cuisine in harmony with nature
This time, our stop was Hotel Hilltop, Kandy. A more
appropriately named hotel we’ve not come across, for, it is
literally atop a hill in Kandy. So high that, it is not only the
panoramic view of the entire town, with the Temple of the Tooth,
with its golden roof glittering right into the dinning hall and
the majestic Lord Buddha from the Bahirawa Mountains that
captures the eye, but also, the day-to-day bustle of the town
below. The old train station seems right at the foot of the hill
and it is indeed fascinating to watch the people scurrying in
and out of trains.
Our host, Chef Vincent, was most hospitable, exuding typical Sri
Lankan charm. Chef Vincent’s Sri Lankan food is quite famous.
He, a direct descendent of ayurveda practitioners – an ancient
holistic lifestyle that promotes life in harmony with nature –
claims his success is simply the ayurvedic principles he
incorporates into his cooking. Though not an ayurvedic
practitioner himself, he has the benefit of his father’s and
grandfather’s knowledge, which they shared with him. In fact, he
is the only odd one out in his family, by entering the culinary
The culinary field, however, he stresses, is a huge part of
ayurveda. Both the curry powder and the curry paste he uses are
recipes of his grandfather (please log onto www.bojoon.com for
the recipes). The curry powder, chef says, really brings out the
best in meat curries and a dash from his special curry paste,
liven any fish and vegetable curry.
He claims that, his curry paste, a concoction of mustard,
garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamoms, black pepper and turmeric,
has all the ayurvedic properties to ensure good, healthy living.
This even makes a good curry in a hurry, by just adding couple
of tablespoons to a pan with heated oil and then adding any
vegetable and tossing until the vegetable is cooked without
losing its texture.
According to Chef Vincent, a diet with garlic, ginger and curry
is essential to prevent long term diseases such as high blood
pressure and coronary related diseases. He points out that, too
many of us spend the better part of our lives eating and living
unhealthily and it is only in our forties or so, when the first
sign of bodily distress shows, that we switch to a healthy diet.
However, by this time, he says, the damage is done and is thus
difficult to reverse the damage wrought on by years of unhealthy
When he took us into his kitchen, we were most captivated. It
had all the order of a professional kitchen as a hotel would
demand, but it also had all the amenities of a typical Sri
Lankan home kitchen – right down to the grinding stone and the
motor and pestle. Signs of their daily use are obvious for the
grinding stone, after 15 years of non-stop use, has nicely worn
Chef Vincent confirmed what we suspected for years – there is no
electric grinder yet invented that performs the tasks of these
age-old grinding stone and motor and pestle as effectively.
Daily, the motor and pestle is used to pound Hilltop’s famous
coconut sambol. Indeed, this is one of the rare sambols we have
come across, that uses crushed red onions instead of the sliced
big onion, where the coconut is well mixed instead of pounded
into a pulp and a sambol as perfect as can be.
With this sambol, Chef loves to serve turkey ambul thiyal.
Though the more renowned dish is the fish ambul thiyal, ambul
thiyal itself is a preservative method quite unique to Sri
Lanka, explains Chef. While the southern coast uses this method
to preserve its blood fish like tuna, in the old royal days of
Kandy, turkey ambul thiyal was a regular royal feast. Here, the
key ingredient is gamboge, which has many ayurvedic properties
such as containing high blood pressure as well as controlling
The Hotel is itself under renovation at the moment. Unlike most
of the other hotels, Hilltop is not twiddling thumbs for guests
to come. The culinary team, personally trained by Chef Vincent,
has gained a steady name for its wonderful food and the Hotel is
now finding its dinning area inadequate to serve the demand.
This confirms something else we have always believed – the
dearth of Sri Lankan tourism is not due to terrorism, but due to
lack of good products. Hats off to Hilltop for its wonderful
Come on foodies! Gossip with us on food! We’d
love to know your food experiences – good, bad, humorous…
basically anything and everything. Just drop an email to email@example.com
and the most interesting experiences would be published here.
For more information, do visit www.bojoon.com.
Sandamalee de Fonseka is the founder of www.bojoon.com that is
both the organiser of action-packed one-on-one cooking
programmes with top chefs of Sri Lanka, and the portal of food
in Sri Lanka.
Chef Aree Jit Mann –
Royal Thai – Trans Asia
Mann date for
Serving the best Thai food in Colombo, Royal Thai at Trans Asia
serves cuisine that caters to the balance of the five
fundamental flavours in each and every dish they prepare; that
is hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty and bitter (optional flavour)
with all due thanks to their master chef – Chef Aree Jit Mann.
Giving the usual, yet, authentic Thai cuisine her own creative
touch, by adding in different ingredients bought, both locally
and from abroad, Chef Mann is quirky, bubbly and lively as ever.
Her bright wide smile lightens up the room and makes you feel
right at home. Born and bred in Thailand, she is proud of the
fact that she can bring in a part of her culture to ours and
make people enjoy Thai cuisine in a way like no other can.
“Ever since the age of 15, I have had a love for the art of
cooking. Everyday on my return home from school, you would find
me in the kitchen with my mother. I loved helping her out and it
benefited me in a great way” she answered, on querying how
cooking became the center of her life. I guess it is safe and
truthful to say that women are and will always be the greatest
chefs around, even if they don’t make it to the top within the
industry. For Chef Mann, her mother and her culture was her
inspiration. Hats off to them both!
Creating the most tantalising and mouthwatering dishes such as
Tom yam (sweet and sour soup), Khao Pad (fried rice Thai style)
which is one of the most common dishes in Thailand, Gai Pad
Khing (chicken stir-friend with sliced ginger) and Pad Pak Ruam
(stir-fried combination of vegetables) Chef Mann is more than
delighted, when customers at Royal Thai compliment her on her
dishes and come back for more. “It is always a great pleasure
for any chef, when their customers enjoy the meals served for
them and compliment them as well. I am always thrilled and it
makes me so happy to have people say nice things about my dishes
and it is always a pleasure to serve them again and again, when
they visit the restaurant” she said.
Chef Mann previously worked at a well-known restaurant in China
for four years, before coming to Sri Lanka, and joined Trans
Asia in 2003. Her way of expressing her style and art of cooking
is “home-styled creative cooking”, which actually makes sense,
because sitting down to enjoy one of her cuisines simply feels
‘home-cooked’ in a way!
Chef Clifford at Trans Asia commented on Chef Mann’s hard work
and cooking talent, by praising her creativity and activeness in
the kitchen. “You can tell by simply watching her, that she is
doing her best and cooks authentic Thai cuisine like no other
can. She’s lively as ever and a very hard-working woman. ”
Talking of her future plans, Chef Mann flashes one of her bright
smiles. “I would like to open a restaurant” she said, “another
Royal Thai” she added jokingly! A great chef, big dreams,
amasing cuisine and a one-of-a-kind restaurant; seems like too
good a combination, but there you have it! Chef Mann – Royal
Thai – Trans Asia.