Across the ocean- Sri Lanka in a post

Have you ever felt a certain emptiness post a vacation? Particularly when you return and begin unpacking. 

It’s only when you start unpacking that you the realise how wonderful your trip was. Those laughs that make you cry, those boarding passes,the dinner bills and those shoes that have carried back a little sand from the beaches you’ve visited. It’s actually the unpacking that creates those special memories that go on to fill your heart with warmth and love.

I recently went through the same motions on returning from a lovely trip to Sri Lanka. It was going to be my first trip with J and I wanted to make this memorable in every way; and may I add, I wasn’t disappointed. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone who travels there would be. The place has something for everyone, If you love the mountains, trudge up to Sigriya and see yourself almost walking in the clouds, or let your soul soak up the spirituality of Kandy; or simply walk around the beaches of Bentota or Galle face and watch as the sun winds up his day and the blue sky goes off to sleep by  covering itself in a blanket of dark clouds. I could go on and on but I would rather focus on the best part the food. For the adventures and what you need to do bit, scroll down towards the end. FOr the food, read on.

Ohh and yes, Colombo welcomed us with a pleasant little surprise.

A misty aircarft window? No we were welcome with a water canon salute  at the Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo. This was because flight UL122 had just completed a long 13 years of service and was to retire (in other words, this was the last flight for the aircraft). This picture is from inside the aircraft but for a change I fall short of prose to describe the once in a lifetime experience.

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In your trip as you look around, you will see a lot of bakeries. That is because the Sri Lankans love eating small eats through the day. Locals call it short eats. These shorts are either fried or baked and sometimes engulfed in a bread. We did try products from many bakeries in the course of our trip but we particularly grew fond of this place called ‘Perera and sons’; Our driver said it was addressed as ‘P &S’. They had outlets all over the country which ensured we didnt miss them though. I loved the fish rolls from there. Shredded fish and mashed potato which had a lovely spicy masala that thumped your tastebuds. This was one calorific indulgence that we couldn’t have enough off in the entire trip.

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Fish rolls. Image: Perera & sons website

Kottu Roti: Sri Lanka’s answer to roti canai. Available everywhere from the upscale starred restaurants to the humble street stalls, it seemed to be a local favorite. Made from a particular type of Sri Lankan roti (i forget the name though), a generous mix of vegetables, and protein (meat or fish of your choice) and huge splash of spice.My suggestion is to have it from the street side stalls; comes with a bit of theater there. You will see your vendor making it on a flat gridle and making a rhythmic sound.  That’s the thrill. This one is a prawn kottu roti from Yalla Restaurant on Galle Road.

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Sri Lankan Fried Rice: I was actually surprised to see this on the menu and i ordered it more out of curiosity than hunger. But what a refreshing change from the sauce drenched Chinese rice we are served here. Infact, this one was a nice mix of spicy and sour which i guess was from tamarind extract. A bit dry i felt if you opt of the sunny side up but otherwise the runny yolk will take care of it. This one was pork from the restaurant at Hotel Ocean where we stayed.

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The Devil: I mean literally. I was told this was a ‘don’t miss’. Now, the dish is named devil because its hot. Stir fried meat or seafood or veggies in tomato base with chillies, chillies and then some more chillies. I personally dont have a high tolerance towards heat but this was washed down with a chilled Lions beer.

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Sri Lankan curries and dhal: The Lankans fetish for curries is seen from the variety that is on offer. Luscious, thick and with generous pieces of fish (usually) finished up with coconut milk. My guide told me that the meats were taken in the morning and seafood in the afternoon. Not sure why. Same with the dhal (like our dal) just like the curries, finished off a nice splash of coconut milk. I was not complaining.

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Mixed Veg rice, Tilapia Curry, Pol Sambol and Appalam at Hotel Hungry Lion Sigiriya.

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We went the full course at this wonderful place. 3 Veggies, Dhal, fish curry and the works.

Appam/ Hoppers: This one slipped out across the Indian ocean. Feremented Rice flour and coconut milk batter in a crisped up in a sizzling wok.Usually used as cutlery to hold up curries or egg or anything you can imagine.  Another version is the string hoppers that are steam. We had one made from white rice and from brown rice. I liked the ones made from brown rice for the nuttier taste it had.

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I am told nature has its way of balancing out. Sri Lankan food is spicier and the tropica climate doesn’t help either. Well the way out is to have King Cocomut. THese huge orange globules filled with the swettest water I’ve ever had. J and I happily ditched the colas for these. Please dont miss these

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Watalappan: Sri Lankan custard. Coconutty, eggy, caradmomy and all things nice.this lovely custard was the highlight of our trip. But i noticed this were only served in small portions where ever we ate. I checked with our guide but there wasnt any conclusive answer.

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That my dear friends is what we ate in Sri Lanka. For the must do’s hop on to this blog post written by dear friend and food blogger Zenia Irani. She’s covered most of the things you need to do and take my word, you will come back and thank her later.

Mesmerising Mangalore- and some lovely food experiences.

Caveat: A long but pictoral post ahead. Most pictures taken on my phone who has an average IQ, please pardon the quality.

