Nuga Gama serves up some of Sri Lanka’s finest plant-based food

By Marianne David

One of the best possible places to enjoy a holistic Sri Lankan culinary experience in the heart of the city of Colombo, Nuga Gama at the Cinnamon Grand offers guests an all-round experience encompassing food, entertainment, and ambience, along with an emphasis on sustainability.

The restaurant features an extensive buffet, action stations, engagement with the chef and ‘ammes’ cooking up Sri Lankan specialties, and entertainment comprising music and traditional dances.


The place


From the moment you step into Nuga Gama, you will be transported into a traditional Sri Lankan village, with the layout showcasing a typical village set-up of house (gami gedara), garden (gami gewaththa), tank (wewa), paddy field, vegetable and fruit gardens, a medicinal and herb garden, a shop (kadé), and a tavern. 

Some 45 indigenous species of vegetation flourish in the vegetable patches at the location, which also boasts carbon neutral status and rich biodiversity.

The restaurant is open from 5 p.m. while dinner is served from 7 p.m., with the dinner buffet priced at Rs. 6,200. The early opening is for those who prefer to start with evening drinks at the tavern before tucking into a traditional Sri Lankan feast.

The food is served up in traditional style in clay pots and women from rural villages cook the delectable array of dishes for Nuga Gama, partnered by a team of chefs from the hotel’s five-star kitchens. 


Plant-based food


The buffet features a wide array of delicious plant-based options so vegetarians and vegans are sure to be satisfied when dining at Nuga Gama.

The dishes are prepared on open hearths with wood fires in clay pots to ensure an authentic culinary experience and feature some of the finest plant-based options Sri Lanka has to offer.

On the day we visited, in terms of veg-friendly options, the buffet featured three kinds of rice, pittu (steamed cylinders of rice and coconut), hoppers, string hoppers, thosai (similar to a pancake, made of fermented batter), coconut roti (round flatbread), vegetable soup, seven succulent vegetable curries, several kinds of sambols (raw salads), pickles, lentil vadai (a savoury fried snack), and 30 varieties of traditional desserts and fruits.

The veg dishes here are switched around constantly, with priority given to village-style vegetables. Some of the dishes served are prepared using the organically-grown veggies from the garden at the location. 

The vegetable curries we tried out were manioc, radish, beans, mango, and ash plantain, along with the ever-popular pulse we Sri Lankans cannot do without – dhal (lentil) curry. 

It must be said that the creamy manioc curry was certainly the star of the night, pairing perfectly with the fragrant rice and even lending itself to be scooped up with crispy roast bread, spicy coconut sambol, and dhal.

The varied sambols and mallungs (cooked salads) make for perfect accompaniments while the kiri hodi (coconut milk curry) elevates the carbs on offer. Picture the steaming hot pittu sliding out of its bamboo holder in front of your eyes, pour some kiri hodi over it, add a spicy sambol and dig in. Heaven. 

Or break off a piece of crispy hopper, again made right then and there, scoop up some super spicy lunu miris (onion and chillie sambol) and dig in – one really could not ask for more. Well, there is one thing more – this meal will be complete when chased down with a hot ginger tea with a piece of jaggery on the side to take away the heat of the spice!


Healthy drinks


When it comes to beverages, Nuga Gama serves up an impressive variety of healthy beverages on the ‘natural’ menu, including ambarella (June plum), ginger, passion, nelli (Indian gooseberry), soursop, tamarind, guava, narang (Indian wild orange), raw mango, and star fruit and of course king coconut and young coconut.

There’s a range of ‘healthy mixers’ on offer too – curry leaves and lime, bitter gourd, mint and lime, carrot and ginger, gotukola (Indian pennywort), cucumber and ginger, and aloe vera. I tried the ambarella as I walked in and it was an ideal, very refreshing welcome.


Divine desserts


To end the night, we tried out several of the sweetmeats on offer (simply couldn’t find the space for fruit!).

While there are 30 varieties of dessert available on a regular day, during Sinhala Tamil New Year in April, the restaurant serves up an even wider array of traditional delicacies, reviving childhood memories of new year celebrations.

All in all, the Nuga Gama dining experience is one not to be missed and will certainly satisfy any diner who wishes to indulge in a truly Sri Lankan culinary experience.

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