Hela Bojun – Jaya Rd, Battaramulla – Part 1

Hela Bojun – Jaya Rd, Battaramulla – Part 1

Despite being quite well known for our sea-food, Sri Lanka is without a doubt a haven for vegans. Not only is it blessed with an incredible array of vegetables, fruit and grains, its cuisine with its rich coconut sauces are completely dairy free and therefore quite vegan. Though admittedly, almost all households are known to add a spoon full of maldive fish (cured tuna fish traditionally produced in Maldives and an essential in Sri Lankan cooking) to all vegetable curries and sambols, we can take pride in the fact that, if we remove that one fishy element, we have in our hands one of the most vegan friendly cuisines in the world. 

That is why, Hela Bojun Centres are so important to our country. A brain child of the Extension and Training Unit of the Department of Agriculture, this food centre serves only plant-based food to its customers. The prices are subsidized in order to promote sales as well as the consumption of local and fresh food.  

Hela Bojun Food Centres are located in a number of locations all the way from Jaffna right down to Matara. Our lunch stop however, was at the one located at Battaramulla, right across the Department of Forest and in close proximity to Sethsiripaya. Open from 7.00 am to 4.00 pm on weekdays, this open air food outlet has a bustling open kitchen in the centre of the premises with seating around it. It overlooks a beautifully landscaped area with ponds blossoming with water lilies and storks flittering about. The occasional iguana is a bonus. 

What is even more precious is that it is completely run by women. Part of the Women’s Agricultural Extension programme to promote local food consumption, these food centres empower and train women of the area to uplift their lives while supplying food at affordable rates.

Hela Bojun, Battaramulla has been in operation for 5 years and having lived literally less than half a kilometer away for almost the same time, I was lamenting over the tragedy of not discovering this gem before. Ranging from rotis, string-hoppers, pittus and dosais to a variety of sweet meats, Hela Bojun interestingly, does not serve the country’s staple rice and curry. Yet come lunch time, the place is humming with a steady stream of customers who were heard saying that the food available here was a welcome change to the usual rice and curry. Nearly 17 vendors were cooking and serving food straight off the stove and that is why we felt Hela Bojun deserves a part two in our weekly reviews. 

Ramesh and I started off with fresh juices. I had the wood-apple while Ramesh had the papaya and they were absolute value for money (each priced at an astounding Rs 50). While the woodapple was not as thick as my mother’s one, I loved it and Ramesh loved his. It would be great if you take your own straws or just drink it off the glass to avoid using the single use straws handed over at the counter.

(Papaya juice)

To start things off, I ordered a pol roti infused with mukunuvenna (local herb) and carrot (Rs 20) as well as a kurakkan dosai (Rs 30) and two polos cutlets (tender Jak fruit – Rs50 for both) The polos cutlet was mixed with some sweet potatoes which acted as a binding agent and was quite delectable. I would definitely go for more. 

There were some ready-made kurakkan dosais I could have had, but the lady in charge of the dosai stall refused to sell it to me and insisted she would make some while I wait. Apparently, the key element here was to serve it warm as the dosai becomes quite hard and dry after a while. Quality assurance standards, hygiene and professionalism is maintained and is a matter of personal pride for these wonderful ladies. I have never had kurakkan dosai before and was not disappointed. While it is certainly not the traditional fare, it was certainly delicious with the sambaru (mixed vegetable curry) and sambol. Kudos to the cook for insisting on eating it warm.

The roti was also piping hot and served with some of the best lunumiris I have had in a while. (And Yes! No maldive fish here. So much win!). I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of mukunuwenna, and I think it is a welcome change to eating it as a mallung (cooked greens). All this was placed on a Kanda leaf and that means no single use lunch sheets were used. 

(Dosai being prepared at the restaurant)
(Polos cutlets)

Meanwhile, Ramesh had a fabulous string-hopper feed. This too was made while we watched. Literally from the stove to the plate. This came with some dhal curry and a coconut sambol. Ramesh teamed it up with a hot hot parippu vadai (made out of dhal, this is similar to the falafel – Rs 20/-). The food tasted like home, love and a determination to strive for bigger and better things. While, one might say cooking might be the stereotypical role of a woman we were happy to see women in business, taking on entrepreneurial challenges and making a positive change in  their lives and livelihood. 

