What do I know about Sri Lanka? Not much, I must admit. I only know that this teardrop-shaped island-country is located on the Indian Ocean, and is one of the most important exporters of tea (who has never heard of Ceylon tea?). Yet, my dinner yesterday at AJ’s Sri Lankan Cuisine (AJ’s 斯里蘭卡菜館) in Sai Kung was an eyeopener. Both the bf and I totally fell in love with the three dishes we ordered, hard.
In our previous trips to Sai Kung (you can check my entries about our hike to Trio beach and our Tai Long Wan hike), the bf originally wanted to take me to AJ’s because he had heard lots of compliments on it. Unfortunately, we either didn’t have time or didn’t arrive at the resto at the right time (AJ’s is open from 11am -> 3pm & 5:30pm -> 11pm). Determined to check it out yesterday, so we spent the whole afternoon in Sai Kung waiting for the resto to open (our time in Sai Kung was so enjoyably spent that I will write another entry about it soon). The hard work paid off as we were the first customers when AJ’s opened its door again at 5:30pm.
We had never tried Sri Lankan food before, and many of the names in the menu didn’t ring any bells :\
After we figured out what we would order, the staff gave us free Poppaddoms and chutney as a starter. A wonderful way to start the meal. The poppadoms were slightly different from their Indian counterparts: they were thinner and a tad crispier. The slightly salty and briny snacks went so well with the sweet-sour pineapple chutney. I might go back to AJ’s just for this starter.
The 3 dishes we ordered took around 15 minutes to come, and arrived at the same time.
Black lamb curry (89 HKD). We were debating whether we should order the regular lamb curry (with coconut milk in it) or the signature Black lamb one (without coconut milk but with Sri Lankan spices). But we were in a Sri Lankan restaurant, weren’t we?
As you can see, the curry was, well, black. But don’t underestimate this modest-looking bowl. It was bursting with flavors. The lamb was not melt-in-your-mouth tender, but the magical orchestra of Sri Lankan spices and herbs totally made up for it. We could taste black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon, and lemon grass. But I’m sure that there were several others that we couldn’t identify (but a quick search on google brings up fenugreek, cumin, cardomom, and cloves as well). But who cares? I took only one picture of the Curry alone because I couldn’t resist diving straight into this bowl of goodness. We also ordered Garlic roti (45 HKD) to pair with the curry. The garlicky, soft roti bread with the aromatic, spicy, heartwarming curry made a wonderful companion.
The Lamprais (a Dutch influenced ‘special occasion’ dish of flavored rice served with fish cutlet, eggplant, seeni sambol, egg & your choice of meat, wrapped in a banana leaf), though priced at the relatively high tag of 129 HKD, was worth every penny. It was quite a large dish and is meant to be shared. Inside the banana leaf (or Kehel kole), we got the most fragrant rice with cashews (sort of similar to biryani but didn’t taste as complicated; it’s not a problem though, because the rice is to be eaten with other ingredients of the Lamprais), delicious Seeni sambol (sweet onion relish with sweet-sour-spicy sambal), Weligama batu moju (deep fried eggplants & onions mixed with spices), deep fried boiled egg, extremely soft and flavorsome curry potatoes, savory Sri Lankan fish cutlet, and Mutton lampara curry.
Our Lamprais was quite mindblowing. Everything was so so so so delicious. I felt like I was eating a Christmas dinner, because there was something so hearty, so homey, so heartwarming about this dish (maybe it is the clove-cinnamon flavor, which always reminds me of Christmas). The bf loved the mutton curry–it was quite similar to our black lamb curry, but less spicy. I, on the other hand, find myself still thinking about the amazing Fish cutlet. The cutlet was made with mashed mackerel, thus inside the cutlet ball (yes, it was not flat) we could still see and feel the texture and fibre of the fish, as well as taste the strong flavor of the mackerel.
Perhaps the only thing I didn’t like so much was the cashews. Personally I wish that they had retained the crunchiness. Instead, after steaming in the banana leaf, they were soft and tasted like butter. I’m sure that many other would like this, though.
What can I say? AJ’s Sri Lankan Cuisine is a must-try restaurant in Sai Kung (and in this small, picturesque town in Hong Kong, there is a plethora of great restaurants to choose from!). The prices are not exactly cheap, but the food is speechlessly delicious. Ski Lanka has always been on our list of countries to visit in the future, but now its rank has officially jumped to the head of the que and will hopefully be our next destination!
AJ’s Sri Lankan Cuisine, G/F, 14 Sai Kung Hoi Pong Street, Sai Kung, Hong Kong. If you are not familiar with how to get to Sai Kung, please check my post here.