KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — Most of us are familiar with the spice-laden flavours of Indian cooking, be it the creamy and verdant palak paneer (puréed spinach and curd cheese) of the North or the hearty, potato-filled masala thosai (fermented crêpe) of the South.
Yet the cuisine of Indian’s southern neighbour, Sri Lanka, remains a mystery to many of us. To celebrate this island nation’s delicate flavours, Sri Lankan fine dining restaurant Aliyaa has invited Chef Sapna Anand to host an evening on June 11, 2015 with a five-course dinner that will delight the palate and then some.
Author of the bestselling New Indian Kitchen, Chef Sapna Anand was born in Kerala and grew up in Goa, exposing her at an early age to the different cuisines of India.
“I believe that food reflects the characteristics of a region or country,” says Sapna. “Just like its people, Sri Lankan food is fresh, spicy and bursting with flavours. While doing my research for this special dinner at Aliyaa, I discovered that Sri Lankan, Kerala and Goan cuisines are quite similar in cooking techniques and the use of fresh ingredients, probably because of the way trade flowed and a bit of the colonial influence.”
According to Sapna what really makes Sri Lankan food distinct is its unique use of fresh ingredients and spices such as cinnamon. “For example, a simple dish like coconut sambol is made up entirely of fresh ingredients packed with flavours that transport you to Sri Lanka. I believe all good food should do that!” she says.
While planning the menu, the Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef’s focus was flavour. She explains, “I use Sri Lankan ingredients and some traditional recipes and marry them to French cooking techniques with a touch of Indian in it. For instance, I included a stuffed crab like they do in Goa, but the stuffing is made using traditional Sri Lankan ingredients.”
Slow-roasted tomato and carrot soup seasoned with Sri Lankan spices and served with croutons and truffle emulsion kicks off Sapna’s five-course dinner.
Her menu also features stuffed crab with carrot and coconut sambol, garnished with broad beans toasted in mustard seeds and mango curd, as well as roasted beetroot carpaccio salad with garlic feta mousse, caramelised pecans, and toasted cumin with a zesty ginger dressing.
The highlight of the feast will be grilled Sri Lankan cinnamon and Tellicherry black pepper tiger prawns with string hoppers, saffron stew and spiced lotus root chips.
End the evening with Sapna’s take on the classic petit fours – Parisian chocolate cake topped with her signature cardamom coconut pistachio ice-cream; rose lychee macarons; and cinnamon grilled pineapple with fresh coconut slivers and drizzled with raspberry coulis.
Besides writing cookbooks, teaching classes and hosting special dinners, Sapna is currently working on launching her own brand of whole spices and mixes, which will be available soon.
“The idea is to source the spices ethically and directly from small farmers who do not use pesticides and to make it available to food lovers. To be honest, the idea was born when I was researching my first book, New Indian Kitchen, and had a chance to talk to a lot of wonderful people at the Spice Board of India and the farmers community. They were so eager to share their experiences and expertise with me. I had to go back and do something that would help them. This is my way of saying thank you to them.”
Through her spice brand, Sapna will be supporting Balo, an organisation in Kolkata dedicated to reaching out to children at risk and helping them get off the streets. The hardworking chef and cookbook author never seems to tire in her quest to share the flavours of the Indian subcontinent. What better way to celebrate these flavours than having a taste of them yourself this Thursday at Aliyaa?
Celebrating Flavours of Sri Lanka with Chef Sapna Anand
Date: June 11, 2015 (Thursday)
Venue: Aliyaa Restaurant, 48G&M, Jalan Medan Setia 2, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur
Call 03-2092 5378 for reservations