This wasn’t a meal at a restaurant, nor is it a recipe, but instead it’s a most interesting dinner we had a couple weekends ago. About a week prior to this dinner, I was cussing at my usual second bus home as it failed to show up, forcing me to take two more buses to complete my journey from work. This route took me past the London Buddhist Vihara in Chiswick, where I saw a large banner announcing a fundraising Sri Lankan vegetarian dinner that following Saturday (I imagine my head turned like an owl’s as I tried to read it all as we sped past). Um, an extraordinary Sri Lankan vegetarian dinner? I’m in! (I love reading the posts on the vegetarian Sri Lankan cooking at le sauce.)
There wasn’t much information online but I did manage to find someone’s comments about a similar event in the past and I learned that one could either eat there or takeaway. I chose the latter option and swung by to pick up two dinners (£5 each) and they even came with dessert! If you chose to eat there, a number of communal tables had been set up inside the hall with the dinner served buffet style. It all looked good and I hurried home with my bag of goodies, just as many of Chiswick’s residents also did.
At home, I opened the tin foil containers and uncovered a treasure trove of what I imagine must be home-style Sri Lankan treats. I’ve not had much Sri Lankan cuisine and what I’ve had were in restaurants and totally different from what I found here.
On a bed of basmati rice were tender green beans, stewed cashew nuts with mixed vegetables, spiced potatoes, a delicious dal made from red lentils, and a hotter-than-it-looks coconut sambol. There were even freshly fried poppadums in little baggies on the side.
We adored the new flavours to us; everything was spiced quite gently (except for the chilli hot sambol) and was indeed very different to the northern Indian food we come across more frequently here. The cashews had been stewed to softness, a texture I can’t say I normally associate with the nuts, but they were still excellent. I doubt I’d be able to reproduce any of it but it was all delicious and I really should explore Sri Lankan cuisine more.
Dessert was an utter delight; I believe it was called wattalapan. The lady dishing it out called it a custard and a steamed custard it certainly was, but one made with coconut milk, eggs and jaggery and topped with cashew nuts. Creamy and sweet, it was the perfect end to our takeaway dinner.
I have no idea when the next fundraiser is but I imagine it’ll be on their online newsletter. I found it a fantastic way to learn more about a new cuisine; are there any similar places or events near you that serve home-style food like this?