(A collection of food items, including wadai)

Being the gluttons that we are, we finished up our meal with a steaming cup of Belimal (herbal drink made out of the flowers of the beli fruit) and some local sweet meats. Created mainly with rice flour, treacle, coconut milk and other such plant based ingredients, Sri Lankan sweet meats are the best as they are truly vegan! One must remember however, that most of these are deep fried in oil therefore is not great for your health. But this was a treat.

Ramesh had pani walalu while I had a veli thalapa and narang kavum. They complimented well with the belimal and it was a truly relaxing afternoon. All this while watching some wondering storks and the wind playing with the leaf laden branches that was right across us was idyllic and therapeutic. 

In Conclusion, we LOVED Hela Bojun, not only for the food but also for what it stands for. Our complete meal for two cost us less than Rs 500/ and imagine how wonderful it is for those on a tight budget. It is definitely a service in itself.  

Most of all, it is incredible how we can make our daily staples vegan by simply not adding maldive fish. We as a nation are truly lucky that switching to vegetarian or vegan meals is actually easier than we think it is. 

In Hela Bojun Part Two we plan to engage with the ladies who run this wonderful enterprise and of course dig into more food. 

In the meantime, do not forget to drop by Hela Bojun and also tune in to our video food reviews on social media.

Until our next vegan food adventure, this is Suramya saying TTFN.

Vegan Kade – Pop Up Sale

Vegan Kade – Pop Up Sale

I Love pop up sales! I love it more when it is a store filled with vegan products. Established in September 2019, this online based store had its first pop up sale at Horton Place, Colombo 7 on 23rd December 2019 with a steady flow of customers eager to stock up on their vegan supplies. Named quite simply as the Vegan Kade (Vegan Shop) and filled with vegan goodies imported directly from the UK, the store is run by a group of young girls and their moms. Speaking with Diasha, Rameesha, Anuki and Roshi we found out that the Vegan Kade was started purely to offer quality vegan products at an affordable price to the public so that the transition to veganism could happen smoothly. 

Of course, many would argue as to why we need to import vegan products when Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of plant based food items be it grains, vegetables or fruit. The fact of the matter is that there are very few vegan products available if you wish to consume a different type of cuisine or want to recreate egg or dairy based baked goods. Further, most ready to drink plant-based milks produced using almond, soy or rice are quite expensive and finding products such as vegan cheese, ham, chocolate spreads, nutritional yeast and egg replacers is near impossible.

By providing products such as eggless salad dressings, dairy free plant based milk, chocolates, chocolate spreads, cheeses, vegan hams, grains and seeds, vitamins, egg replacers, nutritional yeast and many more Vegan Kade is filling a void vegans face on a daily basis. 

While browsing through products, Ramesh and I received truly delicious free samples of a Mango/ Chia pudding as well as a chocolate chia pudding. Made by Diasha the Mango Chia pudding had an undertone of coconut with tiny bite sized chunks of sweet ripe mango in every mouthful. The chocolate chia pudding was light and not too sweet which was a perfect blend for me. Only years of drilled etiquette stopped me from asking for seconds. 

We at Meatless Monday Sri Lanka are passionate in promoting a vegan lifestyle and are always on the look out to feature businesses and individuals who share our zeal. Looking at the young eager faces behind Vegan Kade, we are heartened to know that cruelty free vegan food is indeed gaining momentum and there is a future for a kinder and healthier lifestyle. 

Check out Vegan Kade on FB

https://www.facebook.com/thevegankadeUK/

IG 

https://www.instagram.com/thevegankade/

Until the next review, this is Suramya saying TTFN!

