5 places to try real Sri Lankan food in Sydney
Homebush used to be the home of Sydney's little Sri Lanka, but the community (and all its amazing eateries) have moved farther west to Toongabbie. While that area is undoubtedly the place to go for authentic Lankan curries, spicy sambals and roti, Sri Lankan food is firmly establishing itself in Sydney's inner city suburbs, with some incredible new spots opening in Darlinghurst and Glebe in recent months that will set your mouth on fire.
Here are five places to try Sri Lankan food, from fried egg hoppers to rich flavoured curries.
Ruvanie De Zoysa and her partner Chris Goffin ran Hopper Kadé as a successful market stall for two years before settling on a permanent location in Darlinghurst.
The food is good entry-level Sri Lankan food. It doesn't claim to be purely traditional (Runvanie thinks Sri Lankan food can be too intense for an uninitiated palate) but you still get a sense of the depth of flavours of the cuisine.
Hoppers, a bowl-shaped crepe made with a fermented batter of rice flour and coconut milk are a standout dish. Have them with the yellow curry fish or the 12-hour slow cooked beef brisket, a nod to western cookingo with a Lankan spice twist.
Dish's mother ship is one of Toongabbie's most popular Sri Lankan restaurants, and lucky for all of us, it landed in Glebe earlier this year. While the western Sydney outpost is more of a takeaway spot, Dish is Glebe is slightly more upmarket: dishes are a la carte and made to order.
Try the tamarind and curry marinaded barramundi grilled in a banana leaf or kottu roti, a sort of fried rice dish with egg, vegetables and chopped up roti in place of rice. Spice levels are generally milder in Glebe than in Toongabbie, but if you think you can take the heat, just ask for hot.
Lankan Filling Station
Lankan Filling Station is another spot that got its start at the markets and it's opening next month around the corner from Hopper Kadé. Founded by renowned chef O Tama Carey of Berta fame, Lankan Filling Station's hoppers are spongey with a satisfying fermented flavour and topped with incredibly fiery curries and sambols.
Pol sambol is coconut based, and kattal sambol is impossibly hot, made with red chili. Try it with a strong, salty maldive fish and dahl lentils or a black curried pork belly.
For dessert, O Tama's semolina Love Cake is beautiful: dense, rich, eggy and sweet.
Indu is an upmarket CBD restaurant whose menu isn't purely Sri Lankan. It fuses the country's neighbouring South Indian cuisine with Sri Lankan food using modern cooking techniques. The ceviche, for example, is marinated in coconut vinegar and served on string hoppers with fresh coconut and chilli.
An experience at Indu is theatrical. Coconut sambol is ground in a mortar and pestle at your table, and each dish is a piece of art. The menu is split into seafood "From the Coast" meats "From the Village" "Curries" and "Indu Essentials" which are sides like turmeric onion bread with rich masala butter or sautéed snake beans with coconut and crispy daal.
Sure, it's easier now to get good Sri Lankan cooking close to Sydney's city centre, but for a true experience, it's worth the train ride to Toongabbie. Most of the spots are takeaway shops, and XDream Takeaway is one of our favourites.
Hopper Kadé and Lankan Filling Station might disagree, but many say XDream has the best hoppers in Sydney. They make over 100 a day, so they certainly have a lot of practice.
There are plain hoppers served with all manner of curries and spicy sambals, or egg hoppers with a soft cooked egg sunk into the centre of the spongey crepe. For dessert, hoppers come with coconut cream and a drizzle of jaggery palm sugar. Best to visit later in the day as hoppers are only on offer after 4pm.
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