It was about 13:10 hours on a balmy Monday afternoon at Mangalore Central Railway Station. The Matsyagandha was ready to begin her journey to Mumbai and announced that by a hooting whistle. As I took my seat by the window, my mind wandered back to the to the last few days that I had spent in my home town.

This trip (it was an important one for me on the personal front) was planned four months in advance and while planning this trip I had a plan. I wanted to try food beyond whats usually cooked at the relatives. And when you reach the end of this post, you will be realise how glad I was to do that. Another thing I did was ignore the pricey star rated restaurants and went in for the smaller no -frills places. Again, a gamble that paid rich dividends.

The Chinese are coming. Hotel Hao Ming, Collectors Gate, Balmatta.

Tell someone that you get some really good Chinese food in Mangalore and you are sure to get a few smirks. I visited this place in 2013 on my last trip with my cousin. We were fairly jaded with the coconutty gravies and yearned for something that could break the clutter. I dont really remember what we ate back then but the restaurant left an impression. And if that impressions stays on your mind for a good two years, I presume it must be jolly good. The restaurant by itself is fairly basic in terms of decor; like you would get in any regular CHinese joint in Mumbai. The menu is a mix between Indian Chinese and some authentic stuff. I saw pork spareribs on the menu. I dont think there is beef. But again for a smallish place, fairly energetic and competent wait staff.

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The appetizer was a crispy chicken. I presume this may be a best seller in the restaurant because in a crowded rush hour I observed this being ordered at almost every table. A few nibbles later, I figured why. When you have chicken thats seasoned perfectly, coated with finely shredded cabbage and fried like a dream, it will be a hit. This is the dish for a game night with many pints of beer

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Our mains were a Chef Special dish i ordered on the recommendations of our waiter. It a fairly large portions that is a combination of a chicken gravy and you can either choose Noodles or rice. I opted for  noodles. The gravy had a nice consistency and wasnt gloppy or corn floury like the ones in Mumbai. I particularly loved the generous amount of chicken.in the dish. Couldn’t figure out what the fried cabbage was doing there as a garnish. I guess the chef loves his greens.

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This is how it looked when we decimated it.

The  plate over flowed at the Tulu Nadu food festival, Hotel Simbly South, Balmatta.

Can you describe that feeling when you get a bonus cheque along with your salary. Something similar was what i felt when I seen an advertisement for a Tulu food festival close to where we were staying. A few glances exchanged and we knew our next pit stop. 27 items on the menu. I was too small a man to finish this and so we decided to share one thali among the three of us. Simply put, a kings feast.

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You thought it would cost a king’s ransom? Check the price on the top right of the image.

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To pick one of my favorites from this meal would be like asking a mother to pick between her two kids. Everything on the platter was well thought about making it not only a treat to the palette; but to your senses. If i still have to be partial, I would say i liked the white chutney and the chicken sukkha amongst all.

Mutton Sukkha and Neer Dosa at Hotel Simply South, Balmatta

Its not very often that I visit a restaurant for the second time. But if i do, that means the place has something special that was left to be tried. Whilst exploring the menu during the thali, I seen there was a mutton sukkha. Now for us Mangaloreans, a mutton or beef or a chicken sukkha is an alter ego. Its the dish your mum makes the best. Something told me i needed to try this. A second visit was to be made. I came back for the mutton sukkha that evening and with it I called for the etrnal workhorse of Mangalorean food the Neer dosa or paan pole. What a dish. A handful of ingredients each coming together as a beautifully as the philharmonic orchestra.. Bite sized lamb pieces just tossed in coconut oil, lots of pepper, some chili and tons of coconuts. And accompanied by pillowy soft dosa. food heaven if someone could ever experience. See the pictures and let them tell you.20150809_211719 20150809_211744

And, an Ideal Dessert place- Ideal Ice Cream Parlour, Hampankatta

Tucked away in one corner of Mangalore city is Hampankatta Market. Mangalores Crawford Market. Tucked in a corner of the market is Ideals Ice cream parlour. Whats so special about the ice cream. Everything I’d say. Far away from the gelatos and the gourmet ice creams the world is moving towards, here is a place that offers doesnt mess with traditional flavours; on the contrary, the flavour combines with other flavours and knicks to elevate it to levels where you can smile. Because something cold you’ve eaten just warmed the cockles of your heart. The only flavour i didnt like was Tiramisu. Perhaps because of my aversion of coffee in desserts. The rest of them, added an inch to my smile and my waist.

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Jackpot- Such a brilliant orange sorbet and a mushy gajar halva

Jackpot- Such a brilliant orange sorbet and a mushy gajar halva

Tiramisu- The black sheep

Tiramisu- The black sheep

Beehive- Strawberry, Cream and gajarhalva..

Beehive- Strawberry, Cream and gajar halva.. and tons of nuts

After most meals I could only curl up and grab my fair share of sleep. In a later post, I will try and share some home cooked food experience of Mangalore. Meanwhile, do keep those warm letters of concern coming in. It feels nice to hear from you even outside the blog. 🙂