March 2019


A Roti Adventure
March 2019




Pol roti accompanied by lunu miris and beef soup

Sri Lankans love their roti, be it for breakfast, tea, lunch or dinner. The roti comes in various forms, yet is simple in appearance and a wonderful accompaniment for any spicy or even sweet combination. On a visit to Sri Lanka, make a journey to Aluthkade in Colombo where the street stalls provide a bounty of roti to satisfy your taste-buds.

Words: Udeshi Amarasinghe
Photography: Menaka Aravinda and Anuradha Perera

The best time to visit Aluthkade is after six in the evening, when the street stalls gradually begin to setup and preparations for mouthwatering food takes place. It is the pol roti that makes its way to the table first. Made of coconut (pol) and flour, this roti is small and circular. A bit of oil is applied on a grill plate (referred to as the roti maker) and the pol roti is baked on both sides. Rows of pol roti are laid on the stove and flipped over so that they are evenly cooked. It is served with lunu miris (a mixture of onions, chillies and salt ground to a chunky paste or mixed together as large pieces). This gets your mouth burning with the hotness of the chilli but the pol roti balances the spiciness well. A cup of tea and the meal is perfect. Interestingly in Aluthkade, pol roti is also served with a special beef soup that is made in large cauldrons. It is dipped into a serving of soup and the flavours are delicious. Another variety is the sweet pol roti filled with a coconut, sugar and treacle mixture known as pol pani. It is best with plain or milk tea served in glasses and not cups, which is the street food style. A few stalls away, rotis filled with either fish, chicken, beef or vegetables are displayed in glass-fronted carts. The rotis are made in a similar manner as a parata; flour is mixed with salt, sugar, egg, water and oil. The mixture is kept for a few hours and then sectioned into squares. Once the oil is applied on the individual squares, they are kneaded and stretched. Thereafter it is placed on the grill plate with the filling folded within. These stuffed rotis, in rectangular or triangular shape are ideal as snacks. The parata, in the form of plain parata, egg parata or even egg, cheese and tomato parata, is consumed with various side dishes. The curries range from chicken, types of seafood, mutton, beef, veggies and are prepared either as a gravy in Sri Lankan style or the fiery devilled versions, which are laden with spices and chilli. The making of the parata roti is the same, where after kneading and stretching it is placed on the grill plate to be cooked until crispy on both sides.


The plain parata is also known as the Sri Lankan parata and the ghee parata is popularly referred to as the Mumbai parata and interestingly naan is termed Saudi parata or Arabic bread. Yeast roti is small and circular and it has a softer texture. All these various types of parata provide the tasty bread to dip in spicy gravies or even as an accompaniment for the special type of mutton soup named paya.


The entire area, especially Abdul Hamid Street is lit up with vehicular and pedestrian traffic making their way to the stalls to purchase their evening meals. Rashik Kade Askar Hotel, which is a popular spot has been opened since 1956 and functions 24/7. BBQ chicken and various types of kebabs are also served with roti according to one's preference. The parata roti and its variations are used to make dolphin parata and kottu roti. Dolphin parata consists of the roti broken into large pieces by hand and mixed with vegetables and meat or seafood of choice with gravy in a large wok; while kottu roti is a shredded roti mixed on a grill plate with two metal plates clanging to a rhythm or as done in Aluthkade with a metal piece connected to a handle.


Visitors come to Aluthkade forthis special nighttime street food experience. For us, as we walked along the street, discovering the various types of roti that in most instances had been given an ‘Aluthkade identity', it was indeed an adventure that went far into the night.

 

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    Naan or Saudi parata with Sri Lankan style gravy or devilled meat and a glass of sweet tea

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    Dolphin parata

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    Yeast roti with bbq chicken

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    A Sri Lankan style roti meal is a favourite among visitors

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    Ghee parata or Mumbai parata with flavoursome accompaniments

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    Pol roti with pol pani filling

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    Rotis with various fillings are definitely a must-have when in Sri Lanka

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    Kottu roti

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