Sri Lankan Lamprais - History Baked in Banana Leaf
Lamprais is probably the most significant and sought after remnant from the Dutch Burghers in Sri Lanka. The term ‘lamprais’ which loosely translates to a packet of lumped rice is an amalgam of very specific side dishes and a delightfully flavourful rice. The modest parcel of food wrapped in a banana leaf, freshly baked in a warm oven for a few minutes until the mildly woody smell of the banana leaf mingled with the unmistakable aroma of meat and rice. They say you eat with your eyes first, but in this case, the aroma of the lamprais will hook anyone to K+K Street Food Kitchen at Boxpark Croydon.
Another South Asian cult classic dish which most of them know is biryani, but while the biryani is robust in public memory, imbued with the pride of all the communities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and even Sri Lankan have their own version of biryani. But don;t confuse lamprais with Biryani. Lamprais tells a wholly different tale. Gifted to the Sri Lankan food lexicon by the Dutch Burghers, a small group of European-origin settlers who have called the island nation home since the 16th century, the lamprais now serves as a fragile thread that is keeping the once-vibrant community from being forgotten altogether.
Derived from the Dutch burg, or city, the word “Burgher” literally translates to the citizens or residents of a city. However, sometime during the period between the 15th and 17th centuries, when Dutch ships set forth to establish a mercantile empire in Asia, the word came to be used to describe a new middle class composed of traders.
Making lamprais is most definitely not an easy feat. Not because of its complexity, but because of the many components that need to be prepared, we at K+K Street Food offer Lamprias as our weekends only special and our version of lamprais is made of below seven dishes:
Yellow Rice: The rice is the heart of a good lamprais dish. And we use Sri Lankan short grain samba rice and fresh homemade stock.
Chicken or Mutton Kari: The original recipe calls for a mixed meat curry made out of bite sized pork, beef and lamb, we have substituted this with Sri Lankan chicken or mutton kari (curry) which is thick gravy which will not leak out when wrapped in a banana leaf.
Fried Chicken: Tender chicken made of Ceylon spices baked and fried.
Seeni Sambhol: Sri Lankan favourite caramelized onion relish, which is spicy, sweet and tangy that it piques all your taste buds at the same time.
Brinjal Moju: Made of fried brinjal (Aubergine, Eggplant) with spiciness of the chilli to the tang from the vinegar to the slight bitterness of crushed mustard and the sweetness and saltiness of sugar and salt – it covers the whole spectrum of flavours in one mouthful.
Twice Cooked Egg: Boil eggs which are deep fried until crispy and blistered on the outside.
Fried Ash Plantain: Ash plantains aka green bananas which are cut into bite sized cubes, seasoned with salt, turmeric and chili powder and deep fried until they are crisp.
Polos Cutlet: Though the original recipe calls for beef frikkadels, which are minced meat balls that is spiced, balled, crumb coated and deep fried- we have substitute with our Polos cutlets (Vegan) which is one of our best vegan short-eats loved by vegan foodies in London.
Prawn Blachan: Dried prawns (pre-soaked in warm water for half an hour and drained), shallot, bird's eye chillies, red chillies, belacan and curry leaves are mixed with mortar and pestle until fine.
The lamprais doesn’t lend itself to niceties: the best way to savour it is to mix everything well and eat it with your fingers, so that the peppery heat of the curry is undercut by the sweet moju, and the seeni sambol is complimented by the blachan, which packs a mighty umami punch.