• Mike Sula
  • Brinjal moju, innala curry, Sinhalese pickle

Let’s say you recently arrived in Chicago from Sri Lanka. You’re here for school, or work, or just to get the hell away from whatever unspeakable horrors warring parties have inflicted on your homeland. With only a couple thousand or so of your countrymen here, there aren’t too many community groups to bring you together, and certainly no restaurants where you can gather and feel a little more comfortable in your skin. And if you can’t cook because you’re too busy working, or you’re just disinclined, what are you going to do to give yourself a taste of home?

You were pretty much on your own up until three months ago, when Mohammed Izmi opened Rio Mart, a tiny Sri Lankan grocery store* just south of Devon on Oakley, next door to Best Naan. Izmi carries a small, typical selection of Indo-Pak nonperishables, but it’s two large shelving units stocked with purely Sri Lankan goods that are going to ease your homesickness. Those include pickles, vegetables, dried fish-powered or vegetable-based curries, soy-based meat substitutes, and canned fruits and vegetables, such as sweet and creamy wood apple pulp, which kind of tastes like a cross between coconut and tamarind.