Hela Bojun Hala is a popular food stall market that was initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2015 at Gannoruwa, Kandy. The main objectives were to produce food free of harmful substances while promoting local produce among the masses, to uplift the economic wellbeing of women in agriculture and thus helping to boost the economy of the country.
The Hela Bojun outlets are under the Women’s Agriculture Extension Programme. Through this program, local women are recruited taking into consideration their existing knowledge about food, their hygiene and the need of financial assistance. Afterwards, they are given an extensive training on food preparation, keeping good hygiene, financial and customer management. This program has proven to be a great success from the start with the general public enjoying the substance free local food that is made fresh every day and can be bought for extremely affordable prices. The most notable achievement of this project is the empowerment of the women, this project gave opportunities for women to develop new skills and become entrepreneurs. The friendliness and enthusiasm of the women working in these outlets are like a breath of fresh air and you can witness how dedicated they are in the preparation of food and keeping it fresh and clean.
Food and Drinks
These outlets only offer local food fare that are free of wheat flour and focuses mainly on local paddy varieties, seeds and vegetables such as kurakkan, rice flour, corn, manioc products, kos products and soups and drinks made from beli mal and other greens that have medicinal values such as gotukola. They also have a range of traditional sweetmeats made out of healthier ingredients like unduwel (whichi is pani walalu made of undu flour), lawariya and mung kawum.
If you need something heartier for a main meal you can find string hoppers, hoppers, thosa, pittu and, kottu made from manioc, jackfruit, string hoppers and whatever new and healthier substitute that these women would come up with.
The Meatless Monday Sri Lanka team visited the Hela Bojun hala at Battaramulla, which is situated next to the Forest Department. It was lunch hour on a week day and the outlet was buzzing with customers having lunch and people coming into buy the various sweet food or fast food such as ulundu wadei, cowpea wadei and other popular short eats that are traditionally made using a meat item but here at Hela Bojun they’ve innovatively used various vegetables to successfully substitute the meat fillings.
After going around the outlet checking out the various produce available at the time, we ordered a portion of kurakkan pittu (Rs.50) and manioc kottu (Rs.50); and a vegetable pattis (Rs.25) and polos cutlet (Rs.25) to accompany it.
All food is prepared and made right at the spot, so everything is fresh and straight off the pan. The kurakkan pittu was served with a bit of coconut milk mixed with salt (pol kiri) and a katta sambola. There was also another white coconut curry with manioc and banana blossom. The pittu was soft and well-seasoned and although the meal was light, it was wholesome and delicious. The pittu had little surprises such as tiny pieces of carrots and kathurumurunga leaves, which added an extra flavour to the dish.
The manioc kottu was an instant hit. It is manioc boiled and then tempered with carrots, leeks, curry leaves and chillies. The boiled manioc was soft and was well flavoured from all the different ingredients mixed in it. It had a nice spicy kick to it and was very filling.
The vegetable pattis had a vegetarian filling which was tasty. It was hot from the pan so both the pattis and cutlet were crunchy, which was pleasant. The filling of the cutlet was made of polos but since it was really nicely made and seasoned it did not remind us of the absence of fish.
For drinks we ordered passion fruit and wood apple juice (Rs.50 each). Both juices were lovely and refreshing and not too sugary. We also ordered a Belimal drink (Rs.20) that came with a piece of jaggery as customary. Belimal is high in nutritious values that helps relieve heart burn indigestion, control gastric hyper-acidity and gives fresh breath.
There was a variety of traditional sweetmeats available in the outlet so for dessert we decided on trying out the unduwel (pani walalu), lawariya and mung kawum (Rs. 20 each). Everything was hot and fresh and since they are all made from fresh ingredients the flavours and textures were spot on. The unduwel and mung kawum were crunchy and the lawariya was soft as it should be, with the sweetness of the kithul treacle not too overpowering.
Keeping true to the vision of making healthy food affordable, the highest price tag is Rs.50, with sweetmeats being Rs.20 each. We enjoyed a full meal complete with drinks and sweetmeats for less than Rs. 300.
The outlet also tries to reduce their plastic and polythene use by using porcelain plates and kanda leaves as sheets to wrap the food.
It is evident from the endless customers to the outlet that the Hela Bojun Hala concept of promoting traditional local food at affordable prices while engaging local women to become productive entrepreneurs, has become a huge success.
So wherever you might be, in Colombo or out station, you will always find a Hela Bojun Hala nearby your vicinity; if so don’t forget to get your traditional local vegetarian food fare, free of harmful substances, at very affordable prices.