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What goes into it: Chef Mahinda Lal Dias explaining his country’s cuisine to a guest at the food festival in Madurai on Wednesday.
What goes into it: Chef Mahinda Lal Dias explaining his country’s cuisine to a guest at the food festival in Madurai on Wednesday.

T. Saravanan

Isle of serendipity beckons food connoisseurs with some delectable fare

MADURAI: “Suba sandhyaom,” a woman in Sri Lankan attire welcomes you, saying “Good evening” in Sinhalese.

The occasion is the Sri Lankan Food Festival at the picturesque Taj Garden Retreat, Pasumalai, here. The well-illuminated open area, with a bird’s eye view of the city, makes it ideal for an evening out.The attractive tender coconuts and Sri Lankan ‘baila’ songs (original scores) with a strong aroma of spicy food engulfing the area indicate a delicious dinner in the offing.

As you peep into the restaurant, you find some of the finest dishes of the Emerald Isle on display.

“Basically, Sri Lankan food is coconut-based. Sea food is also quite popular among the locals,” said Kariyawasam Majuwana Gamage Mahinda Lal Dias, Chef of Taj Exotica in Bentota, Galle, Sri Lanka.

Right from ‘brinjal majju’ to ‘dal spinach curry,’ the dishes are spicy and hot. There are more than 25 food varieties for the customers.

Mr. Mahinda Lal Dias, who has won many awards in Sri Lankan meals organised by the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka, has been exclusively flown in to tickle the taste buds of Maduraiites. “Some of the dishes most liked by the Sri Lankans are string hoppers and fish ambul thiyal,” he says.

The non-vegetarian varieties include ‘fish curry’ and ‘beef stew.’ “Curry leaves and chilly add more taste to the non-vegetarian fare,” he explains. Attractive in colour, the ‘Sultana’ pulao has a good number of takers. The impressive dessert arrangements include famed ‘Helepa,’ cocounut soufflé, coconut stuffed pancake and banana pudding.

The chef has also planned to include ‘chicken devilled’ and ‘stuffed capsicum curry’ in the following days.

Different menu

“The menu changes every day to attract more people to the festival,” Mr. Mahinda Lal Dias says.Pankaj R. Shah, an exporter, who has had a taste of the dishes says, “Initially, I was reluctant to come here. For, I thought it would be predominantly non-vegetarian in character. But, to my surprise, I find the vegetarian dishes equally good and tasty. Besides, the salads are also to my liking.”

The festival is open between 7.30 p.m. and 11 p.m. till June 24.

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