Sometimes these blog posts don’t work out as planned. I had planned, for example, to do a post on string hoppers, the rice noodle “nests” popular in Sri Lanka for breakfast and dinner. Problem is, I wanted to buck tradition, or conditioning, or whatever you want to call it, and have string hoppers for lunch. Not such a big deal, you might think, but try finding string hoppers at lunch time in Colombo. My cousin Cane and I set off for Bambalapitiya with high hopes, but kade after kade, we struck out. In a land where rice reigns supreme, and lunch is the main meal, it seems as though it’s a serious breach of dining etiquette here to expect string hoppers for lunch.
So we ducked inside Hotel De New Pilawoos, a member of Colombo’s popular Pilawoos franchise (but neither a hotel or French or new), and settled instead for some biriyani. Sri Lankan biriyani is slightly different to what you’ve come to expect from this dish. For one, there’s no yogurt involved. The meat and rice are also cooked separately–and in this case the chicken is actually roasted while short-grain samba rice replaces the traditional long-grain, fragrant basmathi. You also get a whole hard-boiled egg, a side of minchi (mint) sambol, gravy for the chicken, and a piece of pineapple for good measure. We supplemented our biriyani with a side of beef curry because it looked so good!
I must say that even though I did not get my string hoppers for lunch, I was not mad at this meal. The rice was bursting with flavors, prominent among them the essence of rose, which Muslims love to use in their cooking (and biriyani, of course, originally being a Moghul dish). The roasted chicken, though juicy, was much aided by the addition of the curry gravy. The minchi sambol added a cooling component to the whole meal (as did the sliver of pineapple), and the beef curry, though a little tough, tasted fine.
Of course, I couldn’t wash down a Muslim meal without a traditional Muslim dessert, so we chose to have some faluda. Faluda is a sweetened drink made with milk, ice cream and rose syrup, which is super sweet, and gives the drink it’s signature pinkish hue. There are also sometimes bits of tapioca floating in the drink for texture. You essentially stir up the whole thing and enjoy it like a milk shake. I hadn’t had faluda in a while, and this one was perfect because it was not overly sweet for my tastes. Though I had been to Pilawoos many times before, I can understand why it is the goto place for such foods as biriyani or Kothu roti in the evening–consistency is the key!
Hotel De Pilawoos
417, Galle Road, Colombo 3. (btw 6th Ln & Alfred Pl), Colombo, Sri Lanka
011 2 574795