The two day Sri Lankan food festival at Nadia coffee shop, Marriott was a houseful. Whether it was the authentic Sri Lankan food which drew so many footfalls to the Coffee shop or the performance by the Sri Lankan musical band, the event was a success. The colorful salad bar looked appetizing but the same could not be said about the entrees.  The dish names were long and difficult to pronounce. Cucumber, tomatoes, flake coconut, coriander leaves were mixed together with a pint of fish sauce and lime juice to create the punch in the salad. The topping was done with crushed peanuts. The sauces, pineapples and the residue made this salad luscious.  Moving to the main course, the silver containers at the bar displayed hardcore Sri Lankan dishes which at first sight caused confusion. Mutton Curry, Dhal curry, fried Okra, Prawn Deviel, Pumpkin curry; Murunga Mallum and Papad with yellow rice were no different in presentation and texture than any Pakistani dish. Okra, I was told by the chef, was brought especially from Colombo for this festival. “I have prepared it in a way that it tastes different to what you eat here. Sautéed onions, green chilies, curry leaves, turmeric and coriander paste mixed with coconut milk with my secret recipe of seasonings makes for a culinary delight,” said the chef. This seasonal Pakistani vegetable is enjoyed in both countries and a Pakistani household finds various combinations to go with okra. Minced meat however is the most popular combination. The Okra dish indeed tasted quite different to a local dish. It was sweet and sour at the same time.

Deviled Prawn had a royal appeal to it and caught the eyes of many. Yellow capsicums, red tomatoes chunks and large sized prawns entangled in a thick green curry sauce looked succulent. The rich-flavored prawns could be eaten with bread or rice as the gravy on its own was a treat for the taste buds.  The stir-fried cherry tomatoes reduced the spice level of the juices oozing from the capsicum and the add-on paprika.  Sri Lankan food is generally spicier than Indian food because surfeit organic herbs are used in it.

Ant up the sleeve was Kottu, a staple Sri Lankan dish made with bread. The Kottu comes in various forms i.e. chicken, beef, fish and even vegetable Kottu.

It’s generally prepared in a griddle, size of a sled with countless herbs and seasonings in the likes of curry leaves, pandan leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and garlic paste, coconut milk, scrambled eggs so on and so forth. The ingredients are cooked till simmering point making Kottu a flavorsome dish. Meat choices are all add-ons half way to completion of the dish till it looks darken and aromatic.

The dessert corner was also a delight and the guests savored the Sri Lankan delicacies. However, the chef had gone out of his comfort zone to offer Butterscotch pudding, Semolina Pudding, Milk Toffee and Watalappan, made from jiggery, nutmeg powder, coconut milk and cardamom.

–The writer is a freelance contributor