Cooking is one of my favourite pastimes. I love to try recipes from all around the world, but I have a particular soft spot for Sri Lankan food. My parents moved from Sri Lanka to the UK in the seventies so that my father could study Computer Science. Growing up, they often cooked Sri Lankan food, so I was introduced to a wide range of deliciously spiced dishes at an early age, which were worlds apart from my school dinners.
Nowadays in London, it is relatively easy to find all the ingredients you need to make a sumptuous Sri Lankan feast. I usually head to Tooting Broadway as there are a string of Sri Lankan grocery stores there in close vicinity to the tube station. Tooting Supermarket is my usual haunt, but Venkadeswara, and several others are close by, so you can afford to shop around for the best prices and freshest produce.
Fresh curry leaves, rampe (pronounced “rampay” ,also known as Pandan and Bai Toey), dried Maldive fish, dark roasted curry powder, tamarind and goroka are staples of the Sri Lankan kitchen and can all be found in Tooting.
Apart from all the spices and dry goods, you can also find a fantastic selection of exotic fresh fruit and vegetables that you can not get in Sainsburys and Waitrose. Vegetables include chow chow, bitter gourds, snake gourds, ridge gourds, drumsticks (aka murunga, like a thick string bean), banana flower, lotus root and gotukola salad leaves.
As it is August, they also had my all time favourite fruit in stock: mangosteen. I fondly remember childhood holidays in Sri Lanka where I happily substituted lunches for bucket loads of these. These purple fruit (no relation to mangos) have a soft white flesh and the inside looks like a garlic bulb. Each one maybe has between 4-6 segments which you can eat like an orange. Mangosteen, which are high in antioxidants, have a delicate sensation on the tongue combining flavours like vanilla, peach and strawberries.
If you don’t fancy cooking, there are plenty of Sri Lankan cafes on Tooting’s High Street where you can get your curry fix.
Best to call beforehand, just to make sure they have your required ingredients in stock.
Tooting Supermarket, 66 Tooting High Street, Tooting SW17 0RN. 0208 682 1157
Venkadeswara, 78 Tooting High Street, Tooting SW17 0RN. 0208 767 6495