SERENDIB: KEEPING IT SIMPLE AND SRI LANKAN

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

Many talk about there being only one Sri Lankan restaurant- AJ’s in Sai Kung, which is okay, and serves its version of lamprais- rice, curry, sambals and a hard boiled egg served inside a banana leaf- but being a Burgher from what was Ceylon, it’s not exactly what mother made. Maybe Hong Kong is lacking in the proper ingredients needed. Pepper is no substitute.

Though yet to taste lamprais there- or maybe I have and just forgotten- nothing beats the totally authentic Sri Lankan feast that can be tasted sitting outdoors at the Nuga Gama of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo and able to choose from an assortment of curries, sambals, and from time to time, string hoppers, and other types of hoppers.

The closest Hong Kong came to an authentic Sri Lankan restaurant was almost three decades ago when South China Morning Post sports writer Nicky Careem and his family started the wonderful Sri Lanka Club on Hollywood Road.

The small basement restaurant served a daily buffet- even on Sundays- of three different curries, dhal, pol sambal, seeni sambal, brinjal curry, yellow rice, string hoppers, a choice of Sri Lankan desserts and with everything costing a mere HK$60 which included two beers.

Even for those days, it was extremely inexpensive and maybe that’s the reason why the Sri Lanka Club was forced to close down. Perhaps the owners hadn’t done the maths whereas Hong Kong was suddenly being offered more and more choices for dining out like Wyndham Street Thai, La Bodega etc.

Sitting with a few friends visiting Hong Kong from the UK, I was trying to explain the very big difference between Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, how my favourite dish is the Typical Sri Lankan Breakfast at the Cinnamon Grand, how a former girlfriend who was Danish learned to make a traditional Sri Lankan meal in just two hours when we were holidaying in Galle and how my ex wife, an American, managed to master the intricacies of making lamprais.

Us Burgher men have a certain Neanderthal approach to women and just expect them to cook whatever the hell we want. It’s probably why I keep changing women with such regularity as fish and chips or burgers or ravioli or tacos do nothing for these tastebuds.

Listening in on this dissertation on the Burgher psyche at the table next to us was a family I knew. With them was a Burgher who was introduced to us and asked if I had been to a Sri Lankan restaurant in the trendy new area in Hong Kong known as Sheung Wan called Serendib. As I hadn’t, he asked that I give it a try but to manage my expectations.

A friend and I got there last night on a rainy, muggy night. The place is small with a maximum five tables and run by a young couple. He’s a Sri Lankan and does the cooking and she, a young Hong Kong Chinese girl, does everything else- taking down orders, helping with the washing up etc. Extremely nice couple.

Serendib is refreshingly unpretentious in a city where pretentiousness and poseurs and living beyond one’s means just to be part of the glitterati are suffocating a city that was never ever this overrun by bollocks.

So if looking for somewhere to be seen and show that you’re part of artificial coolness, Serendip isn’t for you.

The interior “design” is reminiscent of a small guest house in Galle or Nuwera Elya whereas if nature calls, the closest loo is a public toilet around the corner.

With a limited menu that’s doable for the owner/chef not wishing to skimp on authenticity, we ordered pretty much what they had- string hoppers, dhal, chicken curry, fish cutlets and a beef curry.

It was perfect for a dinner on a Tuesday night following quite a heavy business lunch. With the choice of drinks also limited, Serendib does have a South African Merlot that’s surprisingly good. The costs for dinner: a very reasonable HK$600 including something like a sixty buck tip. Cheers!

Will I go back again? Definitely. But with someone unimpressed with impressing strangers- what’s the point?- and screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” Been there, done that and have the burka. Probably why, ever since going Danish, there’s no going back. Scandinavian women, in general, especially from Oslo, who keep things real, have their own careers and bank accounts and don’t depend on the kindness of strangers and sugar daddies.

#Serendib #HongKong #restaurants #foodie #SriLankancuisine #SheungWan #CinnamonGrand #NugaGama

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