A delicious lamprais straight out of the oven. #handheldfoodbysu
Lamprais is probably the most significant and sough after remnant from the Dutch colonization days in Sri Lanka. The term ‘lamprais’ which loosely translates to a packet of lumped rice is an amalgam of very specific side dishes and a delightfully flavourful rice. This is then wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a warm oven for a few minutes until the aroma of the banana leaves infuse into the rice. And let me assure you, there isn’t an aroma that will whet the Lankan appetite as much as that of a lamprais.
While a packet of lamprais can unite Sri Lankan food lovers in a jiffy, it is also a dish that is hotly debated for its authenticity. Over the years, the most authentic recipe has been modified to cater to the masses by substituting the meats (a mix of beef, pork & lamb) with simply chicken. The beef frikkadels were replaced by tuna cutlets and twice cooked eggs were added and so on. While I respect all things that stay true to their roots, my recipe too is slightly modified to substitute oinks with chicks to cater to my family, frikkadels with cutlets as I am most likely to have a stash of cutlets than frikkadels in my freezer and a twice cooked egg ‘cos why not?
Making lamprais is most definitely not an easy feat. Not because of its complexity, but because of the many components that needs to be prepared. In order to make things easier, I usually plan ahead and make a few of the side dishes ahead of time. This actually helps the flavors mingle and intensify.
While I am in no position to guarantee an authentic recipe by any means, here’s my take on lamprais inspired by ammi’s very own recipe.
Components of a Lamprais:
- Lampra rice (Ghee rice)
- Chicken curry
- Caramalized onions
- Brinjal moju
- Twice cooked eggs
- Fried ash plantains
- Sambal blachan/ Chilli paste
The lampra rice
The rice is the heart of a good lamprais dish. And I vehemently insist on using Sri Lankan short grain samba rice and fresh homemade stock whenever possible. Follow the recipe for ghee rice here. You may substitute ghee with butter and omit the coconut milk if you wish and throw in half a stalk of lemongrass for added flavor and aroma.
Sri Lankan Chicken curry
Though the original recipe calls for a mixed meat curry made out of bite sized pork, beef and lamb, you can substitute this with this Sri Lankan chicken curry. Follow the recipe and ensure you are left with a thick gravy which will not leak out when wrapped in a banana leaf.
You can follow this recipe for Sri Lankan seeni-sambol which I have shared earlier. I would recommend making this few days in advance to reduce the prep work and also for the flavors to develop and intensify.
The recipe for my style of brinjal moju can be made following the recipe I have shared earlier. This again is another dish that can be made ahead of time to save time and to intensify the flavors.
Though the original recipe calls for beef frikadels, which are minced meat balls that is spiced, balled, crumb coated and deep fried- you can substitute with the recipe for tuna cutlets.
Twice cooked eggs
Twice cooked eggs
Boil eggs in water with a pinch of salt to make them peel easier. Once boiled, de-shell and prick all over each egg using a fork. Dry the eggs using kitchen towels and season with salt and turmeric. Finally, deep fry until crispy and blistered on the outside.
It is important you remove every drop of water off the eggs before deep frying because we all know water & hot oil does not have a happy ending.
Fried Ash plantains
Fried Ash Plantains
Peel ash plantains aka green bananas using a peeler and soak them in water to avoid discoloration. Dry with kitchen towels, cut into bite sized cubes, season with salt, turmeric and chili powder and deep fry till crisp and set aside. You could substitute this with cubed potatoes if you are not able to find ash plantains.
Blachan/ Chilli Paste
Sri Lankan Blachan/ Chili paste
I will share a recipe for a home-made chili paste soon, until then, feel free to use a chili paste off a bottle.
Assembling and baking the lamprais:
- Cut, clean, wash and dry one big banana leaf per each packet of lamprais. Heat the banana leaf over a low open flame to make the leaves pliable as well as to bring out the aroma of the leaves. Take care not to burn the leaves.
- Place the banana leaf on a flat surface and place one cup of rice at the center followed by a serving of the rest of the side dishes. Always place two or more frikkadels/ cutlets per pack.
- Fold in the edges of the banana leaf to make parcels and secure the edges with wooden skewers. If the banana leaves are not sturdy enough, you could double wrap the them with aluminium foil to secure. Bake at 160°C for about 10 mins and serve hot.
Photo Credits: Niroshanan B.
- Make the lamprais parcels small in size. For one – it is a very rich meal and a small serving goes a long way. Secondly – over stuffing the packet would cause the banana leaves to tear off easily.
- I would highly encourage lamprais to be made together as a family or in my case withe friends who became family. It makes the whole process so much more fun, enjoyable and easy.
- If you are making the effort to whip up some delicious lamprais, it makes more sense to make a few extras as these freeze brilliantly. Just thaw them for an hour and steam or wrap in foil and pop back into the oven and they are as good as fresh!
A lamprais feast
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