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Rising Stars: Meet Buddhima Kurulasuriya & Tanisha Panditharatne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Buddhima Kurulasuriya & Tanisha Panditharatne.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
We are a group of friends, mostly Sri Lankan, who met in Austin in 2017. Invariably we would talk about home, with the conversations usually involving the food we missed so much. We were inspired to start Sleeping Lion after noticing the lack of Sri Lankan food in Austin. Given our shared love for cooking (and eating… and drinking), we decided to give it a shot. We started making traditional and fusion dishes and our friends were our guinea pigs. The positive reviews (and the fact that no one died) motivated us to go further. We toyed with the idea of a food truck but opted against it since we wanted it to be personal and more of an experience where people could participate in prep, tasting and hearing our stories.

We enjoyed the human connection, storytelling and sharing of flavors at our initial ‘test gatherings’ and wanted to replicate that with a broader audience. We decided to host intimate dining experiences curated in collaboration with the host. Dining experiences can contain anything from cocktails to starters to mains to desserts. One could participate in the prep or simply sit back and enjoy our creations.

Locally sourcing as many ingredients as we can (e.g., produce from Austin and spices from the island), we strive to make as many components as possible from scratch, including pastas, breads, butters, chutneys, etc. Our experience with cuisines from around the world allows us to fuse Sri Lankan dishes with more familiar ingredients and foods. Our culinary experiments have resulted in coconut roti tacos, a Sri Lankan take on mac and cheese (aptly called “crack and cheese”), Mexican peppers in island curries, blowtorched vegetarian sushi rolls and a few amazing dishes that existed in a moment (i.e., unrepeatable!). We cook and eat with all five senses. The sounds, smells, colors, and textures, transform our dining experiences into a multisensory adventure. It’s all part of our tropical flavor experience!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Sleeping Lion started as a fun side-project for each of us. Given our other full-time commitments, the time we were able to allocate to Sleeping Lion was and is limited. However, keeping it as a side-project allows us to continue having fun with the experiences we provide. It’s less of a mundane job and more of a point in our busy schedules at which we’re able to take a breather, cook with love, meet people, and share our stories.

Austin has a growing food scene and we hope to dive deeper into it as we move into safer times. Our experiences paused with Covid.

We look forward to coming back with safer experiences in 2021/2022. Reach out to us on Instagram if you’d like to host a Sleeping Lion flavor experience!

What were you like growing up?
We didn’t know each other back then – a majority of us grew up in Sri Lanka, a tiny island nation in the South Asian subcontinent. Being a tropical island on a major historical trade route, we were blessed with a multitude of delicious and healthy vegetables, fruits, grains, roots, herbs, and spices. The knowledge of where to find them and what to do with them was passed down through the generations. Prepping, cooking, and eating food was very much a part of our communal culture – we all participated in the kitchen to some capacity from the time we were toddlers.

In our experience living and traveling abroad (e.g., Oman, Singapore, Europe, US), we were pushed in different ways to feed ourselves and our friends the best we could using available ingredients in creative ways. You can take the Sri Lankan out of the island, but you can’t take the island out of the Sri Lankan – it’s true. Invariably we all figured out ways to create Sri Lankan-inspired dishes in our different parts of the world. Fast forward to today and we’re doing exactly that with Sleeping Lion, this time in Austin, Texas!

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Image Credits:

Buddhima K

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