The Perfect Lamprais

CHEF CHARLES NYC

I consider Lamprais to be an exquisite accomplishment in Sri Lanka’s diverse and fascinating cuisine.  Sri Lanka is created out of many diverse ethnic groups which has gifted the island with a unique  eclectic cuisine.

One of these ethnic groups is the burgher community and Lamprais, is certainly one of the cornerstones of Dutch Burgher cuisine.  The origin of the word Lamprais remains unclear but it is thought to be the anglicized version of the original Dutch words – klomp (lump) rijst (rice).

To me, an Authentic Dutch Lamprais is a delicacy.  A delightful treat eaten in small portions usually on a Sunday Lunch with a pint of beer or a chilled bottle of Riesling. In the old days the Lamprais was really small (about the size of a fist) and when served men would usually have about three lamprais for lunch and women would have two.

However, the chances are the Lamprais we are most likely to run into today, are not the real deal. Most of the time large portions of greasy rice wrapped in a banana leaf with some chicken curry and curried vegetables and a cutlet are sold at commercial food establishments and are nothing close to authentic Dutch Lamprais.

The matter of fact it that creating an authentic Lamprais is a painstakingly long labor intensive process. Some are blessed to be related to or be good friends with a patient Sri Lankan burgher lady who is a great cook and who has learnt the traditional way of making Lamparies from her mother or grandmother. Others know a food fanatic chef like myself (!)who is willing to learn the process and go thru all the necessary steps to make the perfect Lamprais. If you are out in the cold with neither, well… you are outta luck!!

I would like to share with you some TIPS that I feel are critical to making an authentic Lamprais :

The Rice

MeatStock

“Lamprais is a delicacy. It’s too rich to be eaten in large quantities; Ideally, Each Lamprai includes a cupful of the savory rice. The rice is made by frying a raw short grain rice with onions and spices in butter or ghee rice and then cooked in a meat stock.

MeatStock

The meat stock is made out of the meats used for the mixed meat curry. To make a good stock always brown the meats along with spices like cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves with lots of curry leaves and lemongrass. The stock it key to making flavorsome rich and decadent rice.

The Mixed Meat Curry

Most of the burgher ladies who are passionate about their Lamprais that I’ve spoken to have told me that the Lamprais meat curry back in the Dutch Colonial period consisted of Lamb, Beef and Pork. But today most commercially made Lamprais have substituted Lamb with Chicken.

MixedMeatCurry

When making the meat curry try to use spices like cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves and less curry powders and chili powders. This will give your mixed meat curry a more unique and milder yet rich flavor than a typical Sri Lankan meat curry.

The rest of the items:

SteamingtheDutchmeatballs

Two Frikkadels (breaded Dutch meatballs)

I suggest lightly steaming the meatballs before frying as they become extra moist and tender.

EggplantGettingCooked

EggplantPaheFinishedProduct

Brinjal Pahè

( this is while it is cooking )

And this is the sensational Brinjal Pahè in a heavy bottom pan…

Don’t forget the Seeni Sambol (fried onions caramelized with sugar and chili)

PrawnBlachanGettingFried

Blachan (a spicy shrimp paste)

This is the Blachan being prepared…

PrawnBlachanTheFinishedProduct

And this is how you probably would better-recongnise it once  it is done…

Fried Ash Plantains

are added to the rice…

And all of the above are lovingly wrapped in lightly toasted Banana leaves to make it a whole meal.”

Don’t sneeze at the next great Lamprais you eat.

Remember, each of these items take a lot of time and skill to make the right way.

The Banana Leaf

An all-important part of Lamprais because it gives the food a special flavor and fragrance once it is steamed.

Once the entire meal is wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed, this allows all the flavors to infuse together into the rice.  When you open the banana leaf packet,  you immediately inhale the delicious aroma of the assortment of the spices embracing and infusing the rice!

ThePerfectLamprai

If you have your own special suggestions and tips on making the perfect Lamprais, I would love to hear from you.

Have a great Sunday !!

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About ChefCharlesNYC   

Charles is a chef & culinary entrepreneur based out of Metro New York. His specialty is global contemporary cuisine.

Charles has his own unique take on Sri Lankan contemporary cuisine. He is currently focused on catering events in the New York area and will travel if needed.

Charles also works as a Hotel and Restaurant consultant and is currently working on consulting projects in the U.S and Sri Lanka. He  hosts exclusive monthly supper club dinners and undertakes special Sri Lankan catered events.

For more email oneworldonekitchen@yahoo.com  or visit www.oneworldonekitchen.com

Comments

  1. duthika Cyril says:

    Thank you for putting up the recipe with pictures.

  2. No egg in a Lamprais!

    • Hi Yohan,
      Yes, traditional Lamprais do not have eggs but this is my take on the what I think is the perfect Lamprai and as much as I believe in preparing the Lamprai the traditional way I think adding a boiled and deep fried egg brings the entire dish together. I always suggest the egg as an “optional” addition and what I’ve found so far is that all my clients ask for it to be included when making an order :)

      • Jonathan Martenstyn says:

        Noooo… no eggs in the perfect lamprai… Chef Charles, spot on mate on the make up of the lamprai, just like my grand mum used to make them. its all in the rice.

