A truly Sri Lankan culinary experience
Lamprais is a Dutch-burgher influenced dish that is very popular in Sri Lanka. It is a product of the marrying of the culture of Dutch-burghers and Sri Lankan’s. This dish is one packed into a banana leaf and steamed in an oven so that the taste of the meat and the spices are absorbed into each element of the dish. Until now, I have not come across a close to perfect take on a traditional lamprais and when I came across The Leaf’s promising description and their attention to detail of the replication of the traditional lamprais, I knew I had to try theirs out.
The Leaf has been operating for the past 5 years and has only been available on Sundays for special occasions. But since then, their customer base has grown immensely and they have expanded to accommodate delivery within Colombo and the suburbs. Shalika, the owner, told us that deliver charges can differ so he can’t give us a definite price grid, and also that if you do order 15 or more packets of lamprais, then delivery is free within Colombo.
There are three varieties to choose from, you can either opt for a mixed meat lamprais, a chicken or a vegetable. For the sake of the review (and not because consuming food has now become my expertise), I decided to try out all 3.
You need to keep in mind, The Leaf can’t immediately be of help if you’re craving a good lamprais. You need to order 2 days in advance, they are super friendly and very accommodating.
Food: Vegetable, Chicken and Mixed Lamprais
Below, I am going to get down to the details and explain as best I can, each element in the lamprais.
Suduru Samba Rice (cooked in chicken stock): It is absolutely mandatory that the rice is cooked in chicken stock. The chicken stock makes a massive difference to the texture and the taste of each individual grain of rice as it amplifies the flavours of the curries when paired with the rice.
Mixed Curry /Chicken Curry or Soya Curry: The Leaf offers three varieties to choose from, you can either pick the mixed curry, the chicken curry or the vegetable curry.
The mixed curry is a yummy concoction of chicken, pork and beef. Tender bits of meat are all cooked up together in a spicy curry. Even though its three meats cooked together, you know that they’ve paid attention to each type of meat individually as none out of the three were overcooked or under.
Out of the three options, I liked the chicken curry the most. This was partly due to the fact that the chicken pieces in the curry had probably been fried or so in advance so it retained some crunch in its texture when made into a curry.
If you go for the vegetable option, you get a soya curry instead. This surely was not a descent of the Dutch but it was great to see that The Leaf was inclusive and found a yummy alternative for vegetarians.
Seeni Sambol: This seeni sambol was one of the best I have had tasted ever, period. The onions were so perfectly caramelized and they were left to engulf themselves in the spices that surrounded it. The seeni sambol hit the right balance between being sweet and savory enough to be consumed as a curry. Something different with the vegetarian option was the fact that it was free of Maldives fish too. The intense taste in the seeni sambol in the other two lunch packets was partially due to the smart use of the Maldives fish and I was sure to think that the vegetarian seeni sambol won’t taste as great – sure, it lacked the hard bits of dried fish, but I didn’t even notice a difference in taste.
Brinjol Pahi: Bringol Pahi is a curry that comes from this Dutch-Sinhalese experiment with this dish. It is ideally something along the lines of a batu moju, but not quite.
Fried Ash Plantain Curry – I live for this Fried Ash Plantain Curry in the lamprais. Diced ash plantains were deep fried (I think) and then mixed with spices and coconut milk (possibly) to turn into a yummy curry. I don’t know how they do it, but sometimes you can actually mistake this fried ash plantain for meat because it tastes that good.
Frikadels – I didn’t know what Frikadels were, but I thought the word was a pretty cool one. Later I found out that Frikadels are pan-fried meatballs of minced meat. This is our ‘cutlet’ in the lamprais. With every bit of what I thought was a typical cutlet, I was impressed by the fact that they were loaded with meat and not tinned fish like it usually would be. I was also confused as to why the “cutlet” cum Frikadel was completely made of potatoes in the vegetable packet – now we know why. At the start I mistook them for cutlets that were probably flattened out because they were packed up into a small packet. I have now made you aware of what they actually are – so don’t be uninformed, like me.
Blachan – Here again I didn’t know what I was eating. I actually thought it was the pol sambol – incredibly finely made – made into small balls. Again, I was wrong. Blachan is apparently a paste made of shrimps – it looked much like the Frikadel patties but tasted incredibly different.
Potato Curry – So the potato curry was not something the Dutch envisioned but was one added in by The Leaf into the vegetarian lunch packs so that those seeking the vegetarian option have a few yummy curries at their disposal.
Have you been tried out lamprais at the The Leaf yet? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below! Is there anything we’ve missed?
Tip: You’ve got to order two days (48 hours) in advance!