Every now and then I get asked by people how I live on a plant based diet. Better yet, they say that without fish or meat, food is just meh!, or that being vegan in Sri Lanka is difficult, expensive, or doesn’t offer enough options.

Today Ramesh and I decided to do our review at Upali’s by Nawaloka on some of the completely plant based classics in Sri Lankan cuisine. It was right around lunch time when we got there and Upali’s had its usual busy and bustling atmosphere. 

Despite this, Ramesh and I were escorted to a table for two by a host and handed the menus. They had vegetarian and vegan items marked separately with symbols next to each item which makes ordering much easier. While scanning the menu I asked the waiter if the polos cutlets have an egg wash before frying, and he said that all of their starters have an egg wash. Which was unfortunate for me as a vegan.

So Ramesh and I decided to start off with a soup and then go for the mains. We ordered a Mulligatawny soup and a Thambun Hodi Rasam. Both soups originate from the South Indian cuisine.

For the mains we ordered Themparadu Bath (tempered rice), Kaju Sudata Uyala (a cashew curry), Kos Ata Kalu Pol Maluwa (a spicy curry made with jackfruit seeds), and a Bimmal Baduma (a mushroom fry).

To cool it down, we ordered a Karapincha (curry leaves) with lime drink and a passion fruit drink which were served first. 

Drinks

Karapincha with Lime Juice: 240

I was blown away on my first sip of the karapincha drink. It gave a strong karapincha flavour but was nicely blended with a sweet lime juice. Karapincha is so overrated since we use it in almost all our curries and fried food. But I believe this is another great way to incorporate Karapincha into your meals because it’s known for its benefits in reducing cholesterol. 

Passion Fruit Juice: Rs. 275

The passion fruit juice gave the whole exotic tropical fruit vibe as it had a sweet and strong tart flavour. Growing up it was one of my favorite fruits. I remember that my aunt had a passion vine and I always got fresh passionfruit from that. This drink just took me back to childhood. Come to think of it, we don’t often find them in supermarkets anymore unless we go to a weekly pola. I think Ramesh made a great choice with the passion fruit drink!

Both drinks were served with paper straws which are better than plastic straws but still single use. Maybe Upali’s could consider using reusable metal or bamboo straws in future.

Soups:

Then came the soups we ordered, and they were like nothing I’ve tasted before.

Thambun Hodi Rasam: Rs. 325

The thambun hodi rasam was SPICY! Yes, I wrote that in caps because it really was. But us Sri Lankans love spicy food, don’t we? As a spicy food lover, this was the best Rasam I’ve had so far. 

Mulligatawny Soup: Rs. 325

We were quite curious to try this one because it was the first time both were going to have it. The menu listed the ingredients: a combination of tamarind, lemon juice, red lentils, and coconut milk.

It certainly took us by surprise. It was fragrant and insanely delicious with a bit more texture and crumbliness than the rasam.

Both soups were served with two pieces of soft mini roast paan. 

Food

Temparadu Bath:  Rs. 325

The Themparadu Bath was tempered in vegetable ghee with onions and curry leaves. It was soft and tender because of the vegetable ghee. One potion of it was suffice to fill both our hungry tummies. 🙂

Kos Ata Kalu Pol Maluwa Rs. 550

The curry was literally black as the name suggests. 🙂 The curry was made with boiled jackfruit seeds with grated coconut and a black curry sauce that made it spicy and delicious. It had a nice authentic Sri Lankan taste to it that satisfied all our taste buds. 

Kaju Sudata Uyala: Rs. 710

This is hands down one of the best cashew curries I’ve had in a long time. Most of the time I find them either spicy or oily. This curry had just the right amount of spices to make it delightful. It blended well with the other curries we ordered and evened out the spiciness of the Kos Ata Kalu Pol Maluwa.

Bimmal Baduma: Rs. 475

They had used the oyster mushrooms which are quite common in Sri Lanka. It was batter fried with capsicalms, onion rings and dried chillies. It was great with rice and curry but I believe it would also be a good (and vegan!) appetizer. Ramesh and I enjoyed the remaining mushrooms even after finishing our meals.

The mains were served with a complimentary plate of papadam and fried chillies. At the end of the meal both of us were full and satisfied. We were happy and our tummies were happy, too.

Dessert:

Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot anything vegan in the dessert menu other than a fruit platter. As much as we love fruits, it’s not the thing we want to buy at a restaurant. It would have been ideal if they had some Sri Lankan sweets such as pani walalu, aluwa etc.

Final Remarks:

The staff were helpful and knew the menu thoroughly which was great to clarify all our doubts. Whenever I go out to dine, I have a habit of questioning the waiter about the menu to make sure I get vegan food. But most of the time I find that they either lack knowledge about it or are not happy to clarify things. But at Upali’s, we found it easy as they have well trained staff who know the menu well and are happy to help out. 

Upali’s has a variety of vegan and vegetarian options that have been cooked just the right way to satisfy our cravings for Sri Lankan food.

See you soon with our next review! Eat mindfully, live sustainably!

Sajani Kapukotuwa

Ramesh Warallegama