Sushi Kai – Jawatte Rd, Colombo 5

Sushi Kai – Jawatte Rd, Colombo 5

Sushi Kai – Jawatte Rd, Colombo 5

Vegan Japanese food? ‘Pffffft……’ you would say as the nation’s cooking is deeply rooted in seafood and is perhaps one of the least likely vegan friendly cuisines in the world. However, if you can look past the Sushi and Sashimi, you would see that Japanese food really comprises of rice, seaweed, vegetables, soy products and mushrooms – all that is vegan. 

There is something always fishy about Japanese cuisine and that is the fish based seasoning that is used abundantly to flavour the dishes be it in soups, broths or dipping sauces. 

However, it is not impossible to find vegan/vegetarian friendly Japanese food. 

Feeling quite adventurous, the Meatless Monday team comprising of Ramesh, Thadsha and I trotted over to Sushi Kai, located at the corner of Jawatte Rd and Thimbirigasya Rd. The restaurant has since opened another branch just a few doors away and that is where our table was set. Interestingly, the main kitchen is located at the other restaurant and we were quite skeptical about service time. 

Sushi Kai was recommended by a number of my vegetarian friends and I was looking forward to the experience as we were seated in an already bustling restaurant. 

Our server, was extremely helpful once he realized we were looking at vegan options, offered to check with the chef if their batters, broths and sauces would contain any meat or fish. Despite being very busy, he took an inordinately long time to take our order patiently and cheerfully. So the service was excellent.

Our drinks arrived first. Along with a pot of green tea,  Ramesh ordered the restaurant’s signature drink – Kai Glass containing ginger and lemongrass, I had the Kai Lime and Ginger and Thadsha played it safe with watermelon. Ramesh found the Kai Glass ‘interesting’, while both Thadsha and I loved our drinks. 

The food was served nice and warm despite our reservations. Clearly, the distance from the restaurants does not deter serving time and the staff were busy bees.

We started off with a Miso Bowl (Rs 300) and was assured the broth was vegan with no other flavourings apart from the miso which is a fermented soy. The Miso Soup has a life of its own dancing in the bowl where thermal convection happens right before your eyes. (This happens when the heat loss at the top of the dish makes the cells denser than those below them, so they fall back down into the liquid where they get warm again. It happens with all hot liquid, just that the miso consistency makes it a visible delight. And YES, google is my friend.) With wee cubes of tofu, seaweed, a smattering of sesame seeds and spring onions this was delicate on the palate. We all loved it, especially Thadsha. I was inspired to make a gif out of it. You are welcome. 

The Veg Roll (Rs 600) served yellow and red bell pepper, cucumber, shitake mushrooms, and cream cheese, topped with the wasabi and ginger these rolls were irresistible. This was the only vegetarian dish we ordered. 

The onions, aubergines, pumpkin, sweet potato and parsley of the Tempura (Rs 600) were coated in a vegan batter specifically made for us. A surprise for me was the thinly sliced ladies fingers in the crispy batter. A truly pleasant surprise. Crispy, crunchy and quite a large serving, it was pure bliss. I salivate as I am typing away. 

Our chosen carbs came in the form a delicately seasoned garlic rice (Rs 480). Topped with spring onions and sesame seeds it was the perfect accompaniment to the Teriaki Tofu (Rs 460) and Teppanyaki Shitake Mushrooms (Rs. 590). 

These dishes were truly amazing with the flavours just bursting in our mouths. There was a collective sigh as we ate and silence on my part as I concentrated on the food. These came highly recommended and I could not agree more. 

The sauce of the Teriyaki Tofu was pure Umami heaven. I wondered if it contained oyster sauce, but I was assured that they had not. The Teppanyaki Shitake Mushroom teamed with the lime that accompanied the dish was absolutely yummy. 

To end the meal, we wanted to try the banana fritters on the dessert menu but unfortunately, it was not available on that day. So we let it be. But they do serve a fried brownie and a yummy green tea ice cream that is worth tasting. 

The Menu at Sushi Kai has quite a number of vegan and vegetarian options making it a place that caters to both vegan and non-vegan, making it an ideal restaurant for friends and family to spend time together. Speak to the serves and they will help you. 

