Many a few food festivals are endorsed by the Embassy, their Consul General and The National Carrier. Note Sofitel Mumbai BKC to do the different and in their impeccable style. Every time they host a food festival, they notch it up by several inches. This season they play gracious hosts to one of most fiery cuisines in the world- SriLankan. And to rustle it up in their kitchenettes is none other than Chef Duminda Abeysiriwardena form the pearl of the Indian Ocean. His name itself exhausts 140 characters on twitter. Jokes apart, his name truly spells Lankan magic. His ladle stirs magic every time he walks in upto the range.
Over the last 15 years he has grown into becoming and being known as an international master in Sri Lankan cuisine. His career was given a kickstart at the reputed Ceylon Hotel School & School of Tourism and over the years has catered to food lovers in Sri Lanka, Bahrain and Maldives. One of his key attributes has been his understanding of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, mastering its key essence and taking it internationally; something very few Chefs from his country have been able to do at the highest levels. In the age and time where a lot in the brethren, polish off culinary books on alien cuisines, he is the one sailing against the tide and wishes that his values and inspiration from his mother gets global recognition.
One of his current passions is to make his home-town in Sri Lanka shine in the world of culinary arts, internationally. And he is rightly, so on his path of culinary excellence. He works on several programs to boost travel, tourism and hospitality in the country and is very conscious about the role he plays in the Sri Lankan hospitality and tourism sector.
I remember in my earlier job role when we hosted a SriLankan festival and had a Chef De Cuisine from Cinnamon Grand, the initiative got maximum attention in the festival history and notched the mojo accentuated with excellent reviews. It’s the magic of the melting pot that the cuisine truly is. So much so that we had to host the same again in the same year and follow it up early in the next year, too. I do not take it kindly when patrons call the cuisine ‘South Indian’ and leave it at that. Yes, the cuisine has parallels for sure, but is distinctly different. Talking to Chef Duminda he takes us through a journey of his country, He talks about the various cultural influences in food. He says, “Years of colonization and trade have made it a culinary concoction of world cuisines. Middle East played a vital role and one can find its influences in the bank of Moor (Sri Lankan muslims) dishes, and Dutch-Portuguese influences in the island’s Burgher community.”
Sri Lanka, being an island with a tropical climate, coconut, rice, fish and some spices are major components in their cuisine. Rice and curry is the Sri Lankan staple, though various kinds of bread, both roti style flatbreads and even loaves of bread, are very common, too. To savour the flavour burst in your mouth, right here, right now, run to Sofitel Mumbai BKC that stands tall with all answers and brings to Mumbai a one-of-a-kind exposition of Sri Lankan cuisine and culture.
Hop on to a “Sri Lankan Safari” at the Sofitel Mumbai BKC with Chef Duminda Abeysiriwardena who is creating delectable creations from the island country, at the Pondichéry Café from September 4th to 13th, 2014.
When we went dining, at the enthralling and grand buffet, all we did was shamelessly singled out Sri Lankan specialties, indicated with the presence of their national flag, and made an entire evening out of it. Right from the silken smooth Wattaka Soup (Pumpkin soup) flavoured with curry spice and lightly scented with fresh coconut cream. It set the cards for the entire evening.
Followed by Pathola Purawala, which is traditional stuffed, tangy-sweet-spicy stuffed snake gourd.
And Isso Badala, tempered prawns in spices and curry leaves stuffed in mini finger millet bread. A little dry at first bite but combined with some traditional chutneys and pickles, it came out tops.
Live station hosts a steamed fish- Humalayan Thambana Malu, wrapped in Banana leaves, scented with coconut and shots of mint. The moment when the fish is unwrapped at the table, it sends flavour signals all across the restaurant. ‘Magnifique’- as Sofitel Mumbai BKC and their team would call it.
Salads are flavourful and simple. And that is the beauty of the cuisine. Some menu items are as simple as a combination of 3-4 ingredients, whereas some are intricate and many. Gova Melluma was grated cabbage, tempered and tossed with scrapped coconut. Amu-Amba saladaya was spicy, tangy and again a simple combination of sliced raw mango, tomatoes and chilly. Mohudhu Sladay, undoubtedly my favourite was a volumptious combination of an assortment of tangy seafood.
But what really spiked up our palate was the red-hot-fiery Kukul Mas Mrisasta- morsels of chicken on the bone in a red curry and Malu Thel Vinakiri- Fish stew in a vinegar and ground mustard marinade, both served with Rathu kakulu bath- Sri Lankan red rice. For the vegetarians there was Morunga Maluwa- drumstick curry and a tangy rea mango curry too. Both high on flavours yet easy on the stomach.
While lanterns adorn the exteriors of many buildings in Sri Lanka, Sofitel Mumbai BKC also put up a beautiful picture of Pondichéry Café with lanterns adorning its walls and traditional masks across the corridors leading up to the outlet. We swayed in dancing to the beats of popular Sinhala music called Baila and Calypso, being performed by the Sinhala Serenaders – a Sri Lankan entourage, entertaining guests at their seats. Pick some smooth, flavoursome tea from the house of Basilur and keep enchanting the delights from the island country.
What an evening! Run up to give a warm, tight hug to the team at Pondichéry Café, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.
Date: September 4th to 13th, 2014
Time: For Dinner 7 pm onwards
Price: Rs. 2,000 per person (plus taxes)