It is with a certain fondness that I say I’ve lived in the tiny teardrop island of Sri Lanka for over 17 years. Despite my smooth transition into Aussie life, there are certain things I miss about home – things I like to label as the “Three Fs” – ie; Family, Friends and of course, FOOD!
Curry runs in my veins, so it is a given that I miss the spiciness and familiarity of Sri Lankan cuisine. Perhaps the dish that I miss the most is Koththu roti which is often likened to Char kwae teow in terms of its appearance and taste. Directly translating to “chopped roti” in Tamil, Koththu is a flavoursome medley of vegetables, egg, meat (in some cases) and, well… roti.
The process of making Koththu roti involves a lot of clattering and scraping, which when mingled with the sounds of evening traffic and the sights and smells of Colombo, gives rise to an atmosphere which makes you feel truly at home. The wait one must endure between placing the Koththu order at a roadside kadé (store) and finally receiving it wrapped neatly in newspaper and a plastic bag (during which the aroma of fried spices makes you salivate uncontrollably) is one that I’m yet to experience in Melbourne. With that being said, I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t found a restaurant or two in Melbourne that sells a killer Koththu roti!
Jolly J’s (Flinders street)
The first restaurant I visited (accompanied by my friend, Haseena) was known as Jolly J’s on Flinders street which is a rather inconspicuous little place, and quite easy to miss as it is tucked away in a strip mall of sorts. Run by a jolly (see what I did there?) Sri Lankan gentleman, they have a small selection of Lankan dishes amongst other mainstream Western ones. However I had eyes only for one thing… the Koththu.😍 I was pleasantly surprised as to how good their vegetable Koththu was and to top it all off, we were given free homemade Sri Lankan marshmallows for dessert!
Jolly J’s is open from 8am-8pm every weekday and is hardly ever crowded, which is good seeing as there is very limited seating. It is located approximately 10m to the left of Unilodge on Flinders.
Lankan Tucker (Albion street, West Brunswick)
A recent foray into West Brunswick with my friend Dave, led to the discovery of Lankan Tucker which had a wider variety of dishes to choose from. Aside from traditional rice and curry, hoppers and string hoppers (they don’t actually hop lol), they even served watalappan (popular dessert made of coconut custard) and faluda!
After a rather tiring yet eventful day of roaming around Melbourne on foot, a hot plate of soya-meat Koththu was most welcoming – and tastier than expected! I was thrilled to see that Dave (who opted for a chicken Koththu) really enjoyed it as well, as it was his first time trying Sri Lankan food. To add to it, the service here was excellent and the staff were extremely friendly!😄
Lankan Tucker opens at 6:30am on Monday, Thursday and Friday and at 7:30am on weekends, but closes at 4:00pm each day. You’ll find this little cafe at 486 Albion street, West Brunswick and it’s a great breakfast and/or lunch spot!
I hope to find more Sri Lankan restaurants in the city for when the homesickness kicks in again (as I’m sure it will) but until then, I’ll be paying frequent visits to those mentioned above to fuel my inner Lankan.