2019 Nov 11
As we bid goodbye to yet another year full of good food, the world has witnessed new manners in eating from the vegans and pescetarians to the keto, lacto vegetarian, ovo-lacto vegetarian and the list just goes on. Sri Lanka has been not away from this storm (or is it a trend), however, I loved how it has been so well culminated with the natural cuisine of Lanka. Of course, Colombo is the big daddy in the “good food, good life” culture but I got a taste of more that’s cooking literally out of the box across the surreal western coastline of Lanka.
If you haven’t taken the train to Galle, you haven’t done the most beautiful train ride in Ceylon. Yeah yeah! Ella has got the best one but who doesn’t like the waves of the ocean almost touching the gravels of the rail? It was this fascination for the railroad that took me to the culinary paradise of Galle and beyond.
A little over half an hour out of Galle is the beach of Mirissa, famous for whale watching and a petite cosy beach. What Mirissa should rather be also famous for is the No.1 Dewmini Roti Shop. Everyone talks about Isso Vade, Kotthu and Egg Hoppers, but let me tell you, the actual underdog is this versatile roti. Being from India, I am pretty much versed with what a roti or a wrap is, but Dewmini takes it to a whole next level. With what happened to start as a humble roti shop down the road, shut due to unavailability of government permission (do read the menu which has the entire incidence mentioned), have now turned into a bustling, busy no-nonsense roti shop. And they have something for everyone! After the sea-soaked day, my stomach was craving for a hardcore chicken cheese garlic and olive roti (doesn’t it sound fun) and I can’t stop raving about it. Without adding too many adjectives to it, let’s just say it was a comforting meal. You need to get in early for you won’t find a place to breathe post-sunset (also be aware of fake Dewmini) and try the dessert roti with Nutella and bananas.
And in complete contrast to the gluttony induced hardcore busy Rotti Shop comes a well-treasured secret (not anymore) down the lane, Shady Lane Mirissa. The reggae vibe engulfs you the moment you step in and the place which gives you the feel of a tropical café in Bali surely doesn’t disappoint you with their food. After the suntan and saline dip, a beachy brunch of avocado on toast with halloumi and poached eggs, king coconut and a luscious smoothie bowl are most welcome. The vibe, the ambience and the menu is as thoughtful as the coconut sugar for you to sprinkle on your food, a little for your soul maybe! As American or Polynesian, an avo on toast or a smoothie bowl may sound, a little pol sambol with the toast or the quintessential kithul over the dessert gives just the right amount of Lankan-ness to the palate.
And if this modernisation yet symbiotic relation of Ceylon food with newer trends wasn’t enough, I found arguably the most fascinating yet most stupendously simple dish in Unawatuna. Dust the sand off your feet and walk down the street, you will find a line of enthusiastic travellers waiting down a café and you have reached Skinny Tom’s Deli. Cut that! I know you want to know what’s the piece de resistance- oh man! Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict Hoppers. Can you imagine? Skinny Tom (if he exists) took the most classical Sri Lankan Egg Hopper, which came down with the Malayali Kandian Queen from erstwhile Kerala, a dish popularly known as Appam in my country and dressed it fit for a walk down the Manhattan!
With the craze for Instragrammable food, sometimes the intrinsic value of good tasty food fades away, but through the coasts of Sri Lanka, the story was different and food went from fun to innovative and seriously eye-opening as I started to go up from Mirissa and Unawatuna to Galle. In the next column, Galle comes with the ethos of seafood so good, it might give Japan a run for its money.