Lunch being the main meal in Lanka, I noticed that there’s a ton of places to get a quick, midday rice and curry—from street side stands and trucks that sell 100 rupee rice packets to the informal, sit-down restaurants that cater to the office crowd. While most rice packets are perfectly fine, they have usually been sitting around since morning and because they are already boxed, you really don’t know what you’re getting until you open it up. That’s why I prefer to go to a place like Gamay Kade. Though you pay a little more (240 for the basic rice and curry meal with 4 vegetables and a meat dish), you get a load of different dishes to choose from, all piping hot and fresh in the traditional clay chattys in which they were cooked. This is Sri Lanka’s version of fast food, served in a clean setting, under spinning ceiling fans, and on real plates.
I checked out the Gamay Kade (which roughly translates to ‘village diner’) on Union Street in Colombo with my friend Arjuna, a Sri Lankan filmmaker, and went away quite satisfied. Not only were there about 15 different curries from which to choose, but they also served Chinese food, buriyani, and Malay specialties such as Nasi Goreng. After taking a peek at the sumptuous offerings before us, we told the cashier what we wanted, paid, and got a ticket, which we presented at the buffet line. Here, a lady served up a heaping mound of rice (red rice for me), as well as red fish curry, prawn curry, dahl with spinach, beetroot curry, mango curry, and mallun (sautéed greens). Arjuna got some jackfruit curry instead of the beets, and we also got a side order of fried fish. After washing up at the washing station, we dug in with our hands (the traditional way of eating rice and curry) thoroughly enjoying the feast before us. The total food bill—a whopping 680 rupees (US $6.18 or $3.09 per person). It tasted as good as home made, and we did not go away hungry.