Lamprais is a classic Sri Lankan meal, of Burgher origin. It is a trip in a dish – shrimp paste from Indonesia, Afrikaner frikkadels, Sri Lankan curries. It’s like an edible history of the Dutch East India company. The packet has evolved and taken a sort of static, classic form in Sri Lanka. It’s often one of the first things people getting off a plane will seek out and what they’ll miss on the way out. So where do you get a good lamprais at short notice? Through YAMU we tried to find out.
You should read the whole article, written by Savan. It’s a good long essay and meditation on the venerable lump. The same article was printed in this Saturday’s FT with the addition of some sidebars on Burghers and lamprais in general. What follows are my impressions.
First, we only reviewed lamprais that were available on two days notice and in small quantities (1-2). The absolute best could be venerable ladies like Jean Daniels or Jennifer Ingleton, but many of the home cooks only cook in large numbers and with significant notice. We were only looking for lamprais you could pick up, like, now.
The ones reviewed were:
- The Dutch Burgher Union – Rs. 430 – (258 4511, Thumulla)
- The Colombo Fort Café – Rs. 660 – (243 4946, Dutch Hospital)
- The Dutch Grocer – Rs. 360 – (770173062, 82/1A, Stratford Avenue)
- Mrs. Warusawithana – Rs. 360 – (257 3908, Pedris Road, off Thurstan)
- Green Cabin – Rs. 320 – (258 8811, 453 Galle Road, Kollupitiya)
- Bars Café – Rs. 420 – (478 6678, 24 Deal Place)
What really stuck out was the gap between the classic lamprais and the commercial ones was huge, especially in a blind tasting. I won’t reveal our winner, you can read the article for that, but the losers were quite clear. If it’s got a lump of chicken it’s probably not a good lamprais. If it’s wrapped in plastic, probably not good either.
Tasting blind, what really stuck out was the intangible alchemy of a good lamprais. Though two packets may have the same ingredients, there is something about the way they knit together in a really elegant lamprais that’s quite unique. The rice alone, cooked in stock, has rich flavor, and combined with mixed meat, brinjal, seeni sambol and prawn paste (belacan, or blachang) there really is a magic spot that certain packets can hit. But I’ve said enough. Check out the winner on YAMU.