Colombo is a city by the sea in a nation famed for its seafood, so it is no surprise that the city’s lanes and promenades offer more than a few opportunities to indulge in delicious culinary excursions. Here are six of the very best seafood experiences in the Sri Lankan capital.
1. Ministry of Crab
Ministry of Crab is a logical start for any visiting sea-foodie. It’s not an actual ministry, but going by the queues to get in and number of VIP visitors, it might as well be one. It’s also one of the few spots in the city where you can actually buy the enormous crabs Sri Lanka is famed for, as most of the jumbo sized crustaceans are packed away for export. Still, none of these export destinations can match the freshness of the Ministry of Crab with huge crabs (weighing about 1 kilogram) served in a handful of near perfect preparations and accompanied by the Sri Lankan classics pol (spiced coconut), sambal and hunks of paan (bread) to mop up the spectacular gravy.
Seafood on the beach is hard to beat, and Colombo’s southern suburbs offer a string of rapidly gentrifying beaches featuring a range of seafood contenders. Barracuda on Dehiwala beach is a real champion offering a large range of seafood. The preparations fuse both Sri Lankan and east Asian flavours. The results are hearty and delicious with their hot butter cuttlefish (calamari fried in butter and chilli) a must-try.
3. Mayura Hotel
This hotspot is another champion tucked away in Colombo’s bustling Pettah district. The offerings here are delicious and mind-bending value for money. For LKR 320 (USD2.20) you get a pile of rice, a thick omelette, three wholesome vegetable curries and a plump and juicy crab of surprising size and meatiness. It’s so succulent you will want another – and at these prices, why stop at one?
4. Lagoon at Cinnamon Grand
The seafood market concept is nothing new – weigh your produce on site and have it cooked on the spot but the Lagoon executes this concept exceptionally well. Their daily spread of the freshest local fruits of the sea is really eye popping and the legion of on-site chefs are masters of dozens of continental, Asian and of course Sri Lankan styles of preparation – all well executed. Ensconced within one of the spatial leading 5-star hotels this is the place for some unrestrained seafood extravagance.
5. Yarl Eat House
This modest and absolutely no frills eatery takes you to the heart of Sri Lanka’s street seafood culture. The crabs are decent sized blue swimmers and the amenities are bits of newspaper that double as napkins. Fortunately, the sweet nuggets of crab flesh and crab roe swim in rich spiced gravy fragrant with murunga (drumstick) leaves. Crabs are the house specialty, but the fresh prawns and squid in thick coconut curry are worth a nibble, too. The outlet at Wellawatte Station Road is currently under renovation, but you can still swing by the branch in Galle Road.
No cuisine celebrates seafood like Japanese, so you’ll be glad to know Sri Lanka has no shortage of Japanese restaurants. At the top of the Japanese pile is Nihonbashi, which for over 25 years has sourced the very best tuna on the market. It is shied away completely from freezers or any means of preservation bar freshness, and served sashimi that’s not just good for Colombo, but to match what’s on offer in Tokyo itself.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.