With influences from the Dutch, Portugal, English and South Indian cuisines, food from the beautiful Island country of Sri Lanka is hard to resist with its liberal use of spices.
An ongoing Sri Lankan food festival in Gurugram nicely puts those flavours on your plate. Chef Nalaka Hewapathirange, who works with the Marriott Hotels, has specially travelled to Gurugram from Sri Lanka to curate the menu for this festival.
Even though the festival offers about 25 delicacies -- including a good variety of seafood -- the chef feels that it was not possible to cook the authentic Sri Lankan recipes anywhere in the world but Sri Lanka itself.
"The most authentic Sri Lankan food cannot be made anywhere. I am not talking about the style of cooking. There is a good variety of rice, which is grown only in Sri Lanka. These are the most authentic Sri Lankan dishes," Hewapathirange said.
He further said that to give an experience of the cuisine to people in India, he got along with himself the masalas from there.
"Many dishes cooked there are also cooked in India but the choice of spices is different."
"I met a Sri Lankan guest. He was very happy with the food, told me everything was perfect. That made me feel sated," said the chef.
So what's cooking?
I began my meal with a range of starters -- mutton devilled, mutton stew, curry flavoured tomato mussels and coconut marinated sea bass. I chose the Colombo Twist from the specially designed drinks menu.
The cocktail, with the base of white rum, was made with cucumber, basil and coconut water and was absolutely refreshing.
Mutton devilled with three completely different flavours of mustard, lemon and sugar were tender and surprisingly tasty while mutton stew had a dominating flavour of coconut -- owing to the cuisine's similarity with South India's.
What stood apart among the starters for me was curry flavoured tomato mussels with richly flavoured tomato sauce that combines tasty flavours like onions, garlic and chillies. I tried this variety of fish for the first time. It was soft but had a tender chewiness.
Despite the good taste, none of the appetisers was spicy and to make up for that, there was a fantastic sauce or sambol and other salads with red and green chillies.
For the main course, I chose crab curry, mutton black curry and tempered dhal.
This being my first experience with crab, I was quite sceptical -- but it didn't taste much different from the king prawn, with its tenderness, but interestingly it didn't have the typical seafood aroma, which I despise.
The tempered dhal was basically masoor daal cooked with little water -- making it very thick.
Mutton black curry was the thing to look forward to. It was like home-cooked mutton curry -- palatable with its simple flavours.
For dessert, the festival offers aluwa, oil cake and thala among others.
Aluwa is a chalk-like dish. You need an extremely sweet tooth to enjoy this cute little sweet.
Oil cake is a traditional sweet made of rice flour, treacle and coconut oil. It is generally cooked during New Year celebrations, the chef explained.
He said thala, for its flavour of jaggery, was his favourite dessert.
What: Sri Lankan Food Fest
Where: Seasonal Tastes Restaurant, The Westin Hotel, Gurugram
Cost: Rs 2,700 plus taxes per person
When: Till October 28
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