows the exact origins of peixinhos da horta. “We know it existed in 1543,” said Michelin-starred chef Jose Avillez when I met up with him at Cantinho de Avillez, one of his acclaimed Lisbon restaurants. “But before that, it’s anyone’s guess.”

Green beans, it turns out, changed food history.

However, peixinhos da horta was only one of many dishes the Portuguese inspired around the world. In fact, Portuguese cuisine, still heavily overshadowed by the cuisines of Italy, Spain and France, may be the most influential cuisine on the planet.

Portuguese cuisine may be the most influential cuisine on the planet

When the Portuguese turned up in Goa, India, where they stayed until 1961, they cooked a garlicky, wine-spiked pork dish called carne de vinha d’alhos, which was adopted by locals to become vindaloo, one of the most popular Indian dishes today.

In Malaysia, several staples, including the spicy stew debal, hail from Portuguese traders of centuries past. Egg tarts in Macao and southern China are direct descendants to the egg tarts found in Lisbon bakeries. And Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, a stew with beans and pork, has its origins in the northern Portuguese region of Minho; today, you can find variations of it everywhere the Portuguese have sailed, including Goa, Mozambique, Angola, Macau and Cape Verde.

Peixinhos da horta were often eaten during Lent or Ember days

(the word ‘tempura’ comes from the Latin word tempora, a term referring to these times of fasting), when the church dictated that Catholics go meatless.

“So the way around that,” Avillez said, “[was] to batter and fry a vegetable, like the green bean. And just to add to it, we called it peixinhos do horta, little fish of the garden. If you can’t eat meat for that period of time, this was a good replacement.”

The word ‘tempura’ comes from the Latin word tempora

And it had other functions too. “When the poor couldn’t afford fish, they would eat these fried green beans as a substitute,” Avillez said. And sailors would fry the beans to preserve them during long journeys, much in the way humans have been curing and salting meat for preservation purposes for centuries.

Perhaps not constricted by tradition, the Japanese lightened the batter and changed up the fillings. Today, everything from shrimp to sweet potatoes to shitake mushrooms is turned into tempura.

“The Japanese inherited the dish from us and they made it better,” Avillez said.

Avillez said Japanese people sometimes turn up at his restaurants and see the fried bean dish and say, “Hey, Portuguese cuisine is influenced by Japanese cuisine.” He added, “And that’s when I say, ‘No, in this case it’s the other way around’.” A Japanese-born sous chef at Avillez’s two-Michelin-starred Lisbon restaurant, Belcanto, even chose to train in Portugal instead of France because he recognized the influence on his home cuisine, particularly in peixinhos da horta.

Avillez said his one complaint about the dish, in general, has always been that the beans are often fried in the morning and so they go cold and limp by the time they get to the table later that day. He remedies this by not only cooking them on demand, but by adding a starch called nutrios that keeps them crispy. After the bean is blanched, it gets rolled in the batter of wheat flour, egg, milk, and nutrios and then flash fried.

Other chefs I talked to in Portugal had their own recipes for the fried green beans, but they didn’t deviate much. “It’s a very simple dish,” said chef Olivier da Costa, when I met up with him at his Lisbon restaurant Olivier Avenida, located in the Avani Avenida Liberdade hotel.

“I use a batter of flour, milk, eggs, salt, pepper and beer,” he said. “Beer?” I asked. “Yes! It ferments the batter and the beer foam gives it a better taste.” He didn’t have the dish on his menu at the time so I had to take his word for it.

One reason why Portuguese love peixinhos da horta so much, da Costa said, was nostalgia. “We all eat it as children and thus have fond memories of it. These days it’s been making a comeback, not just because people are eating more vegetarian food, but because a younger generation are taking more interest in our local cuisine and because they want to be taken back to that simpler time.”

Avillez is taking this newfound interest in super traditional Portuguese cuisine to a new level. Along with his Japanese-born sous chef, he plans to temporarily offer a tasting menu called ‘1543’, the year the Portuguese first showed up in Japan, offering peixinhos da horta and other Portuguese dishes that have inspired Japanese cuisine. Alongside the Portuguese dishes, he plans to serve the Japanese versions that evolved from the Portuguese presence in Japan four-and-a-half centuries ago.

Each bite was like taking a first bite

Back at Cantinho de Avillez, an order of peixinhos da horta appeared in front of me. They were rigid like pencils with a lumpy texture and a yellow-ish hue. Each bite was like taking a first bite: crisp, light and super flavourful, the crunchy texture of the batter complimenting the sturdy feel of the bean. The dish has been one of the only consistent items on the menu at Cantinho de Avillez, which opened in 2012.

“I can’t take it off,” Avillez said. “My regulars would be enraged.” (BBC)

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