#KlaRestaurantWeek: Café Ceylon
Ceylon is the most popular strain of tea grown in Sri Lanka. It is also the name given to the area known as Sri Lanka by the British until 1972, no doubt because of point no. 1, above. However Ceylon is most importantly a charming new café on Kira Road participating in this year’s edition of Kampala Restaurant Week with a menu that runs from the 1st to 11th June, presenting a (very) wide range of Sri Lankan dishes that we were lucky enough to sample to give you an idea of what they have in store.
For a well-rounded taste of Sri Lanka, however, you might want to skip the starter and dive right into the Ceylon Platter, which is at least a two course meal altogether. On a circular chopping board are five different Sri Lankan dishes, starting with the:
Gotu Kola and Coconut Salad, made from spade leaf (the gotu kola part), a subtly bitter green, leafy vegetable mixed with grated coconut, freshly squeezed lime juice, chilli and raw onions. Though you have a medley of light flavours, there is plenty of heat and zest to keep things interesting and a generous serving of coconut shavings to keep them from getting uncomfortable. With the starter for this platter taken care of, you may turn your sights on the
Kothu; which is chopped up chapatti (paratha to be precise) stir-fried with vegetables and eggs, then served as a smooth mound with coconut gravy for garnish. On its own, this is a very spicy dish, but the subtly sweet light coconut gravy gives it a little more balance. Like almost everything else on this platter, it pairs up very well with the
Yellow Rice which is first fried, then cooked (as opposed to the more intuitive other way around) with coconut milk and gets its colour from a little bit of saffron. Are you starting to wonder whether these people eat meat at all? if it is a thought that crossed your mind, you will probably enjoy the
Grilled Chicken marinated with garlic, ginger, smashed curry leaves and roasted curry powder for a smoky, slightly woody flavour, served with dark coconut gravy. You may not realise that the chicken is the only meat on the platter, however, once you have a taste of
Kiri-koss which consists of jackfruit cooked with coconut milk, green chilli, curry powder, turmeric, curry leaves and cinnamon, then left to boil until the jackfruit seeds soften. Yes, cooked ffene. You are first hit by the hot chilli’s flavour as your mouth makes sense of the tender, stringy jackfruit flesh that you would be forgiven for mistaking for really tender meat.
Another comprehensive medley of Sri Lankan food comes in form of the Lamprais. A combination of eggplant, caramelised onions, chicken, breaded fish cutlets, eggs and rice are wrapped up in a piece of banana leaf and baked as a parcel, giving it all a delightful smoky aroma. Yes, just like Luwombo. Though it looks really nice with rice in the centre and all the other ingredients arranged around it, Lamprais is best enjoyed with everything mixed together until it reminds you of Biryani’s smoky Sri Lankan cousin.
To end your meal on a sweet note, try the jaggery-sweetened Watalappan (custard pudding). Jaggery what? An age-old alternative to sugar, jaggery is made from the caramelised sap of a Thal tree. Made with eggs, coconut milk, cardamom, cloves and cashew nuts, this light brown dessert is steamed, not baked. As you cut into it, you notice its softness and moistness; toeing the line between solid and gooey, with a solid, slightly crunchy base of cashew nuts.
Photography: Julius Caesar Kasujja