If LT can go back in time, then so can I. In November 2014, this magazine produced a bit of groundbreaking journalism that clearly slipped through the crack, although I don’t mind at all. They identified Sri Lanka’s “Chinatown” – an area of restaurants in Colombo 3 that are owned and operated by Chinese settlers. After much research, we found 10 restaurants of stellar quality, if you have the culinary constitution to eat as the Chinese do. For your reference, these Top 10 LT picks were (at that time):
2. Chinese Juchunyuan
3. Fortune Boat
5. Hua Xiang Ju
6. Min Han
7. Moon River
8. Sunlight Garden
9. Tang Dynasty
10. Tong Ni BBQ
I’m not going to lie to you, I have my firm favourites. So naturally, I don’t see the need to visit all these places all the time. Although I really must recommend the hotpot range at Chinese Juchunyuan. Unless you don’t eat pork, in which case don’t bother going.
Now let me tell you my firm favourites. They are very different to each other and each one has it’s own style and grandeur (or lack thereof). Also, they all make Hot Butter Cuttlefish, but you’d be a fool to go there to eat that when the truly authentic Chinese is just a menu flick away.
Chinese food is comfort food to me. I take it very seriously and therefore I will rarely order this cuisine as a take away. The fun begins when the steaming hot plate arrives at the table…
They are not trying to be posh, Min Han doesn’t care what you think of them. Well patronised by both Chinese and a strange mix of locals, the menu will confuse you if you don’t know what to order. Sri Lanka’s best Chinese Dumplings are here, I assure you. Order them fried (or boiled if you must) as you walk in and then peruse the menu thereafter. LT took some nice photos of the Beef Brisket Noodle Soup, the house speciality, but I have recently discovered those same homemade noodles are just as delicious if not more so, in a stir fry. Other discoveries include the Cold Mushroom and Cucumber starter – it just cuts through the fat on everything else you eat, the Pork with Black Mushroom, the Chilli Pepper Prawn (they use white pepper), and the new contender – Beansprout with Tofu. Now don’t tell me you don’t know what to order when you amble in there. The abrupt service and dismal ambiance is part of the charm but watch out for MSG – people eating with me had splitting headaches later, yet no regrets.
Definitely the wealthy relation of the Chinese family, Moon River’s business is booming, so they don’t have time to hold your hand. In fairness, it’s no wonder, because although not in Colombo 3, it is close enough to be a leading player in my Chinatown. Busloads of Chinese tourists stop here to catch their home food fix and although the result is noisy ambiance, it does not and cannot detract from the food. The seafood is remarkably fresh and the menu is extensive. You can’t go wrong with a picture menu so order what you like. I have a thing for their thinly sliced Pork with Peppers (cannot remember the name of this dish). Hong Kong Style Crab, the steamed fish with soy sauce and if you can afford it, the Lobster with Ginger and Spring Onion. All the standard grub for kids are also on the menu, but stay authentic, my fans
Now this place you pass often enough when you turn down Abdul Caffoor Road from Galle Road. An unmissable large property with parking, people still ask me how the food is and then they don’t end up going. The Chinese food here is some of the best in the country. The proprietors here also own that fantastic Chinese shop on the top floor of Colpetty market which sees heavy traffic on it’s daily batch of fresh tofu. Understandably, since they supply most of the town, the tofu is great and prepared best at this venue – try the Ma Po Tofu and asked for minced pork instead of chicken – trust me. Unusual dishes, such as the Crab with Salted Egg is not for everyone but I love the richness of this crazy crab dish. The Steamed Fish with Chilli Sauce is not what you would expect, and they somehow steam it and then fillet it before bringing it to your table – it is a wonderful preparation. The ambiance is so unremarkable that it doesn’t encourage you to hang out there but I go for the great Chinese food, and nothing else is needed.