The Sri Lankan Origins of Airfryerable's Hot Balls
Airfryerable’s have a surprising exotic origin story from the tiny island of Sri Lanka 🌴
In Sri Lanka, where I was born, most people ate lunch between 12noon - 1 p.m while dinner was eaten around 7 or 8 p.m. This big gap between lunch and dinner meant that everyone was peckish around mid afternoon.
Who doesn’t love something to eat with their “cuppa” tea around 4 or 5 p.m? The homemakers who just woke up from their nap, the office workers who just came home tired after work and the kids returning from school, all look forward to “tiffin”. The British colonized Sri Lanka for hundreds of years and many practices stayed on even after their departure. So it’s not surprising that ‘tiffin’ is the Sri Lankan version of the British “afternoon tea” where delicate savory and sweet items would be beautifully presented on tiered plates accompanied by pots of tea. Sri Lankan tiffin always incorporated 3 staple savory items: cutlets, patties and rolls and were collectively referred to as “short eats”.
Of the 3, Airfryerable’s Hot Balls are an evolution of the Sri Lankan cutlet.
Cutlets are similar to a potato croquette except they’re also mixed with plenty of meat or fish, onions, green chillies, herbs and spices.
Cutlets were traditionally made fresh on the day when visitors were expected at your house. Every part of the cutlet was made from scratch, because you couldn’t buy anything pre-made in those days! For example, the bread crumbs were made by beating a rolling pin over hand-toasted bread. As you can imagine, cutlets would take several hours to make. I would know, because I’ve been making them since I was 12 years old! You could say I’ve had many years of practice! LOL
When I moved to London, UK I was newly married with a young family. Ironically there was no time for afternoon tea but I continued making fresh cutlets from scratch and simply transitioned them from tiffin short eats to dinner party appetizers.
A few years after living in the UK we moved to Canada and I became a full-time working Mom. I knew very early on that making cutlets on the day that guests were arriving was no longer feasible.
That’s when I began experimenting with making cutlets well ahead, freezing them and having them ready for a quick reheat in the oven on the day of a dinner party. After years of iterations, this approach worked, my guests had no clue they were made from frozen and I had a stash of ready-made cutlets for whenever anyone dropped in or I wanted a quick, savory snack.
Over the years, my kids got tired of the Sri Lankan flavours and although everyone else loved my freezer-to-table cutlets, my children of course wanted other flavours 🙃. This got me experimenting once again. I tried different cuisines, spices and herbs for the fillings and made sure to preserve my signature “freezer-to-oven-ready” attribute.
Just when I had perfected my new flavours, the Airfryer became the ‘must-have’ kitchen appliance. So naturally, I bought one (the biggest one I could find 😂) and tested yet again to perfect my cutlets being reheated in an Airfryer. After another round of iterations, the results proved that the cutlets tasted even better from the Air Fryer than in the oven, and were much faster too!
When my kids moved home during the pandemic, I noticed their eating habits were much more snack-focused and I found them always wanting quick, savory, satisfying snacks throughout the day. That’s when the spark for Airfryerable came to be and I recognized the trusted Sri Lankan cutlet needed to a little rebranding (once again) which resulted in Arifryerable’s Hot Balls - spicy frozen snacks, designed for the air fryer.
Hot balls started off as a tea time snack on the tiny island of Sri Lanka and over several decades has adapted to being an appetizer and now a quick, savory snack all the way in Ottawa, Canada. I’m happy to see this little part of my childhood and culture live on and be appreciated by so many (including the younger generations of my own family). With Airfryerable I’m on a mission to bring exotic spicy flavours to North America and the rest of the world and I’m just getting started!