My goto spot for Sri Lankan products has long been the friendly, mom-and-pop operation called Spice Lanka located in a Derwood, MD strip mall. There isn’t a thing you can get in Sri Lanka that Spice Lanka does not carry–including hot and fresh “short-eats,” or traditional Sri Lankan snacks, as well as labor intensive foods such as string hoppers, which the store’s owners make in their kitchen in the back. I have tried unsuccessfully for years, to get Chandra Malalasekara and her husband to open a Sri Lankan restaurant, since they already do quite a bit of catering, but they have done the next best thing: started a weekend buffet.
The aroma of home greets you as you walk into the small shop. On the other side of the small counter in front, you can see a row of traditional clay pots, which Sri Lankans use to cook and serve their food. The clay pots help to both seal in the moisture and enhance the flavor. Spice Lanka does not skimp on the menu either, offering about 12 different dishes–various meat, fish, and vegetable curries–which comprise a trypical Sri Lankan “rice & curry” meal. The menu changes weekly depending on what is seasonal and available, but when I went there was pork, mutton, chicken, and fish curries; dal, beets, green beans; even a lotus root curry, which is a dish I thought I would only find in Sri Lanka. Everything is cooked by Chandra and her husband and tastes thoroughly authentic and delicious. I was even pleasantly surprised by the “burn” left in my mouth by the chilies. This is Sri Lankan food for Sri Lankans–not some watered down facsimile–all for $7.99/pound. I could see that this buffet was a big draw as well, as practically every customer in the store that day, most of whom happened to be Sri Lankan, were helping themselves.
I’m actually a late-comer to the buffet, which has been running for about a year–and only on the weekends. But I’m also surprised that word of it has not really circulated beyond the Sri Lankan community–especially due to the dearth of Sri Lankan restaurants in the area. So I’m here to set the record straight. If you are looking for an authentic rice and curry experience at a reasonable price, you can do no better than Spice Lanka’s weekend buffet.