“Roti is not Roti and Dal is not Dal” is how one would best describe the food from the lankan island. With a stark resemblance in taste with the south indian food, Ceylon offers a palate full of surprises ranging from the humble “kottu” to the delectable “hoppers” and the exotic “lamprais” – its a foodies delight at every corner!
A roti which is not a roti is an apt description of the kottu. Kottu is a meal in itself found at every street corner as a common man’s daily dose of nutrition while gracing the tables of the connoiseurs at high end restaurants as a staple that this country has to offer. The kottu is a roti which is fried and then cut into bit sized pieces which is then mixed with either meat, fish or vegetables as per your choice and served as a plateful with curry sauce that is either poured on the kottu or eaten as a dip. This dish is served at the street corners where one can hear the clanging of the knives and the music of the kottu sellers.
Best Kottu places in Sri Lanka:
Chop Chop Kottu, Colombo, Sri Lanka, +94 114 951 515
Hoppers are the anglised version of an appam but sold as a local food at roadside eateries and push carts – an oxymoron at that! Tourism has however taken the humble appam with a fancy name to the breakfast buffets of almost all star hotels of the lankan coastline, it now has a proud position as a “live station” where different types of hoopers are offered, hot and yummy. One can of course ala carte hoopers any time of the day and night, be it for lunch, tea or dinner!
The plain hoppers are just appams which can be relished with curries of the varied kind be it beef, mutton, prawn or the vegetable istew with coconut milk and cashewnuts. Then the breakfast staple, the “egg hoppers” – a visual delight as well. Its a plain appam into which an egg has been broken, sunny side up. The choice is between a soft egg or a full cooked one with the soft egg winning hands down. The appams at times replaced by clumps of strings which are steamed in idli colanders and again relished with the same set of curries or “sombol” as in Sri Lankan parlance – these are the ubiquitous “string hoppers.” Then you have the hoppers for dessert – a “curd & treacle hopper” which is appam filled with curd curdled from buffalo milk with a dash of treacle which is coconut palm jaggery. Variations and deviations in the fillings of the hoopers are many and awe inspiring – so there are choco chip with vanilla ice cream hoppers and a total vegan hopper with tidbits of carrot, beans and the vegan works!!
Best Hopper places in Sri Lanka :
Kaema Sutra Independence Arcade, Colombo 7 112 670 722
Green Cabin 453, Galle Road, Colombo 3 112 588 811
Upali’s 65, CWW Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo 7 112 695 812
An entire meal – a lump of rice, some meat curry, two meat balls, fried aubergines, plaintains and a dollop of chilli hot shrimp paste all packed in a banana leaf and steamed. That’s the exotic “lamprai” for the uninitiated! Its a throw back of the Dutch legacy that the lankans carry in every nook and corner of their country and culture. The “lamprais” is a gift of the Dutch Burgher community to the lankan foodscape and is one wholesome meal to be relished when visiting the country.
A lump of short grained cooked rice is placed on a banana leaf, then some meat curry either beef or pork (now chicken and mutton) is added next to it along with some brinjal pahe (fried aubergines), fried ash plaintains, seeni sombal (caramelized onion rings), two frikkadels (meat balls) and a final dollop of blachan (chillii shrimp paste) before wrapping all these into a packet and steaming them over hot fires. This process of steaming infuses all the flavours of the various food stuff, spices and condiments included into the rice lump making it a delectable piece of comfort food with an exotic taste and presentation.
The “lamprais” is a piece of fodder catering to the dutch legacy of this island while spicing up the patriotic connections of the people of Sri Lanka.
Best Lamprai places in Sri Lanka:
And the dal in lankan cuisine is not liquid or semi liquid as it is supposed to be, the dal is solid, a sidedish like a vegetable stir fry and served so, a dal which is not dal!!