Aluthkade: Colombo’s Trendy Culinary Domain | Daily News

Aluthkade: Colombo’s Trendy Culinary Domain

There is an old saying that tasty food needs no advertising. This is true. For those of you vibrant foodies, you will agree that the ‘street food’ at Aluthkade is gradually creating pulsating raves among the young and old, and others in-between.

The food shops at this venue have been in operation for some years, and among them one has actually enticed customers since 1956. I have previously written about its proprietor and head cook Naleer Haji, who was also known as Dudley. This outgoing and kind man passed away last year. He was the ‘culinary ambassador’ who faithfully kept alive family recipes from generations, and also in a way influenced aspiring young men to passionately enter into the street food business.

Street food in every country is a manifestation of its local ingredients, cooking methods, culture and a hint of its religious beliefs. At Aluthkade the food is a joyful reflection of Middle Eastern food- which has over the decades aligned itself to the needs of the local Sri Lankan Muslim community living here. I have observed that some traditional food has also been prudently adapted to suit customer’s expectation- which shows the business acumen of these vendors. For those who have not discovered this culinary paradise Aluthkade can be entered from the Fort area via Mihindu Mawatha, taking a left turn from there or can be reached from Armour Street main road taking the turn from Bandaranayke Road- the turn off in front of Mascons Ltd.

Let’s pause for a moment and see the overall appeal of this venue which supplements the good food. Aluthkade and its environs have been the home of a hardworking Muslim community, where Tamils and Sinhalese also coexist together. The area is dotted with mosques, each reflecting its own style of ancient architecture. During the day it’s a busy artery of business where wholesalers and retailers compete. The traffic is intense and delivers a headache. By evening, after 6 pm to be precise the entire landscape seems to change. This is because trading ceases. It is now that the charm of cuisine spreads its wings upon these roads. Trays of marinated meat can be seen, taken by some youth. Others are busy extending canvas cloths to act as temporary shelters across their food shops. Tables and chairs pop up. Waiters of different ages take their positions. Inside the shops’ stoves are lit. BBQ grills spring into action. The sounds of sizzling and frying can be heard. The aroma of spicy food permeates the air by 7pm. The stage is set for a great night of street food. By 7.30 pm customers begin to enter Aluthkade.

The current trend is for groups, I am talking about groups of 10 to 15 persons coming to hangout and eat. The groups of foodies represent young executives from the corporate sector, especially on a Friday night. The second segment is young people after university lectures. Apart from these foodies I saw happy families, couples in stages of enduring romance and of course eager YouTube and web bloggers with their high tech selfie-sticks and cameras. On this evening I hung out with my classmates Pradeep and Shahabdeen and another buddy Manoj.

Since the COVID lockdowns new shops had emerged with creative food and matching names. This particular night was crowded, so much so, that in some shops people were waiting in line to order their dinner. Some of the unique items here include the dolphin kottu- not the marine dolphin but this is the name given to a kottu dish that is served and must be shared by at least five people. It can be topped with a diverse assortment of meat and poultry. The glowing orange embers on the giant grills accentuated the appeal of chicken kebabs and beef kebabs. The aroma of food is fantastic and makes some become fanatically hungry! There was an array of naans and rottis to accompany all this meat. I must mention if you’re a vegetarian Aluthkade will not captivate you, sorry. But you can still travel there to witness the action.

I observed the emergence of three enterprises selling burgers- filled with the Muslim style beef and chicken. This is innovative, but some foodies say it’s not a reflection of the traditional cuisine. Nevertheless innovation attracts different customers. The beef dishes extend to include fried beef, roast beef, beef curry, beef keema, BBQ beef and an enchanting beef sambol. This type of variation at reasonable prices is not found in Colombo’s restaurants, sorry chefs. I must mention here that another reason for Aluthkade to blossom over the past two months as a culinary hotspot, is because of the fair prices, generous servings and friendly talkative staff. The bliss of street food is that you can visit in shorts and slippers. Having said that I did observe some fashionable stunning divas, sporting trending fashion.

Another succulent hit at Aluthkade is the mannipittu and babath curry- babath is tripe for those souls not oriented with Malay food. The tripe is cooked to divine perfection and melts in your mouth. You can enhance your meal by having the ‘parts curry’ which contains beef parts like the liver, spleen etc. British chefs will call this as offal- the correct culinary term! Whether you eat pittu, string hoppers or rotti you can order extras like fried eggs, fried cuttlefish and fish eggs. The latter is the roe of fish and a truly tropical treat.

Aluthkade is not only about tantalizing food. There are carts selling beverages. The king of the list is a special drink called Koowath- an upgraded version of baddam milk. Ah again baddam is the word for almonds. The unique Koowath has an amazing 16 ingredients infused into a chilled glass of fresh milk. Don’t ask me for 16 ingredients. Because I too asked the young man what they are and he smiled, retaining his secret concoction. Gosh what a refreshing and energizing drink. There are variations of fruit juices, faluda and other mocktails. For those desiring their cup of tea, Aluthkade has taken tea to the next level. Again new renditions of tea served with glee. The making of tea on these roads includes dexterity- displaying showmanship. Every form of food and beverage prep is done with pride. Sweets complete the experience.

I spoke to a young man named Azaam who specializes in turning out desserts, with his ingredients sourced from Dubai. His shop is the most trending for sweets, followed by another shop selling panni poori. This is extremely popular among the young foodies. Some shops also soldlavaria oozing with honey. This street has made it to Europe thanks to YouTube videos.

A night out at this location is a recharge for the mind and body. Food connects people. It beautifully transcends race and religion. It empowers young people to chill and learn about other cultures. Aluthkade cuisine resonates with unity. The ambrosial allure of Aluthkade will dominate Colombo’s street food scene. Those in charge of promoting tourism must take note of this thrilling culinary domain!

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