Lamprais, Banana Leaf by gsz.
Lamprais is, for many Sri Lankans, a favorite dish. I know many expats who demand it soon after getting off the plane. I once had it while quite uncomfortably wasted and had a rather unpleasant association for years. Last week, however, I was heading past the Dutch Burgher Union and I thought I’d give it another try. That and a bottle of their homemade (non-alcoholic) ginger beer is really quite delicious.
What is lamprais? It has become a sort of oily rice with multiple meats served in a banana leaf. Traditionally, however, it is, well, I’ll let Lorraine Bartholomeusz explain, via the Sunday Times.
“Lamprais is a delicacy. It’s far too rich to be eaten in large quantities, though people think that unless you have a huge packet you’re getting short changed. Ideally, Lamprais is a breakfast cupful of small grain rice such as suduru samba that is boiled in stock and to which spices are added to make it flavorsome,” says Lorraine.
But that’s not all that goes into traditional Lamprais. To complete the serving of rice and make it a whole meal there’s a mix of three different types of meat. Back in Dutch times, the three meats consisted of beef, pork and lamb. Now however, lamb has been substituted with chicken. Also into the parcel will go two cutlets, brinjal pahè, seeni sambol and blachan.” (That Burgher delicacy wrapped up in banana leaf)
Lamprais is a Dutch/Burgher dish, so for me the place to go is the Dutch Burgher Union, or DBU. I’ve heard that Fab is OK, and there remain aunties who make packets to order. If you know any good places or contacts for home-makers let me know. I’ll say that the DBU lamprais, while expensive at Rs. 400-something, is quite good and not overly oily or filling. It has all the requisite ingredients, a delectable cutlet, and – with the exception of seeni sambol, which I don’t like – it’s all good. I must say that lamprais is one of the least appetizing looking meals (once you open the banana leaf), but it is pretty good.
As I got there a lady was unloading ginger beer from a trishaw. That costs Rs. 200 and I must say it’s a worthwhile addition. I don’t usually like ginger beer either (spicy drink, why?) but the DBU one is homemade, not carbonated, and more like a juice. It’s really quite excellent, and they give you a full arrack bottle’s worth. So anyways, that’s a classic but I think never old food recommendation. DBU lamprais and ginger beer.
The DBU, at Thumulla junction, is having a sort of festival this Sunday, July 1st. I only know because I saw the sign posted there, there’s not head or tail of the event online. I call it a food festival, but I spoke to a lady there and she said while the DBU itself will have a stall with Burgher delicacies, other people will be selling different things. It starts at 9h30 and she told me it’s better to come early cause the food runs out.