Sri Lanka is a diverse island nation, and this diversity is evident not only in their heritage and culture, but in its cuisine as well. During my travels to Sri Lanka a couple of years ago, I enjoyed every moment savouring their food because it was fusion rich of flavours, spices and textures. Blessed with a tropical climate that provides an abundance of coconuts, vegetables, spices and fresh seafood, Sri Lankan cuisine tantalized my taste buds and since then, I’ve been longing to relive that experience in Malaysia.
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I had the privilege to relive that experience when I was invited by Yarl Restaurant in Brickfields, right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, which serves authentic Jaffna cuisine. Jaffna is located in the northernmost tip of Sri Lanka, and the region is mainly populated by Tamil-speaking people. It is in close proximity to the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India and is separated from it by the Palk Strait. I’ve never been to Jaffna, as such I was curious about its cuisine. I accepted the invite and brought two friends along with me to find out what Jaffna cuisine is all about.
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We were served the following dishes:
Hoppers are savoury, bowl-shaped thin pancakes made from a batter of fermented rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water and a sprinkling of sugar. The batter is fried in a small wok and swirled around to cover the sides of the pan. Egg hoppers are the same except that an egg is broken into the batter while it’s being cooked.
String hoppers are made of rice flour and pressed through a hopper press to produce nest-like noodles. The noodle-shaped rice flour is then steamed and typically eaten with coconut sambol, dhal curry and coconut milk curry.
In Yarl Restaurant, we were served string hoppers with sambol and sothi. Sothi is a rich coconut-based gravy with fenugreek seeds and turmeric powder. After tasting this, I feel that string hoppers and sothi is a match in food heaven!
Yarl’s Jaffna Crab Curry is Sri Lankan Blue Swimmer Crab marinated with spices imported from Sri Lanka that are specially blended by their in-house chefs to give an authentic taste of Jaffna.
My friends and I LOVED the crab curry – it’s spicy, rich in flavours and seriously yummy! The downside to having this crab curry dish at Yarl is that they didn’t have a crab cracker for us to crack open the crab claws. It was sad to see good food go to waste – we would have polished the bowl clean! ☹
Kottu is a famous Sri Lankan street food made of flat bread, vegetables, oil, spices and egg or chicken, finely chopped and mashed on a hot plate with two metal spatulas. I remembered having chicken kottu in Sri Lanka, so when Yarl served this to us that night, I was deliriously happy!
In all honesty, the dishes that were served to us that evening seemed just like any other Sri Lankan cuisine that I had tasted before. The only dishes which I felt were uniquely from Jaffna (I think) were the string hoppers with sothi and the crab curry. That said, we were informed that Yarl Restaurant has two home-trained chefs who bring recipes from their ancestors in Jaffna into their kitchen, therefore, they are able to serve special home-grown dishes to give their customers the most authentic taste of Jaffna.
Regardless, Yarl’s Jaffna food is very much like the rest of Sri Lanka, a delightful mix of spices that will leave you craving for more!
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50 Jalan Padang Belia (behind YMCA)
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mon – Sun, 7am to 10pm.
*My food experience was sponsored by Yarl Restaurant, all opinions shared in this post are my own.
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