We are committed carnivores, this is no vegetarian rant, we think meat curries are great too (there's some flesh at the end of the post). But in our opinion Sri Lankan veggie curries have an extra level of complexity and wow, the way the sweetness of the vegetables plays off against the spices. It must take a lifetime to learn how to spice these dishes so delicately.
The variety of Sri Lankan vegetable curries seems endless. In a Timeout interview (see here), Sri Lankan Australian celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita says "I could write 10 volumes of recipes just on vegetables."
Our short time in Sri Lanka was spent going from place to place sampling veggie curries, the variety is endless. And we are delighted to discover we can do the same back home in Sydney.
A couple of commenters on our blog suggested we try Pendle Hill for a Sri Lankan feed, so we did. Pendle Hill is a quiet little spot of 'over 50 specialty shops', a couple of stops on the train after Parramatta. There's four or so Sri Lankan takeaway joints on the main drag, Pendle Way. We also spotted Dan's Takeaway on Joyce Street from the station. We wonder if there's a couple more spots around.
The culture seems to be to get your takeaway and eat it at home, hence only a couple of joints have somewhere to sit down and eat. For lunch we pick Abie's Vegetarian Takeway as it has a couple of little tables. We discover later that Ruby's over the road has a couple of tables as well.
There's a bainmarie of love full of wonderful veggie curries, plus some fried snacks and some sweeties.
Abie's Vegetarian Takeaway Menu
The bitch is that a plate of veggie curries and rice doesn't make for a sexy food photo. But dang it's good, and only $6.50 a plate for rice and five selections. Selection one, anti clockwise: spinach, Dhal, snake bean and jackfruit seed, eggplant and a mix of onions, sultanas and tomato.
Selection Two: spinach, dhal (of course, you can't have rice and curry without it), a creamy bottle gourd curry, spicy drumstick (not the chicken kind) and eggplant.
Drumstick (murunga) is a vegetable we didn't encounter in Sri Lanka, it's one of those wonder plants used for eating and medicine alike and is found in India and Sri Lanka. The outer of the plant is inedible but it is cooked whole so the inside softens up, which you then strip out with your teeth. We got some help from the lovely lady here on working out how to eat this, lets just say we found out the hard way the outside is not the bit you eat.
Pappdums with deep fried and salty chillies. The salt helps the chillies go crisp and the frying reduces the chilli heat, Alison could eat these by the bag full.
You know you're in a place where Sri Lankan folks go if there's 'short eats' ready to go. We highly recommend sampling these spicy deep fried snackages. Your arteries may disagree.
Abie's has some great sweeties. The pink one is a coconut slice.
We took home this sweet dish of semolina with cashew nuts and sultanas, about $3 for a small tub.
This one was a humdinger: sweet balls with chick peas and spices with a couple of cashews and sultanas in each. There was something lardy and delicious holding these together. Sweet toothed-Shawn was over the moon with these. About $1 each.
Abie's Vegetarian Takeaway is at 11A Pendle Way, Pendle Hill. Phone 9896 3710. It's only been open a few months.
We're finding the way to do Sri Lankan is to dine-in for lunch, then get some takeaway for dinner somewhere else so you can try more places and spread the love around. Ruby's is plenty busy but we'll dine in there next time, so we try Sinthu Takeaway.
It's a simple joint with a bainmarie of love filled with some lovely looking curries, including a crab curry which we'll be back for, and the usual array of fried snacks, string hopper etc.
We get a biryani each for dinner, a lamb and a chicken. It's got a real nice spice kick to it, we have to admit these are spicier and yummier than the biryanis we tried in Sri Lanka. Only $7.50 each, including some yoghurt dip on the side.
We try more short eats: crunchy dhal vada, vadai (a little chewy), lamb roll and Alison's favourite, a vegetable roti wrap. We were disappointed with these truth be told, we've had better.
Spicy, crunchy dhal chips are great beer snacks.
And from the Aarththi Sri Lankan supermarket we grab a bottle of our favourite Sri Lankan soft drink - EGB - elephant ginger beer for $3.75. It's sweet but not too sweet. Shawn discovered it goes very well with bourbon and a dash of lime, tall glass lots of ice...