      • if it there is egg its not lamprais. no take on it. its either lamprais or its not lamprais. and where is the seeni sambal. lamprais is sacred. you can’t mess with it folks.

  3. Love your recipe for hot butteted cuttlefish, thank you for that. I can find your recipe for the perfect Lamprai

    • Susie, thanks for your comment… I just wanted to respond that Chef Charles is giving out recipes and tips. The above are TIPS on making the perfect Lamprais… hope you ar not disappointed… also feel free to critique at any time or offer alternative suggestions.

  4. Lamprais
    – The Dutch Burghers’ best loved lunch
    By Rodney Jonklaas
    (Extract from JDBU LXI – page 129)
    When my people, the Dutch, colonised Sri Lanka they not only revolutionised the plantation industry but also
    Sinhalese eating habits – including introduction of that marvellous Dutch Burgher luncheon, lamprais.
    I am told by Ena Heyneker, a very forthright and meticulous cook, that the word “lamprais” has been
    derived from “lempur”, a Dutch word much used in Indonesia where it defines an Indonesian preparatio
    n of boiled rice with assorted meats all wrapped in a banana leaf into small dainty packets.
    You pronounce lamprais “lumprise” talking daintily, and not “lump-rice” as some
    people say, and never “lampreys.” A lamprey is an exceptionally obnoxious primitive fish which lives
    as a parasite on others in America and Europe, far indeed from a delicious Dutch Burgher rice dish.
    All kinds of people make all kinds of lamprais, mostly in and around Colombo, but not one commercial l
    amprais comes close to the real thing. Some day there maybe a genuine lamprais restaurant here but I cannot
    imagine how.
    Lamprais are simply not mass-produced, assembly-line products, they have character.
    John Anderson, who spent many weeks in Sri Lanka to ld me, a day or two before he left to do his handbo
    ok on this country, that of all the foods he had tasted, the lamprais had turned him on least, “Did yours have
    a boiled egg or parts thereof in it?” I asked. The expression on his face said “Yes”. “You have been eating commercia
    l two-bit hybrid rice-packets”, I said. “Come back next time and I’ll lay on the real thing for you, but give me plent
    y of notice.”
    The real thing? How can I ever pinpoint the best lamprais I have ever eaten over the past five decade
    s? There were times when dried prawns, so essential to blachang, could not be found; then a temporary dearth of mald
    ive fish (boiled, dried, fermented Bonito Fillets) which are absolutely vital for the seeni sambol that goes wi
    th every mouthful. Cooking bananas or ash plantains simply must be in season and just tender enough to be used in the ind
    efinable dry curry.
    Let me try to define a genuine lamprais. Into riceis inserted a small cloth bag of very special spices, boiled in a stock
    of chicken, pork and beef. With this are two small meat balls, a portion of dry cooked banana curry, seeni sambol, the
    Indonesian blachang made of crushed dried prawn plus garlic and assorted spices and a larger than usua
    l helping of a spicy but not torrid curry of diced chicken, pork and beef. The whole mouth-watering heap is loving
    ly wrapped in lightly scalded tender banana leaves (which should be done over coconut charcoal, wrapped in a parcel
    with loose ends folded and held in place by pointed ekels or mid-ribs of the coconut palm leaflets. The wrapped
    lamprais must be kept for a few hours to permit the subtle flavour of the banana leaf to do its magic work. A lamprais is a luncheon
    and not a dinner…One lamprais would suffice for one Burgher lady, two for an athletic one and two or
    three for a gentleman.
    To even suggest half a boiled egg, aubergine curry or hunks of chicken in a lamprais is to be banished
    forever from the august circle of Burgher ladies who dominate the lamprais cult. Also, to serve lamprais without banana leaf is
    utter disaster, and this is why a few lamprais make rs in Melbourne, in spite of producing superb lamprais, shed tears
    of frustration on having to pack them in plastic or foil containers…there is also the essential ingredient of fresh curry-
    leaf (karapincha) which has a subtle flavour. It will grow only in hot tropical jungles…*
    How does a visitor find a real lamprais?… Get invited to a Burgher home on lamprais day. Once there
    , skip the booze and beer and accept a glass of homemade ginger beer. It is considered the drink to go with the lamprais.

  5. Hi Guys
    We have had this debate on our page too and in short yes original Burgher Lamprais does not have an egg however we must understand that including an egg is a very popular choice by many. Food evolves all the time and to be quite honest does it really matter ? The important part is the overall taste that counts. Its great when it is cooked in a banana leaf. I travelled to Melbourne and still had difficulty finding an authentic Lamprais. Here in the UK its virtually impossible to find for some reason.
    Chef Charles please join our Facebook group we will love to have you on board. :)

    Srilankan Food Lovers Across The World
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/srilankanfoodlovers/

    Many thanks

    Jerry

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