Rice and Curry has a good review of Green Cabin. What’s most notable in that he’s photographed every single short eat there. What is a short eat? Little starters, usually pastries. I like to imagine they’re derived from Portuguese empanadas or something but I don’t know. It’s an island. When I first discovered short eats I was like I Can Haz Cheezburger? but they’ve grown kinda old.
Photos below are from Rice and Curry’s blog
Samosas are Indian but whatever, triangle, stuffed with stuff. Honestly, the best samosas I had were sold by Desi students in Montreal to raise funds. They came in cardboard boxes and came with a lovely sauce. Perhaps that was because samosas were often my only meal of the day, but they were good.
At places like Bombay Sweet House (Wellawatte, near the junction. There are like 30 Bombay Sweet Houses) they serve samosas with faludas and stuff. What I find lacking is the dipping sauce. A vegetable samosa is often the only veg option, but they all seem to lack that flaky sorta crust.
I honestly haven’t had any samosas to write home about in Sri Lanka.
A cutlet is a ball of fried dough around fish or whatever you want to put in there. The best cutlets are homemade. I’m really not helpful here. If you go to Columbus, Ohio in 1995, hide under the table at a house I can’t remember and steal cutlets, they’re delicious. The best cutlets are definitely ones you’ve been told to stop eating.
I rarely eat cutlets from outlets. At most eateries they serve short eats by bringing a selection to your table and letting you eat a bunch of stuff you didn’t intend to. I’ve had fist sized cutlets at these times, but they’re always too much.
Most people get cutlets from some home cook for parties and events. These are hit or miss. If someone in the family makes them they’re usually great.
Klassy on De Fonseka road has decent flaky sausage rolls. I generally avoid mutton or beef rolls. On the east coast they can be really good, but usually too what’s the word, not rich, mammal for my taste. I used to like the prawn rolls at Cafe On The Fifth, but get them late in the day and they’re horrendous. That would be my bad.
A good roll, IMHO, is covered in a powdery pastry and deeply fried but not burnt. While rotti can be soft, a good roll has a bit of a crunch to it, or at least a bite. If it’s meat I think it’s best cut with tomato sauce. Or sauce, as it’s called.
On a standard government or event welcome plate you’ll get a roll, a cutlet, a white bread sandwich and, if you’re luck, a banana. I always eat the banana and cutlet willingly and the rest because I’m hungry.
Rotti is basically a pancake. In this case it refers to rolled short eats. Vegetable roti is an old standard. If you get it fresh off the grill it’s good. This nameless place on Saranankkara, Dehiwela does a good one. Again, not helpful.
This type of roti is pretty much standard across Sri Lanka. It’s usually vegetable, and usually has potato and I think leeks and onion. The spread is put in and then the roti is folded and browned on a hot plate. When it’s hot hot it’s delectable, but I’ve also had decent cold rotti as well.
Malu Paan (fish bun), however, is an exception. Malu Paans are notoriously inconsistent, some places it’s all paan, other all spicy malu, others have no fish at all. I can’t recommend a good place, beyond saying to get them fresh.
I’m always down for a good mushroom pie. Flaky pastry gets all over, but good.
Everyone is familiar with the old white bread with beet and some unidentified green paste. Not a fan, but it’s often the only vegetarian option, if I’m in that mood.
Basically, bad short eats are really really bad. That’s what’s soured me in general. A good short eat, however, is goodness. How do you get one? Generally, the cheaper and more decrepit the shop, the better the short eats. I don’t like places like Perera and Sons because they’ve entrenched consistent mediocrity.
Timing and location is what really matters. If you stop by an average petty kade (box kade, streetside stall) in the morning, they’ll have good, fresh stuff. Also, if you go out of town, you’ll get great stuff along the road. Go at the wrong time, however, and stale short eats are a horror. Anything in a glass case is fundamentally dubious.
As I get older I’ve shied away from short eats cause they offer limited nutritional value and make me bundilicious. I think this is more from over-eating than anything else. I’ve gone weeks eating short-eats every day and that gets old fast. I’ve also eaten from mobile trishaw stands, eaten the last short eats a place had left, so basically my bad. If you eat short eats with some sense, they’re quite good.