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 :
“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.
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.
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:
Two Frikkadels (breaded Dutch meatballs)
I suggest lightly steaming the meatballs before frying as they become extra moist and tender.
( 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)
Blachan (a spicy shrimp paste)
This is the Blachan being prepared…
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!
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 !!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.oneworldonekitchen.com