x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Food Obsession: Sri Lankan Iamprais

After a frustrating hunt, Arva Ahmed finally tracks down a delicious serving of Sri Lankan lamprais in Dubai and says it was worth the wait.

Sri Lankan lamprais can be hard to come by but is certainly worth the effort. Courtsey Arva Ahmed
Sri Lankan lamprais can be hard to come by but is certainly worth the effort. Courtsey Arva Ahmed

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