2019 Nov 4
We Indians are very proud (and if I may add, a bit snooty) about our street food. Why not! It is, in fact, the most clichéd and quintessential thing to do in India. That doesn’t mean other places are devoid of it. Take Thailand, Vietnam or Malaysia for example, they are honorary emeritus of the Street Food Paradise. I am talking of people dedicatedly making trips for the food of their streets! Not only that, the ever bureaucratic and crème de la crème Michelin has stepped foot onto these streets and awarded them a bright twinkling Michelin Star!
Of course! I know what’s going on in your mind. You must be saying, “But Colombo also has great street food, I mean, come on, Isso Vade across the Galle Face Green, Kottu in every nook and corner of the street and what about the delicious Maggi trucks? We have got it all!” Yes, we do! And we have got more than that. A usual tourist in Colombo would mark his itinerary with a mandatory trip to Galle Face Green or the older streets of Colombo to eat all the Egg Hoppers, Dolphin Kottu or Isso Vade, however, what most tourists are completely aloof of is the humble Hulftsdorp Road or Aluth Kade!
The nocturnal paradise of Colombo is quaintly tucked in the centre of the bustling city, guarded by the old world quarters of the street. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, I feel bad for you because this is not the place for you. All my carnivorous brothers and sisters can rejoice for meat is what Aluth Kade is meant for. Anyone who has travelled to Bombay knows about Muhammed Ali Road, the alleged meat street of Mumbai, however, Hulftsdorp Road takes the cake away, uh, I mean the meat away any day! As you walk down the street at around midnight, things are just prepping for the best. There is a lot of grease, oil, fat and tallow going into the food but is that stopping me anyway? Fat is flavour!
I started with the more common Bittara Roti or wheat roti (flatbread) stuffed with egg and shallow fried in oil (a touch of beef fat makes it way more tastier), the deep-fried fish, beef curry and quickly moved to more adventurous and exotic stuff like Beef Marrow Curry, Beef Lungs Fry, Cuttle Fish Roe Curry and some good Parotta!
Cuttlefish Roe? Are you kidding me? The ever-inquisitive shopkeeper hailing from the Moor community hushed me as to not get surprised but try it out either way. He was the exotic street food concierge for me.
There was boiling curry and flavour brewing in every vessel, but he was interested in showing me the premium stuff. “This, my friend, is beef marrow curry and there we have some fried beef lungs, some beef liver fry and I also recommend some Mani Puttu”.
Sitting in the corner table, I expected a plush marrow scoop to accompany the beef bone along with some cutlery. The Beef Bone was humongous and my friend quickly signalled me to wash my hands because the game was only about to begin. Smothered with a shiny layer of adipose freshly rendered from the shanks of beef, the curry was rich and buttery and matched perfectly with the delicious Bittara Roti. The Cuttlefish Roe was tossed kottu-style with Mani puttu, where the rice flour is not pounded too coarsely and are left as specs forming the look of rice grains. The Beef Lungs were chewy and a bit not-my-type, though the liver was gamey yet soft. There was quite a bit of cholesterol but don’t you know the proverb “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
Just like a French restaurant offering a mélange of desserts after a meal of meat and roasts, we were offered Wattalappan, another prodigy of Ceylon. While the claims of this being an influence of either the Tamil Muslims or Lankan Malay exist, Wattalappan is our answer to the crème caramel, with a decadent mix of coconut milk, palm jaggery, egg and cashew nuts, touched with pandan leaves. It’s not overly sweet and definitely makes for a nice end to all the gluttony.
If you want to explore a different street food scene that doesn’t show up on the top of Google’s must-visit spots, Aluth Kade is the place to be. You might need a fellow Sri Lankan to accompany you, given that it’s difficult to communicate otherwise (I owe this trip to my dearest friend Akram Jaldin from Lanka) and you definitely need to have an appetite for all this heavyweight stuff. Did you know? popular Facebook sensation, “Nas Daily” did a one minute video about Aluth Kade and frankly, most Lankas aren’t aware of it!
See you in our next article bringing a different flavour of Sri Lanka, possibly with lot more attention to my vegetarian friends! Stuthi.