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Sri Lankan fare makes regional debut at festival

Mary Ann Thomas
| Saturday, June 27, 2015, 11:27 p.m.
Yvonne Jungle of Butler and originally Brackenridge serves herself fried potatoes and Wambatu Moju deep fried eggplant at the Sri Lankan food festival at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Harrison on Saturday, June 27, 2015.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Yvonne Jungle of Butler and originally Brackenridge serves herself fried potatoes and Wambatu Moju deep fried eggplant at the Sri Lankan food festival at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Harrison on Saturday, June 27, 2015.
Sanjaka Malinda, of Shadyside makes hoppers, a combination of rice flour and eggs, for the Sri Lankan food festival at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Harrison on Saturday, June 27, 2015.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Sanjaka Malinda, of Shadyside makes hoppers, a combination of rice flour and eggs, for the Sri Lankan food festival at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Harrison on Saturday, June 27, 2015.

Opening its doors and its cuisine to the public, the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center in Harrison offered a smorgasbord of Sri Lankan vegetarian delights for its first food festival Saturday.

The center, on Route 908, is home to three monks from Sri Lanka who practice Theravada Buddhism, the predominant religion in Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand.

Even the rain couldn't keep more than 100 patrons — members of the Sri Lankan community and Pittsburgh foodies — from filling the parking lot of the Buddhist temple and its tables under a tent.

“We are so glad that everyone came out,” said one of the monks, Bhante Pemaratana.

Organizers believe Saturday's event is likely the first food festival in the region devoted to Sri Lankan cuisine.

The meal featured curried foods, four varieties of rice, chickpeas and hoppers — an egg cooked in a shell of rice flower and coconut milk. Dhal curry made from red lentils and cooked in coconut milk also was served.

“We wanted to let people know how to experience and cook this vegetarian food,” Pemaratana said. A cookbook of recipes from the Sri Lankan community was offered.

Donnie Pomeroy of East Liberty, a volunteer with the temple, helped organize the inaugural food festival, a fundraiser for the temple.

“Sri Lanka food is spicy but amazing vegetarian food,” she said.

Besides sharing the vegetarian cuisine, Pomeroy said the event introduced the monks to the community.

“These are kind, respectful people,” he said.

Given the success of Saturday's festival, Pomeroy said the temple would like to offer another similar event later in the year.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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