Patrick’s Scoop: Exploring Sri Lanka Hotels June 6, 2017
To kickstart #FreshPlaces, I decided to pack up my pots and pans and head over to Sri Lanka in search of adventure. And I haven’t been disappointed. If you’re hankering for a taste of Asia, then Sri Lanka is the perfect microcosm of cultures, climates, flavours and breathtaking scenery all wrapped into a package that’s a little more navigable than the vastness of its larger cousin, India. As you’d imagine a lot of my highlights so far have been based around the food! There’s loads more to share with you all, but I couldn’t wait to share my favourite sights, dishes and experiences from my first week.
Sigiriya and the Sri Lankan Crab Curry at the Aliya Hotel
I’ve always shied away from the tourist route but Sigiriya is truly breathtaking. Rising almost 200 metres out of the (otherwise almost entirely flat) ground it’ll take you an hour to climb and the view will totally merit the effort. If you’ve got vertigo then keep your eyes ahead!
After the climb I headed to the nearby Aliya Hotel to be met by the warmest Sri Lankan greeting (that included a candle lighting ceremony and a glass of revitalising passion fruit sorbet!). Sitting in the shadow of Sigiriya itself, they are famed for their Sri Lankan crab curry (and many of the ingredients are sourced from their own plantation). Wash it down with their signature Arrack cocktail as you listen to the resident sitar player and that thigh burn will simply melt away.
The Signature Aliya Crab Curry
If you really want to impress at that next dinner party then give this crab curry a whirl. The only tricky part is prepping the crab itself, but you can always ask your local fishmonger to do that for you.
- 1 Whole Crab
- 1 Sprig Curry Leaves
- Few pandan leaves
- 1 onion
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 3 Green Chillies
- 2 Cloves
- 2 cardamom pods
- Pinch of turmeric powder
- 1 Tbsp curry powder
- 1 Tbsp chilli powder
- 1 Cup of water
- 100ml coconut milk
- 2 Tbsps oil
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Ask your fishmonger to clean and break up your crab into pieces (or if you are feeling adventurous try doing it at home)
- Heat 2 tbsps of oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the diced onion, chopped garlic, chopped green chilies, pandan leaves, curry leaves, clove and cardamom. Stir it for few minutes.
- Next add the crab with the turmeric powder, curry powder and chilli powder.
- Add the water and bring it to a gentle bubble until the crab becomes pink in color.
- Stir in the coconut milk then add salt to taste.
- Finally add 2-3 drops of lime juice and serve with steamed rice.
Sri Yoga and The Owl and The Pussycat
If you decide to head down south to Galle or around Unawatuna to hit the surf, then wind down afterwards with a visit to Sri Yoga Shala. It’s a beautiful, calm setting away from the tourist beat, perfect for getting your Zen on.
Afterwards head to The Owl and the Pussycat Hotel for dinner. Under the watchful eye of Head Chef Anthony D’Costa they have samosas to die for, followed by a selection of curries from prawn to fish, aubergine, beetroot and my new obsession, Pol Sambol, a garnish of coconut shavings and chilli that takes any dish to the next level. I had a bit of everything and I suggest you do the same. All this while surrounded by the coolest decor on the south coast and the sound of the crashing waves. It’s a little bit of paradise.
Owl and the Pussycat Pol Sambol
One of the most simple recipes in the world, but when you sprinkle this Sri Lankan garnish on your curries / hoppers / eggs (you name it!) it’ll instantly go next level!
2 cups fresh coconut, grated
1 cup tomato, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1 tbsps red chilli flakes
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Put all the ingredient in a pestle & mortar and gently crush them all. Don’t overdo it as all the ingredients should be visible.
Hoppers, Kottu Roti and More at Jetwing Beach, Negombo
I get it. You want to do the ‘local’ thing but the idea of street food can be a bit intimidating. Enter: Jetwing Beach, Negombo. After a long day of filming we headed over to check out their vast array of food options and never wanted to leave. They’ve set up street food stalls for all the Sri Lankan classics on the beach so you can try a bit of everything. The thing that caught my attention most was the divine prawn and mango curry. Lovingly prepared in front of us by Chef Prasanna Perera, washed down with their signature Teaarrack cocktail (a concoction of the local tipple ‘Arrack’ with tea, lime juice and coconut water). Make sure you say hello to Tekla the ‘Hopper Lady’ (as she is affectionately known). She’s made around 300,000 hoppers since she started, so you’re in capable hands.
Jetwing Negombo Prawn and Mango Curry
- 500g Raw tiger prawns (cleaned)
- 100g Fresh mango, diced
- 75g Onion, diced
- 2 Cloves garlic
- 1 tsp Chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp Mild chilli powder
- 2 tbsps Curry powder
- ½ tsp Turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp Fenugreek
- Pandan leaves,
- Lime juice
- ½ Cup thin coconut milk
- 1 Cup thick coconut milk
- Cinnamon sticks
- coconut oil
- Season the prawn with the curry powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder and a pinch of salt.
- Fry the onion in a tablespoon of coconut oil on medium heat for 5 mins then add the garlic for a minute, followed by the seasoned prawns and raw mango
- Cook until the prawns turn pink and then add the remainder of the ingredients, keeping back the thick coconut milk.
- Gently simmer for 15 mins then add a tablespoon of lime juice and salt to taste.
- Serve with red rice and stir fried vegetables
I want to give a big shout out to the team at Royal Holidays in Sri Lanka who are making the whole adventure possible. We have a lot of filming to fit in and our guide Vindy has proved to be a real encyclopaedia of local knowledge. If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka in the future, give them a shout! If you’re after a holiday like no other, their Hotel will not disappoint.