Letter to Foodie Friends
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
We’ve been eating at Max Wadiya for more than 15 years, often staying at our luxury villa for a month at a time. How many meals do you have in a month? Ninety? Not counting tea and snacks.
Yet we rarely eat the same meal twice.
Think of it. The best Sri Lankan cuisine is comprised of six or more curries around a huge plate of rice, served in help-yourself family style. The math gets seriously intimidating: 6 x 30 = 180 different dishes, only for dinner.
Well, that may be an exaggeration, but only just.
The combinations and permutations of ingredients and spices are endless. Visit the vegetable market to see a dazzling display of colors and variety of the local produce. Look in on the fish market to marvel at the local catch brought in that morning. Then you begin to understand the possibilities for a creative chef.
Yes, we have our favorites. Mango prawn curry is one. Another is lamprais, a tableau of cooked mutton or chicken, boiled egg, eggplant and rice wrapped and baked in a banana leaf, tied with string and adorned with a frangipani flower. It’s a specialty of this exclusive boutique hotel.
Lamprais is actually a bequest of the Dutch colonists who ruled much of Sri Lanka for 150 years up to the end of the 18th century. It reminds me of a miniature Indonesian rijsttaffel.
Other invaders before and after the Dutch also left their influence in the kitchen: the Portuguese, the British and, of course, the Indians, especially the Tamils.
Hoppers, crispy bowls of rice flour often with a fried egg nestling at the bottom, is a visitors’ favorite. Something similar is common in south India.
The curries can be fiery, so beware when ordering a Sri Lankan rice-and-curry in a restaurant or roadside stall. But at Max Wadiya the food is cooked to taste, and can be varied to serve groups with differing degrees of heat tolerance. Some hot, some mild, all tasty.
Everything is made fresh, mostly from ingredients bought on the morning shopping run. Coconut in one form or another is a common component, and the Wadiya kitchen grinds the meal and flour from its own trees. Some of the vegetables, bananas and papayas are plucked from the garden.
It’s healthy eating. Sri Lanka produces five varieties of red rice alone, which is loaded with nutrition since the germ of the rice is left whole. It is rich in fibre, lowers cholesterol and regulates body weight. Ranjan, the manager and overseer of the kitchen, can give an exposition of the health benefits of virtually every dish on the table.
The kitchen also can go international. Recently, at the request of a guest for a special occasion, it produced duck fesenjan, from the Persian tradition. We’ve had outstanding Chinese and Indian evenings. Lunch is often Western-style: pastas, elaborate salads, croquettes.
Among our guests over the years have been a few professional chefs, who have been among our most enthusiastic reviewers, like this blog by the World Travel Family:
“I really can’t over-state the quality of the Sri Lankan food here, it’s better than anything I’ve eaten on the island, ever. There are no short cuts, every spice, herb and plant is prepared fresh and it shows in the complexity of flavours that the dishes deliver. You can also be certain that every piece of fish, every crustacean and piece of meat is fresh and handled to proper hygiene standards.” (To read the full blog: http://worldtravelfamily.com/family-villa-ambalangoda-beach-sri-lanka-max-wadiya/)
For interested guests, Ranjan gives cooking lessons. See how it’s done. You’ll be amazed!