In person: Chef Indrajit Saha, Sofitel Mumbai BKC

Chef Indrajit Saha, Executive Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC talks about Sri Lankan food, which the hotel recently hosted over a 10-day long Sri Lankan food festival from 4th to 13th September 2014

What was the idea behind hosting a Sri Lankan food festival?
We wanted people to know more about Sri Lankan food, as everyone knows about European or American cuisines, but barely knows about their own neighbour. We had even done a Viatnamese promotion earlier and the idea behind serving Sri Lankan food was the same, to give Mumbai a taste of a different palate, which is quite similar to our own South Indian cuisine.

What are the taste highlights of Sri Lankan cuisine?
Seafood, coconut milk, curry leaves and mustard; these taste highlights which are prevelant in South Indian cuisine and can be predominantly found in Sri Lankan cuisine.
The mud crab is a popular variant; so you need to have mud crab if you have a Sri Lankan restaurant. Around the world, devilled chicken, devilled fish and devilled beef are also synonymous with Sri Lankan cuisine. Dishes with stir-fried chicken, peppers, onion, ginger, garlic and chilli flakes are common Sri Lankan preparations. At times, tomato ketchup is also used in dishes. Sri Lankan cuisine is all about combination of cultures like Portuguese, Dutch and Indian. Spices come from India, because the English came and cultivated the spices here.
Sri Lankan sweets are individualistic except the watalappam, which is made of coconut and jaggery; ingredients which are used in many south Indian sweets. The watalappam is a combination between a halwa and chikki. There are some desserts like Love Cake and Pineapple upside down, where the influence of French and English ingredients can be seen.
How similar or different is Sri lankan food with Indian food?
Since Sri Lanka was a part of South India, the food is largely similar to South Indian preparations. Common dishes like appam, rice and curry are Sri Lankan staples. Though their curry powder is different from our Madras powder, but the use of chilli, spices and coconut milk is quite similar to Indian tastes, which makes us believe that Indians feel Sri Lankan food to be one of their own.  Even the ingredients include a lot of curry leaves, coconut milk, and vegetables like drumsticks, cauliflower, which Indians commonly use. Our very own appam, has an anglicized name called hopper, which is a common Sri Lankan delicacy. Their rotis are similar to ours, and both South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine have Portuguese, Dutch and British influence, as Sri Lanka was a part of British India.

The major differences between our dals and curries are the overpowered masalas which Indians use, unlike Sri Lanka, where curries are much more subtle. They use a lot of roasted cumin powder, while we use a lot of coriander. We take a lot of time to make our curries and dals, with onion, tomato and cashewnut, thereby making them very rich. Their curries are more subtle, and masalas are not too overpowering. 


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    Your blog is impressive, thanks to the quality of your recipes & other content



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