The name Ceylon brings back a lot of memories – Ceylon Tea, Ceylon Parotta and Radio Ceylon (Binaca Geethmala), to name a few. These came to my mind when I got the invitation for the ‘Ceylon Tales’ Sri Lankan food festival currently going on at the Garden Grill restaurant at Hilton Garden Inn, Trivandrum and surprisingly, I could get a couple of them there. Long story short, the dinner only buffet food promotion was a culinary extravaganza as we tasted a wide range of delicacies from our neighbouring island nation at the media tasting session.
Welcoming us Shinu Paul, Coordinator of Sales & Marketing at Hilton GardenInn, Trivandrum gave us an overview of the food promotion event. Ashok Eapen, Executive Chef, gave us an insight into the Sri Lankan cuisine and its similarities with Kerala cuisine. “In fact, it resembles what Malayalees were cooking a few decades back. The central feature of Sri Lankan cuisine is boiled or steamed rice, accompanied with fish, chicken, beef or mutton curry, along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils, or fruits. Dishes are often served along with a set of condiments consisting of pickled fruits or vegetables, chutneys, and sambols. The use of whole spices gives these dishes a distinct flavour and makes it light also.” Showing us around, Chef Gopinath briefed us about the menu which would change every day of the festival. Though Sri Lankan food has parallels to South Indian food, especially Kerala food, yet it remains distinctly its own form of cuisine.
I skipped the Wattakka Soup (Pumpkin Soup) and dived straight into the starters from the live station – Sri Lankan Fish Cake (cutlets) accompanied with mint chutney and hot Ceylon Parotta wraps (rolls) with spicy minced beef filling. The rolls were really good and it was a great way to start the evening as the starters were washed down by a glass of chilled beer. The live station also serves Hoppers, Godamba (Wheat) Rotti or Ceylon Koththu Parata on other days.
For salads, we had Fried Eggplant and Pineapple salad, Steamed Carrot and Coconut, and Cabbage Foogath, very similar to the Kerala Thoran. The carrots were very crisp.
For the main course, it was Sri Lankan Yellow Rice with Mutton Baticalo curry, Malu – Fish Stew (White Fish Curry), and Chicken Pepper Stew as non-vegetarian dishes. The mutton was soft and spicy with a rich flavour of spices and I enjoyed it. I also went for a second helping. Even though both the stews made with coconut milk resembled the ones that we make in Kerala, it had a distinct taste with a strong flavour of whole spices. The vegetarian dishes were Tapioca Curry, Tempered Beans, Cashew and Green Pea Curry. The tapioca curry was a surprise and tasted good. We eat a lot of tapioca in Kerala but this was the first time I had a curry made of tapioca.
Kukul Mas – Chicken Red Curry, Elu Mas – Mutton Black Curry, Murunga – Drumstick White Curry, Wattakka Kalupolmaluwa – Pumpkin Kalupol, and Annasi Mirisata – Raw Pineapple Dry Curry, to name a few, are some of the other dishes in the menu for other days.
The main course was accompanied with condiments, a mix of Sambols (Chutneys) and Achcharus (Pickles) – Star Fruit Chutney, Waralu Achcharu, Dry Fish Bedamu, Dry Shrimp Malluma, Pol Sambol, Lime Pickle, Sinhala Achcharu, etc.
The dessert section had an elaborate spread consisting of Ceylon Cardamom Pista Cake, Bebinca (very similar to the Goan stuff), Bibikkan – Coconut Jaggery Semolina Cake, Banana Caramel Cake and Vattalappam – Coconut Milk Jaggery Custard. We also had some cookies, all the way from Colombo. I seriously felt it was an overdose of sweets as I indulged in them.
And finally, to settle everything came a glass of hot spicy Ceylon tea. It was a much need relief as we sipped the black tea with strong flavours of ginger and fennel seeds. It was good to see the familiar brand of tea from Sri Lanka, very popular here, thanks to their cricket sponsorship.
Shinu was the perfect host for the evening and we had a wonderful time. I must also mention Abhijit Vijay, Restaurant Manager; Chef Naveen and Chef Mineesh, who went out of the way to make it a memorable evening for us.
The Ceylon Tales food promo concludes on May 28, 2017, and the buffet (dinner only) is priced at Rs. 1,199 + Taxes.
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