If Chadwiko and I have had to choose one favourite place that we’ve visited and whose street food we’ve adored, it’s likely to be Sri Lanka.
We visited Sri Lanka in 2009, a few months after the war ended. It was the perfect time to be there- Sri Lanka is a stunning country that deserves to be visited by everyone who can, and we were fortunate to have the chance before a tourism boom hit.
A lot of our fondest memories of our three weeks travelling around the country revolve around food. We were thrilled to find that street food of all varieties is everywhere- from fresh fruit and vegetables (durian and corn in particular), to hoppers with sambal, to a huge variety of curries with rice, it’s all there, and it’s all sold to you from the front of someone’s house in the middle of nowhere.
While rice and curry was a diet staple for those three weeks, for tonight’s MoFo meal I decided to try something a bit different. Owing in no small part to our love of street food, Chadwiko and I both ended up sick at different points on the trip, and as we rolled into Kandy one night, it was my turn to be unwell. Curry wasn’t going to help settle my stomach- I needed something more comforting. This is how we were introduced to kottu roti.
Kottu roti is essentially chopped homemade roti, sauteed with vegetables, chillies, and spices. The distinctive sound of knives clashing on a street corner isn’t an ominous one- it just means that someone is preparing this dish. I used this recipe as the (loose) basis for my version, and added carrots and, as a number of recipes called for fried egg, a quickly-thrown-together and chopped tofu omelette (from Vegan Brunch, of course). It might be the memory of how this dish made me feel better when I was unwell, or it might just be my love of meals made primarily from bread, but this is true comfort food.
I served this with pol sambol, a Sri Lankan chilli-coconut relish, and probably my favourite thing I ate while we were there.
We were shown how to make pol sambol by a woman in her garage, outside Kandy. Made with only fresh coconut, chillies, lime and fresh spices, it’s super spicy and super delicious, no matter what you serve it with. It was high time that I tried to make my own.
This recipe (as well as the aforementioned rotis) is a tester for Terry’s next book. With such fond memories of eating pol sambol in Sri Lanka, I lept at the opportunity to try this recipe. Sure, using a food processor to grind fresh coconut is a little less authentic than the mortar and pestle, but I loved it all the same. It’s not quite as spicy as the original, but it definitely still packs a punch.
And a plus for me- this made a ton of sambol. I guess I could have people over to share in the deliciousness… or I could keep it for my own happy stomach (this time completely sans gastrointestinal discomfort).