Hunting down lamprais in Dubai has been a challenge. Two of the Sri Lankan restaurants I've visited offer this Portuguese-inspired rice concoction only over the weekend. Not just Friday, but specifically Friday lunch, as I learnt during a futile lamprais dinner run last Friday. "Grumpy" is a gross understatement in describing my reaction when I realised that for the third time in a row, I had missed this Sri Lankan labour of rice-ingrained love.
The restaurant that finally rescued me from the depths of lamprais longing was Curry Leaf, buried in a food court in the basement of Musalla Towers. It is in this Bur Dubai dungeon that I was reunited with the lamprais I had first tasted at a Sri Lankan restaurant in New York, delicately unwrapping the banana leaf parcel as I inhaled the emerging fragrance of curry, chilli and whole garam masala.
Curry Leaf's version, for Dh18 per steamed bundle, is a jigsaw puzzle of lamprais ingredients: tender sardine and potato croquettes, bronze chunks of roast chicken, fried aubergine with the semi-bitter, peppery aftertaste of mustard, spots of boneless chicken curry, toasted cashew nuts and a batter-fried boiled egg, all strewn over a mound of basmati rice grains burnished with soy sauce. While the elements may seem like extra incongruent pieces a puzzle maker threw into the box to confuse you, once you dive in and start savouring the lamprais, you realise how each piece fits the other seamlessly to create a spicy, flavourful whole.
I was blind to Curry Leaf's dismal location because they could serve me lamprais when I craved it. Moreover, its friendly chef Mohammad shared the recipe with me, and revealed that "we usually serve it on Fridays, but if a customer asks during the week, we won't say no". There's a lesson that needs to feature prominently in Running Restaurants 101.
Curry Leaf, Mussalla Towers, Phone: 04-397-8940; AED 18.00 per steamed bundle of Lamprais
Arva Ahmed blogs about delicious ethnic eats in Old Dubai at www.iliveinafryingpan.com