The Localist

Koththu Roti – a Sri Lankan favourite

We Sri Lankans love our food, and we have a wide variety of dishes that can trace their origins back to either one of our many ethnic groups or our neighboring countries. Each dish has its own story, entwined with the history of the country and its people, and the kind of mystery and intrigue that comes with ancient recipes passed down from generation to generation.

If I had to pick out one dish that captures the true essence of contemporary Sri Lanka, I’d pick Koththu Roti. Wikipedia defines Koththu Roti (also referred to as Kothu) as “a Sri Lankan dish made from a Sri Lankan roti called Godhamba roti and vegetables, egg, and/or meat, and spices. Kothu can be found in almost all parts of Sri Lanka and is generally eaten for dinner. The most common varieties of kothu are beef and chicken, with egg and vegetable kothu available for vegetarians. Cheese kothu has recently been introduced and appears to be becoming a mainstay.”

As accurate as the Wikipedia definition is Koththu Roti is, it is so much more than ingredients coming together to create a mouthwatering dish. It is a unique experience.

Koththu Roti is often purchased from a street vendor who goes about preparing it while the salivating customer watches impatiently. The chopped up ingredients are added to a heated flat metal sheet and the cook goes about “cooking” it using two metal blades to further cut and chop up the ingredients. Someone new to the whole experience might be justified in thinking that the cook is drumming to the beat of a famous Sri Lankan Baila song.

There’s no real written recipe for Koththu that specifies exacty what to add and in what quantities, as it all comes down to the instincts of the cook. The whole process of making Koththu is chaotic, and yet out of all of that chaos emerges a delicious dish that most Sri Lankans would rate as their favorite.

Sri Lanka is full of instances of brilliance emerging out of the midst of chaos, whether it is the friendly people with perpetual smiles at crowded bus stands or World Cup winning Cricket teams defying the crippling effect of chaotic administrators.





Image. Photo by Thilina Weerasekera.

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