That Burgher delicacy wrapped up in banana leaf

By Megara Tegal

Chances are the Lamprais that you know of, isn’t the real deal. The large portions of oily rice wrapped in a banana leaf that’s sold at fast food outlets are nothing close to authentic Dutch Burgher Lamprais.
Having been improvised in every possible way, except for the signature banana leaf wrap that can speciously turn a serving of rice, curried chicken and egg, into ‘Lamprais’, there are quite a few rice dishes that are being passed off as the Burgher rice dish.
Lorraine Bartholomeusz

So what is authentic Lamprais? We found out just that having spoken to Lorraine Bartholomeusz, widely known for her traditional lamprais recipe that was passed down through generations in her family.

According to Lorraine, the misconceptions start with the size of the parcel. Most people seem to think Lamprais should be the size of a regular packet of rice and curry, when in fact it is not to be eaten in a heaped plateful. “Lamprais is a delicacy. It’s far too rich to be eaten in large quantities, though people think that unless you have a huge packet you’re getting short changed. Ideally, Lamprais is a breakfast cupful of small grain rice such as suduru samba that is boiled in stock and to which spices are added to make it flavorsome,” says Lorraine.

But that’s not all that goes into traditional Lamprais. To complete the serving of rice and make it a whole meal there’s a mix of three different types of meat. Back in Dutch times, the three meats consisted of beef, pork and lamb. Now however, lamb has been substituted with chicken. Also into the parcel will go two cutlets, brinjal pahè, seeni sambol and blachan.”

However, even with the mixed meat and other curries, one parcel of Lamprais may not satisfy that large Sri Lankan appetite. The rice dish which is a convenient food when catering for parties has, since it was first prepared, been served as two parcels for ladies and three for gents, says Lorraine. “The meal was prepared for the Dutch and they didn’t eat such large portions of rice. Also being prepared to suit the Dutch palate, it isn’t chilli spicy. And no coconut oil or milk is used in the preparation.”

Besides the changes in the recipe, according to Lorraine “the name of rice dish has been sort of anglicized as well. Originating from a Dutch word that translates into ‘a packet of food’, Lamprais is also frequently misspelled as Lump Rice.”

While much has changed, Lamprais has retained its banana leaf wrapping. “It’s just not the same without the Kehel Kole, or banana leaf. The banana leaf is an important part of Lamprais because it gives the food a special flavour and fragrance once it is steamed or baked together. It isn’t the same when packed in lunch paper or styrofoam” she says.

Lorraine’s traditional preparation of Lamprais will be sold at a special food sale of Burgher delicacies held at the Dutch Burgher Union today, Sunday September 13. Other well know Burgher fare such as fougetti, beef smore, pork badun, homemade ginger beer, milk wine and much more will also be available at the sale which will be open from 10 a.m. onwards.

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