Pasan, the owner of the restaurant mentioned that this was a key factor in the restaurant as both his wife and best friend were vegan. Apparently owning a non-vegan friendly restaurant is not an option for him. Lucky us. He was also quite keen on talking about sauces they use saying he prefers not to always use vegan versions of traditional seafood based sauces as they contain artificial flavourings and therefore prefers to use with natural vegan flavours. Health over taste is always a wise option. 

He also hopes to extend the menu and add further options for vegans and vegetarians – a choice we heartily agree. 

Do we recommend Sushi Kai? Yes, of course. Drop by and let us know what you think.

Until food brings us together again – this is Suramya bidding you a TTFN. (Ta Ta For Now)

Milk and Honey Café – Colombo 7

Milk and Honey Café – Colombo 7

Horton Place, Colombo 7 is turning into quite a foodie paradise with many cafés and restaurants opening over the past few years. The Milk and Honey Café however, has been serving an extremely vegan and vegetarian friendly menu for quite some time and this review is long overdue. 

The Milk and Honey Café is extra special for me as a mother of bookworms as it is tucked behind a bookshop that has a carefully selected array of books, toys and outfits for children. In all, it has two elements I love most in life, food and books. It is quite conveniently located and has parking at the front of the store. Two things hit you as you enter the store. The smell of new books and the aroma of food. One word to describe it – heaven.  

Thadsha, Ramesh and I headed straight to the café which has both indoor and outdoor seating. The lemon and amberealla trees outside were laden with fruit which eventually make its way as ingredients in the food that is served here. 

The menu is numbered only with no fancy names attached to it and has both vegan and vegetarian options and with the ingredients printed clearly against each dish. The best part is you can speak to the servers and change the ingredients to suit your needs and if you come here with omnivorous friends and family, they have the option to add fish and meat items. This is a lovely turn around, where normally non meat eaters are given a limited menu to choose from in other eateries. The menu is divided in to sections named as All Day Breakfast, Mains, Salads, Wraps and Desserts.  Many ingredients are interchangeable and the servers are well versed with the menu to help you with your order.

We ordered the crowd favourite watermelon lemonade, the number 12 from the mains containing roasted beetroot and onion salad with homemade paneer, parsley and cashew served with sourdough (Rs 750) , a Number 16 – rainbow bowl with Avo, halloumi, mushroom quinoa, roasted pumpkin, roasted beats and onions, marinated raw kale and pickle (Rs 900) A number 17 containing beetroot falafel, chick pea falafel, hummus, tomato salsa, okra salad, cauliflower rice, green salad and pickles (Rs 900), a number 23 from the wraps with a falafel, hummus and tomato salsa (Rs 600) and the number 4 of the desserts which is the café’s take on a sago pudding (Rs 450). 

We also met Pri Ratnayake founder and owner of the Milk and Honey Café who spoke on how she opened up the café eight years ago to fill up a void in serving healthy, organic food in Sri Lanka. In that sense, the café was quite ahead of the times. She elaborated on the various vegetarian and vegan ready to eat sweets that can be bought over the counter. Ranging from banana bread, brownies, oat cookies, to oat bars all the sweets are either gluten free or has less glutens. Using brown and raw sugar, honey and treacle is another policy Pri endorses not wanting to use refined sugars. 

Drinks

The drinks served with its own steel straws are heartily approved by the Meatless Monday SL Team. A big thumbs up here. The watermelon lemonade was not sweet and was a pleasant balance between the watermelon and lemon flavours and we were told that Kithul treacle was offered as a sweetner if required. There was a lovely array of coffees and teas to choose from as well, you just need to let them know if you need a vegan option. 

Mains/ Salads/ Wraps

Our dishes were served together and the portions were quite large. 

The number 12 on the menu was an absolute delight and perhaps our favourite. The beets had been roasted with herbs and spices and were both delicate yet flavourful. The addition of nuts, paneer and the sourdough bread slathered with a generous dollops of homemade hummus added texture to each mouthful. The dressing gets a special mention with its delightful blend of flavours. However, the ingredients to this will forever remain a secret. This mild and non-spicy salad is quite surprisingly filling. You can easily speak to the counter and make this a vegan version. 

