Cover Photo: Courtesy of Aliyaa

Get to know the quintessential dishes of the Indian Ocean nation in celebration of its independence day

Every year on February 4, the people of Sri Lanka celebrate their nation's independence, marking yet another anniversary of becoming its own state. Previously ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the island nation was an important and indispensable hub in the Silk Road trade. Throughout its turbulent and ever-evolving history, though, Sri Lankan cuisine stayed consistent in its punchy flavours, bold colours and distinct combinations of herbs and spices.  

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The unique cuisine is highly centred around rice, coconut and seafood, giving those who taste it a look at the country's resources and what its land has to offer at the same time. The tropical nation boasts a variety of spices but particularly champions its cinnamon and black pepper, making its cuisine warm to its core.

Aliyaa, a Cinnamon Group eatery and one of Tatler Dining Guide 2022's establishments, showcases Sri Lanka's warmth through its dishes and service. Here are some dishes to get you started on your Sri Lankan gastronomical journey, all of which you can savour without having to make a flight right in Bukit Damansara, KL, at Aliyaa.

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

One of the most popular dishes in Sri Lankan cuisine, the Sri Lankan Crab Curry has earned itself a reputation but not without reason. Sri Lanka is known for its succulent and juicy crabs, filled with tender and sweet crab meat. To make matters more delicious, the crab is dunked in a pot of mild, yet delightfully savoury and slightly tangy curry.

Made with a medley of spices and coconut milk, the Sri Lankan Crab Curry, in our eyes, is the dish you absolutely cannot miss at Aliyaa. The restaurant's recipes are rooted in tradition using a bold variety of spices imported directly from the island and we regard it as one of the top signature dishes of the restaurant. 

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

Continuing down this seafood line, these Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets are one of a kind. Akin to croquette (but not quite there), these little bundles of potato-y joy are typically served as the first bite at any Sri Lankan home before devouring a meal. Spicy fish and potato fillings are encased in a thin and crispy shell, making for a practically perfect combination of textures, spice and flavours to kick off a feast. Fish cutlets are synonymous with Sri Lankan food culture and truly encompass the values of Sri Lankan hospitality. 

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Kothu

Kothu is your ideal companion after a late night out. A staple dish across Sri Lanka, it consists of diced roti, stir-fried with scrambled egg, onions, chillies, a medley of spices and your choice of vegetables or meat like mutton or chicken. You'll find kothu around the streets of Sri Lanka, being sold at street-side stalls late into the night, similar to how you might find mee goreng being inhaled in mamak's in the wee hours here in Malaysia. 

Lamprais

This unique dish has quite the history. Originating from the Dutch-controlled colonial Ceylon of the 17th century, its authentic recipe has been handed down and carried carefully through generations of Sri Lankans, starting with the Dutch Burgher community in Sri Lanka. It consists of curries (typically a three-meat curry consisting of beef, pork and chicken), a Sri Lankan sambal, meatballs and rice boiled in stock–all of which is wrapped in banana leaves and baked to pack the flavour in. Lamprais was developed to be shared at community gatherings on Sundays, allowing everyone to get a taste of preparing, cooking and eating the food.

At Aliyaa, Lamprais is only served on Sundays and is made using chicken, rather than the usual three-meat curry. 

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Appam

All Malaysians are familiar with the concept of Appam. Also known as 'hoppers' in English, the rice-flour pancakes are best eaten and served hot and fresh to preserve its crispiness and fluffiness. Commonly served at breakfast and dinner, most Appam are sold at food stalls in Sri Lanka, getting their bowl-shape from the appachatti (small wok) that they are cooked in. They are the perfect vessel for consuming your savoury curries, and meals are almost never complete without appam at the table. 

Appam is almost always served with a savoury chicken curry and coconut sambol, which Aliyaa replicates perfectly to ensure your dining experience with them is as true as possible to the Sri Lankan name.

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