The festival is on till tonight (Sat 27th Jun 09)
When I was homesick for some Sri Lankan food, I used to go to a Malaysian restaurant. They had godamba roti (called it roti canai) and the chicken curry was identical to Sri Lankan chicken curry.
In Sri Lanka, though, there are almost no places to eat Malay food. So when I heard about the the (Sri Lankan) Malay Food Festival at the Galadari Coffee Shop (LKR 1400 nett per head), I didn't hesitate to bundle my wife into the car and go.
To ensure the food's authenticity, they had got actual Sri Lankan Malay housewives to stay in the hotel and assist the chefs.
I noticed two things about the food. The first is how different Sri Lankan Malay food is from Malaysian food. It seems like Sri Lankan Malay food started at Malaysian and evolved in its own way from there.
The second is how ordinary many of the Sri Lankan Malay dishes feel. Dishes like chicken curry, peanut and cashew curry, curried ash plantains, pittu, malay pickle and dodol are standard fare at the average Sinhala Buddhist table. To me, that signifies just how much the influence of the Malays, a relatively tiny minority, has shaped Sri Lankan cuisine.
They also had Malay songs and dances. Even these songs and dances feel very Sri Lankan.
When foreigners ask me about Sri Lankan cuisine, I always emphasise its Malay connections and downplay its similarities to Indian food. To me, our food is nothing like Indian food but a helluva lot like Malaysian. Go tonight and see for yourself.
PS: The Sri Lankan Malay community was out in force, dressed up to the nines - salwars, kurtas and cheongsams. Wear something nice and go.
PPS: If you know of any Malay restaurants (or eating places or holes in the wall) in Colombo, let me know in the comments...
Restaurant Name: Galadari Coffee Shop
Address: Galadari Hotel, 64 Lotus Road, Colombo 1
Phone: call +94 112 544 544 and ask for the Coffee Shop
Price: LKR 1,400 nett per head