Thursday, September 4, 2014

Maiden trip to Colombo

After considering Colombo for a vacation many times, the opportunity finally presented itself as hubby's business trip. i am generally jittery before travel but Columbo seemed like a cakewalk. Thanks to visa on arrival and a flight duration of just 2.5 hours from Mumbai, this trip hardly felt like international travel. And truly enough, on arrival, it was like being in some part of India with people of similar ethnic background and sari clad women around! 

For some unrelated reasons, i did not really look forward to the trip or research much about things to do in Colombo. i just took it as a break where i wanted to relax. But when i did go online to see what adventures the city holds for first timers, i wasn't very happy with the results. The sea promenade was closeby, the shopping scene wasn't too great and i wasn't interested in temples and museums. 

The only thing that probably will succeed in pulling me back to Colombo is the food. No, i am not a foodie and i am fine with whatever's available. i have never really loved food outside India since it is usually bland. But food in Colombo managed to impress an indifferent person like me too. The food is mostly inspired from South India, especially, Kerala. Their spring hoppers made from white rice and brown rice are idiappams from Kerala. 

String hoppers (left), Appam (top right), Pittu (bottom right)
Another common breakfast item is egg hoppers or appam, as they are called in Kerala. And also pittu, which is known as puttu back home. Apart from chicken, fish, pork, mutton and prawns cooked in gravy to go with with rice, spring hoppers, pittu or appams, there are a variety of chutney like condiments to add to the taste o the main dishes. The one that my husband relished the most was seeni sambol which is mainly onion and red chillies mostly ground on stone to retain the fresh taste of the ingredients. 

Clockwise from top left: Fried jackfruit seeds, Vegetable kottu, Lamprais, a selection from traditional food
The first thing i had which just left me speechless was chicken kottu. This dish is made of strips of maida paratha and chicken tempered with spices like red chilli, curry leaves and mustard. Served at the hotel with a tangy tomato gravy, it was a party of flavours in the mouth. Kottu also has vegetarian and egg variety. 

Another interesting dish typical of Sri Lanka is lamprais. This wholesome meal has yellow rice, lampara curry (made of chicken, pork, mutton, beef or lamb), seeni sambal, a boiled egg, a fish cutlet, ash plantain curry and eggplant bhaji. All these are wrapped and baked in 20 inch square banana leaf for 30 minutes. Even though this sounds like too much in a single portion, the distinct flavours of each component in the meal ensures you wipe the leaf clean! 

Colombo is also known for their wide variety of tea and fragrant, indigenous spices. I bought loads of flavours in tea and green tea. There are fruit flavours, mint, lemon - you name it and you have it in green tea.

Variety of green tea and a selection of spices

Not just food, the juicy mangoes also ensured we did not miss home much. They have their own varieties which was a welcome change. Rambutan, a fruit we discovered during the trip is somewhat like our litchi back home. It has a red, hairy exterior and a white, juicy, edible part inside when the outer layer is peeled.


Juicy mangoes and luscious Rambutan

Even though Colombo wasn't upto the mark in terms of touristy things, the food amply made up for the lack! Looking forward to another trip just for the food! 

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