The Beach House's Best Hidden Secret

They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, that’s true. Not just for men, though. Women like to eat good food, too! Luckily for Jasmine Beach House, owner-operator extraordinaire Batta is an amazing cook! His home cooked meals are probably the number one reason guests stay longer than planned and even return for a second visit before leaving the island.

Batta cooks fresh meals daily to order based on seasonal offerings and the catch of the day. During lobster season, we offer lobster caught at the rocky point at the end of our beach. Batta sautés halved lobster in the shell in a delicious sweet chili garlic sauce with lime juice. He serves it with Sri Lankan egg noodles that are seasoned with turmeric and fried with carrots and leeks. It’s an mouth watering combination with a very colorful palate!

The lobster men go out with their inner tubes in the evening at sunset to drop their nets. They mark the nets with buoys. Early in the morning just before sunrise they return to lift the nets and discover their catch. We are their first customers. We usually serve them for dinner but we have been known to serve lobster for brunch!

I was vegetarian for many years, but after living on the beach I am now pescatarian. The fish is amazingly fresh and delicious and such a part of the local cuisine. Fish curries, dried fish fried with caramelized onions, grilled fish, shell fish, it’s all in such abundance along the coast of Sri Lanka. And each region has its own recipes and delicacies. Here in Matara, the down south blackened fish curry is the local specialty.

However, because I am a Buddhist and refrain from taking life when possible, I am very aware of my fish consumption and try to be mindful of it. A great Tibetan Buddhist yogi named Chatral Rinpoche always taught the importance of refraining from eating meat and taking life. He always ransomed the life of fish being sold at the market and released them back into the ocean. Many Tibetan Buddhist practitioners follow suit. So once a season I like to buy all the lobster and crab caught in one of the fisherman’s nets that day and carry them back to the rocky point to release them back into the salt water. The fisherman is always confused, wondering why I’m buying them to release them back into the water just to be caught again the next day. But it makes me feel good to know that these ocean creatures have another day of freedom and life. And I dedicate the merit of this good action to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. This is our animal liberation and life release practice at the beach.

We will be posting some recipes here on the blog in case you are curious to try cooking Sri Lankan food yourself at home. The recipe for Sri Lankan Noodles and Sautéed Lobster will be posted here soon!

Jessica Palden
Never A Dull Moment

Anyone who has spent time in Asia or in developing countries knows to expect the unexpected. In the Western world, routine and schedule reign supreme. So for most expats and travelers from developed countries, a thirst for the spontaneity and adventure is what drives them to spend time abroad in places such as Sri Lanka.

Of course Sri Lanka attracts people by its tropical climate, gorgeous beaches, lush hill country and amazing wildlife. But at the heart of its attraction is the wonder and surprise that comes with never knowing quite what the day will bring. Even without planning an excursion to a safari, a surf break, a tea plantation or one of the many cultural landmarks, never a day goes by in Sri Lanka when something interesting or unexpected doesn’t happen. Many a day I have spent at the beach house with no plans or ideas to have an extraordinary experience, but inevitably every day always gifts me with some wonderful surprise.

I came across this photo in my phone’s photo gallery and decided to write about it as an example of the extraordinary that happens on any given day at the beach house. I think I had just returned from a trip to the market in Matara to find a monkey in the garden. Batta welcomed me home and said, “We’ve been expecting you. Look who’s here to meet you!” The little Rhesus monkey jumped up onto my shoulder and started to climb all over me like I was a tree. It was the oddest feeling as I’ve never touched a monkey before let alone been crawled all over by one!

I’ve spent lots of time around wild monkeys all over Asia, and know to keep my distance. They can be really vicious, actually. Especially the ones I encountered during the year I lived Dharamsala, India. Any time I came across their path I made sure to avoid eye contact and keep as much distance as possible. They are notorious thieves and are often aggressive if they feel any threat to their territory.

But this monkey on my shoulder was a trained monkey. It was on a leash although it’s owner wasn’t keeping hold. It wore hot pink cotton pants and a cute plastic beaded necklace. I’m not certain if it was a male or female. But it seemed to really like me or at least the carbonated beverage I was holding in my hand. As it continued to crawl all over me I was really intrigued by the way it used its tail for balance. It was as if its tail was a fifth appendage. Its movements were amazingly quick and its eyes darted here and there at a dizzying pace.

The monkey’s owner and Batta laughed at my reactions and told me that the monkey wanted to be my baby. Just as they said that the monkey crawled into my arms to be cradled like an infant. It was the oddest thing. Like it was part of the act and training. It grabbed the soda can from my hand and held it like a human and started to drink. I felt like a mother giving a milk bottle to her baby!

While the monkey continued to enjoy my beverage, I noticed a couple of round woven straw baskets on the ground next to the monkey’s trainer. I asked what was inside and he opened one up to reveal a cobra inside! It was tightly spiraled in the basket and lifted its hooded head up into the air. I was very nervous to be so close to a cobra and quickly jumped behind Batta for protection. But the trainer explained the snake could not leave the basket. It’s body was too tightly coiled inside. I asked how they can stay like that all day in a basket. He explained that when they get home he takes them out and lets them free to move in their boxes.

The trainer had a government issued cultural entertainer ID card. He showed it to me proudly. I’d seen one of those before from a Sadu Baba who sometimes visits our place. I suppose its the government’s attempt to support and regulate the work of such folks and by doing so prevent charlatans. I have mixed feelings about wild animal captivity and their use for entertainment so I was a bit dismayed when it was time to tip the trainer. But the animals seemed content and well cared for so I wanted to support what felt like a happy family of an usual sort.

Batta did a great job capturing my joy and surprise on camera. I don’t think I have any other photo of myself with such a huge smile on my face! I can’t promise that you will get the opportunity to hold a monkey at our beach house, but I can promise that something interesting will happen… I just can’t say what!

Jessica Palden
Welcome to the Beach House Blog!

It’s mid-October and the monsoon season is ending which means that the waves are starting to become clean and clear and the surfers are starting to return to the South Coast. Here at Jasmine Beach House we are excited to start our second season! We hope you will come visit us soon— we’ve developed our place considerably during the off season. We have planted a beautiful carpet of Malaysian grass in the garden, laid a brick patio under the almond, mangrove and king coconut trees and poured a cement slab for yoga sessions. All with an ocean view!

We are really excited to open the Battalanka showroom and surf shop. It’s under construction right now and we have bought our first round of inventory. Batta will take orders for custom made boards as well as rent and repair decks. We will sell wax, fins, leashes, pads, combs, keys, stickers, bags, caps, tee shirts, board shorts, and more! We are really happy to be the first surf shop in Matara and super stoked to launch Battalanka’s surf boards into the water!

So get stoked to come stay at our place this coming season and join us in the waves. We can’t wait to host you!