Our number 16 ‘Rainbow Bowl’ was a pretty vegetarian dish, which was once again non spicy and mild served with a beautiful avocado flower placed right at the centre of the plate. The mushroom quinoa was cooked to perfection and the roasted veggies were once again well done. The pickled veggies brought a lovely bite to this salad that went well with the creamy avocado. 

The beetroot falafels were our favourites in the vegan number 17 option. I would have preferred the cauliflower rice to have had some extra herbs and a spicy undertone, but it was still quite yum in the tum. The okra better known as ladies fingers in Sri Lanka was not the slimy slithery blehness of our childhood memories, but were roasted and well flavoured. The chick pea falafel was a bit dry but once it blended with the crunchy salad leaves, the zing of the tomato salsa and the creamy hummus it hit the right places. 

The least impressive of our dishes to me was the wrap Number 23. While it tasted wholesome and healthy with its wholemeal flat bread, salad leaves, tomato salsa and hummus I felt it did not quite carry the magic the other options dished out.  I wish the lovely salad leaves could have been tossed with that amazing dressing they had used for the number 16, and once again the falafels were too dry and the zing of the tomato salsa could not quite salvage it. Curiously, it did not deter us from polishing it off. 

Desserts

The sago pudding was a really yummy vegan dessert rich with coconut undertones and one mysterious element that I wanted to double check on. Traditional sago pudding contains cardamoms but this had a zing to it. Upon inquiry I was told it was kaffir lime leaves added right at the end of the cooking process. Nice! The dessert was both light and yummilicious. The cramalized banana, teamed up with coconut jam or as we Sri Lankans call it ‘panipol’ gives this dessert a lovely texture and combines the sweet and sour elements quite effortlessly. Unfortunately for me, we shared this dessert, a mistake I will not make the next time I head this way.

Vegan and vegetarian food gets a bad rap for being bland, flavourless and boring. The food at the Milk and Honey café with hints of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian flavours prove this wrong. While all dishes are mild and non-spicy and truly kind to your stomach, health, animal life and environment it is also a gastronomical delight if you need a change from the oil based spicy Sri Lankan food. Teamed up with it is breezy ambience, friendly staff, it is the ideal place for you to kick start your vegan/ vegetarian journey.

Until next time TTFN – Ta ta for now 😊 

A classic Sri Lankan rice and curry at Upali’s by Nawaloka

A classic Sri Lankan rice and curry at Upali’s by Nawaloka

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

Harpo’s Vegan Pizza

Harpo’s Vegan Pizza

Harpo’s Vegan Pizza

Meatless Monday Sri Lanka food reviews have been slow lately because of the current situation of the country. Like most people, we also have limited our hangouts and dine outs with friends outside. But that doesn’t stop us from indulging some meatless goodness.

Harpo’s has recently added a vegan pizza to their menu. We thought of trying it out by ordering it to office on Uber eats. We ordered the 9” regular (6 piece) pizza which was Rs.1,023.02.

When we got the pizza, the aroma of baked vegetables and the slowly simmered sauce filled the room leaving us all hungry again even after a heavy lunch. The pizza had several vegetables baked; yellow and green peppers, little bit of button mushrooms, olives eggplant and zucchini on the tomato-based pizza sauce layer.  We found the tomato sauce later to be a bit dry, maybe with the time it took for delivery it was dried off.

While we really appreciate them adding a vegan pizza to their menu, we felt like something was missing in terms of taste and what makes it a pizza. The cheese! Many vegan pizzas have their own inhouse cheese these days or other vegan branded cheese. We hope in future Harpo’s would try to improve the pizza by adding vegan cheese to it. If not, another alternative would be to have spicy tofu or baby jackfruit to make it more fitting to the Asian taste buds.

This is our honest opinion, but maybe you could be one of those vegans who would like the pizza without cheese 😊

That’s wrap for today and we will come to you with another review soon!

Sajani Kapukotuwa/ Ramesh Warallegama