Arrived in Sri Lanka a couple days ago for a quick trip to handle some business before the release of my cookbook in a couple weeks. After 23 hours of travelling, my first craving off the plane was for lampreis, a luxurious rice & curry meal wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf, that I have blogged about before. Unfortunately, my goto place, the Dutch Burgher Union was sold out (you have to get there before lunch!), so I went to a back-up spot, the legendary Green Cabin (453 Galle Rd., Kollupitiya, Colombo 3). My nephew Shane Kane had told me that the quality of Green Cabin’s lampreis was slipping, but I had to find out for myself, and I hate to say it, but, yes, you were right Kane. First of all, what happened to the all important banana leaf ? My lampreis was wrapped in tin foil and just did not have the same flavor as before. It was edible, but I got a better one at my Aunt Sita’s for lunch the next day.
Today, while talking a stroll by Viharamahadevi Park (originally Victoria Park) by Town Hall, I spied a lone cart peddling another one of my favorites: Isso wade. You would think you’d find this scrumptious street food all over town, but aside from the stalls on Galle Face Green, you really have to seek out isso wade, which makes it all the more special. Just as I was speaking about street food with my cousin Sam, I saw the cart across and the street and I said, “What’s that!?!” On closer inspection, we discovered we had struck gold.
The best thing about it was that this vendor specialized in only two things, isso wade and ulundu wade, another awesome street food specialty that resembles a savory donut, crisp on the outside and light and airy within (and whose recipe is in my book).
Isso wade, on the other hand, is made from a flour of either red or yellow lentils–we could not agree on which one. But the crowning glory are the three tiny whole shrimp (with heads intact) which lounge on top. Though already partially cooked, the vendor dunks them into hot coconut oil to crisp them up.
Next comes the condiments: He douses them in spicy curry sauce, and tops them with a chopped salad, lime juice, and salt. For the donuts, he does the same, slicing them in half–the first time I’ve seen this particular sandwich method used.
Isso wade is the quintessential Sri Lankan street food, meant to be downed on the spot and with your hands. No napkins, no problems. Get your shirt dirty!
Of course, you can always take ’em home, but be sure to eat while still hot–this is not stuff that keeps well. And anyway, it’s so good you probably wont have any left by the time you get home!