By Hans Ebert

THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

WHAT IS SRI LANKAN FOOD? HERE ARE THE 7 DISHES YOU NEED TO KNOW. – THRILLIST

Many think they know what makes Sri Lankan cuisine Sri Lankan cuisine, but very few do. Not really. And much of this has to do with the diversity of the cuisine and the very big difference between Singhalese dishes and Burgher dishes.

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Having been born in what was then Ceylon, and being a Burgher- a mixture of Portuguese and Dutch descent, and the local inhabitants of probably the most beautiful island paradise in the world, I was brought up by two servants. Both my parents worked, and so I ate what my Singhalese servants cooked for themselves- dhal, pol sambal- grated coconut with chillies- rice, a curry- usually Sear Fish- with a beetroot sambal. Nothing fancy, but also nothing greasy and supposedly very healthy.

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It was only when moving to Hong Kong that I tasted Burger dishes like lamprais- an incredible meal-in-one comprising small portions of chicken and liver curries, pol sambal, seeni sambal, an eggplant sambal, a fried hard boiled egg, yellow rice and baked in a banana leaf, pictured below- patties, bruther and even the different way in which a “typical Sri Lankan chicken curry” was made.

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Though certainly no cook nor a food critic, I have always sought out what to my palette is “good Sri Lankan food”. Right now in Hong Kong, there’s only one Sri Lankan restaurant. It’s in Sai Kung, a favourite with many, and though okay, it’s not the Sri Lankan food I grew up getting to know, and gorging on with my elder cousins through my late grandmother, and then my mother who never had to cook in Ceylon. We had servants for that. Us Burghers made elitism look second class! We still do!

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Back in the day in Hong Kong, there was a wonderful restaurant in Central called the Sri Lankan Club, which served a ridiculously expansive buffet of dishes for something like HK$60. Once that closed, the joys of enjoying a Sri Lankan meal had to wait until I was in Melbourne where there’s a big Burgher community, and, around eight years ago, returning to Colombo after decades to pursue someone from Denmark, who became a great girlfriend, and was holidaying in Sri Lanka. With the pursuit accomplished, and trying the then-newly opened open air Curry Village Experience at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, where we stayed, that buffet spread had it all.

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The next year, my now-girlfriend and I returned to Sri Lanka, where one lunchtime when we visited Galle, she took a quick lesson in how to make a typical Sri Lankan meal. She was a brilliant cook and passed with flying colours.

Unfortunately, after around four years, the relationship soured, the girlfriends who followed had an aversion to curries of any kind, and the last time I was taken to a Sri Lankan restaurant was in Melbourne. The dinner was filling without being satisfying.

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There just might be come lamprais at the end of this tunnel as Sri Lankan cricketers Mahela Jayawardana and Kumar Sangakarra are receiving rave reviews for their Ministry Of Crab restaurant in Colombo. And it’s been a long while since I’ve had a real Sri Lankan Crab Curry- messy when really enjoying it, but necessary.

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The Burgher in me, however, longs for breudher during Christmas, below which my American ex-wife learned to make and appreciate, and those very big differences in everything that is lumped together as “Sri Lankan cuisine”.

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Maybe, just maybe, with cricket attracting new interest in Hong Kong with the city’s various minority groups and locals taking up the sport, and rumours that Kumar Sangakarra will be playing in the city in March as part of the T20 Blitz of matches, this might be the perfect time to take the game of cricket where it’s never gone before- a multi cultural buffet of cricket, food and fun that’s as cosmopolitan as Hong Kong itself.

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Bring on the bailla music, and have at least a day where everyone can taste that the difference in Sri Lankan cuisine is the differences in Sri Lankan cuisine and how the Burgher influence in this food is very much alive and well. It just needs to be marketed better. Call me biased, but it’s the best food in the world.