Visitors exploring the streets of the Galle Fort between sessions of the recent Galle Literary Festival stopped at a roadside stall where a group of young men were selling snacks under a canvas awning. On a long table covered with a spotless linen tablecloth was a row of plates piled high with short eats.
Most were familiar bites - sandwiches and fish rolls and the like. But a couple of items were not."These two eats are exclusive to the Galle Fort," said one of the young men, Mohamed Aslam Ihsaan Mohideen. He pointed to two plates of short eats.
|Galle Fort short eats for Lit Fest guests, courtesy of Mohamed Azwan Yasin (left) and Mohamed Aslam Ihsaan Mohideen.
"This is Adakku Roti, and this is France Aappa. You won't find them anywhere else outside the Fort. We have cooked these specially for the visitors to the Galle festival. Try them, they're delicious."
We did. The food was different, flavourful, and filling.
"They are made from old family recipes, known only to the Muslim women of the Galle Fort community," said Mohamed Azwan Yasin, Ihsaan's neighbour. "The recipes are not written down. They are passed down the generations by word of mouth."
Ihsaan looked up and signalled to someone standing behind us.
It was one of the Muslim ladies who were preparing the short eats. Standing at a doorway across the street, she was observing how sales were going. The rotis and aappas were moving fast. She disappeared into the house, presumably to make fresh supplies.
As we munched away on our Galle Fort snack specials, the two Mohameds described what we were eating. "The addakku roti is made with a hopper mixture. There are three layers, and the filling is savoury - minced beef or chicken, mixed with onions, potatoes and spices. The oval-shape roti is baked, and it comes out of the oven with a very neat, shiny finish. This is because of the egg paste painted on the top.
"The France aappa must have got its name from its flavour, because it tastes a bit like French bread. This is a kind of meat cake, made with minced beef or fish, rulang, egg yolk, onions and potatoes. All this is mixed together and spread on a buttered tray and baked."
Even as the young Muslim gentlemen were describing the food, with much relish, another round of freshly baked adakku rotis and France aappas arrived at the table.
"Sales are brisk," the young men said with broad smiles. "We are happy you are enjoying this food. For us, it's an excuse to make something out of season that is made only during festivals. But, of course, we are happy and proud to give you something you will find only here."
Putting aside extra helpings of the roti and aappa specials to share with the folks in Colombo, we promised Ihsaan and Azawn that we would be back for more, next year.