Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Letchumi Bhawan Tamil Vegetarian Street Food Colombo Sri Lanka

Stuff Posh People Like: Saivara Fare

In Colombo, we're blessed with an abundance of restaurants serving Tamil vegetarian food. The usual suspects like the Mathuras and the Shanthi Vihars litter the streets of Colombo, serving acres and acres of dosa nightly.

My favourite such place is a little less well known. It's also not as nice but 1) it's also cheaper 2) that's part of the fun. New Letchumi Bhawan is on Ernest De Silva Mw (formerly Flower Road) in between Cotton Collection and Leather Collection. It's an odd bird in that herd but it's an awfully tasty one.

For breakfast, they have idiappam or string hoppers. I order in Sinhalese so they automatically bring coconut sambol and kiri hodi with it. But I always ask for the sambar and the thosai sambol instead, which is much tastier. The waiter - a guy in a sarong - brings over a small metal bucket of thosai sambol and a big metal bucket of sambar.

Picking out the pieces of pumpkin that dot the sambar, I begin my meal. 5 strings later, I ask for the side dishes. Soya curry, dry curried chick peas, potatoes in a light garlic curry and tempered spicy potatoes are the standard ones which come in tiny silver dishes. One of those dishes and 10 or 15 strings later, I ask for the bill and a plain tea (which comes in a tiny glass).

I am LKR 100 or so in the hole. Leaving a generous(!) LKR 20 tip, I get up and walk out, conscious of the need to realign my posture to my new centre of gravity, 1 or 2 feet below what it used to be.

On days when I feel adventurous, I have the wadais - parippu (dhal), potato or ulundu - which those who know have given me excellent reviews about. And on days when I go late, they have, for lunch, this nice vegetarian rice dish for 80 odd LKR with some vegetable curries on the side.

Saivara kades have two words associated with them: dingy, dirty and claustrophobic (ok, three!). But New Letchumi Bhawan is wide open and airy and is as clean as any place I've seen. They've even recently upgraded the tables and chairs to the kind you get at the Arpico food court.

New Letchumi Bhawan is the only place on Flower Road where you can walk in with a hundred rupee note and get something good. If I may get Marxist for a bit, it is a little oasis of proletarianism in the bourgeois desert that is Colombo 7. Visiting it just to keep some sanity on a road where they sell a cheese roti for LKR 300 is worth it.

PS: If you've got any good suggestions for similar, less well known places like the Yapane Bath Kade, please let me know in the comments


  1. As usual your post was very informative and entertaining. Thanks. However I must admit that reading it on this occasion was also a bit stressful - especially the photos - due to the Ramazan fast :)))

  2. Try the babuth joint in new ferry road,off Malay st

  3. Very useful information.
    Do you any simillar(tamil vegetarian) hotel in Kandy ,Hikkaduwa?.

  4. I haven't been, but Lonely Planet lists Rams in Kandy as a Tamil vegetarian joint

    In Hikkaduwa, almost any place'll do you vegetarian including Hansika:

    Thosais and thalis, though, are hard to come by there.

    Further south, both Galle and Unawatuna have Tamil veg places - Beach Access Road / Devala Road in Unawatuna is almost completely vegetarian.

  5. Yum..Yum... nothing like a good saivar kade :)

  6. It's good...
    I'm a vegetarion...

  7. Well, this isnt saivar food, but Burger's King on the bend at Malay Street is good street food, and it has a pretty good atmosphere too. plus, its decently priced!

  8. Brilliant review. I hope you don't mind but I posted it at the following site with a link back to this blog:

    If you are not ok with this, please let me know. Would you consider joining the forum and posting your reviews? It would really enliven the place. The website is accessed by thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world and no doubt many of these people visit the Sri Lankan forum. Your reviews will help not only fellow Sri Lankans, but potential tourists as well.

  9. I was searching for vegetarian restaurants in Colombo and happened upon your blog. I will be there in Colombo from Nov. 24 to 28. I think I will visit this place. Found it informative. thanks

  10. As a school kid I used to go there and eat the dosai, string hoppers and wade and top it off with a glass of hot milk! Great food. I have fond memories of that place

  11. There is also a nice clean place in Rudhra Mawatha, CMB 6 called MB Chennai Vegetarian Restaurant. Good, hearty food for a small price. Nice curd vadai and sambhar vadai (2 for 85). Now that's something. ;-)

  12. I would suggest New Amritha Hotel (galle rd,C4 somewhat opp.St.Pauls church gate)The food is good.Its clean and has come a long way since newspaper serviettes littered the floor!
    I stopped at a wayside place on highlevel rd.Had a local mini mart next to it(forget location & name-maybe Sunpriya or something like that)It had the best spicy rice and curry buffet I've had.Cost.Rs.190 and if you go in for a extra serve of fish or parrippu it will set you back Rs.30 per veg,fish!!
    Service the Mazda and keep travelling !

  13. I am pure vegeterian. I do not eat eggs also. I want vegeterian hotel.I checked New Letchumi Bhawan (in your post). For getting the exact locaiton of this hotel, i checked into google map and searched for flower road.

    But google map shows prime minster office and CMS ladies college on flower road. Please let me know exact location of this hotel on flower road.

  14. It's not on Google Maps. It is next to Cotton Collection and (I think) the embassy of the UAE.

  15. so how far it is from Prime Minister office / Ladies college.. any idea ?