I was surprised , and a little chagrined, when my nephew called to say that he was enjoying the Sri Lankan food at Sigiri Restaurant in Edison. I mean, I’ve lived in this town for more than 35 years …how could this restaurant have escaped my notice ? Anyway, when some friends from Washington D.C visited us the next day, I remembered my nephew’s recommendation and took them for lunch to Sigiri. Good decision , because Sigiri fully met our expectations.
Sigiri , named for a city in Sri Lanka, is an unpretentious little joint located on Route 27 about a mile from Metro Park. The decor is minimal and the food is served in take-out containers and foam plates and bowls but the food and the hospitality are first class. The owner/ proprietor is also the one who takes your order and he is very friendly and helpful in explaining the menu choices.
Before sampling the food at Sigiri, I had not been much enamored of Sri Lankan food. Our only previous experience of it was at a Sri Lankan take- out place in Los Angeles and it was not good. My impression was that it was a much spicier version of South Indian ( Tamil) cuisine , heavy on coconut milk, shredded coconut, chillies and with a lot of fish dishes ,as is only to be expected with island cuisine. While that initial impression was not wrong, the food at Sigiri showed me that the cuisine is more complex enriched as it is by Dutch, Malay and Portuguese influences.
We started our meal at Sigiri with two appetizers : Fish Cutlets ( small balls of minced fish and mashed potatoes) and Sri Lankan Vegetable Spring Rolls , quite different and not as crispy as Shanghai Spring Rolls.For the main dishes we began with Devilled King Prawns, large grilled prawns sautéed with green peppers, onions and a peppery mix of spices. The number of prawns was generous and they were grilled to perfection. Then came a number of other dishes all at once. Chicken Kotthu Rotti :shredded rotis, stir fried with chicken , chopped vegetables and spices resulting in a most unusual texture. Assorted hoppers ( aapams) ,four pancakes, three plain and one egg, accompanied by a spicy onion sambol. String Hoppers, thin rice flour noodles shaped into pancakes , steamed and served with a side of thin coconut gravy. Beef Curry, tender beef cubes in a dark , spicy gravy , almost black in color because of the roasted curry powder. We were also served some white rice but preferred to use the hoppers to spoon up the beef curry. There was not a bad dish in the lot and our only regret was that we didn’t get to try some of the other dishes on the menu. The Chicken Lamprais (a sort of biryani baked in banana leaves), Sri Lankan Style Beef Stew, Crab Curry and Pittu ( roasted rice flour, mixed with shredded coconut and steamed in a bamboo mould) seemed particularly interesting.
We did have space for dessert and though the Sri Lankan caramel pudding was not available , we were very happy with the two desserts that we did have . Kiri- Peni was a small tub of yoghurt topped with treacle (brown palm sugar syrup). The sourness of the yoghurt was a pleasing contrast to the sweetness of the treacle. I wouldn’t have minded another helping. The watalappam , a coconut custard sweetened with jaggery and intriguingly spiced, was also delicious.
For those who haven’t tried Sri Lankan cuisine as yet, it would be a good idea to ask for your food to be mildly spiced. Sri Lankan food is spicy and , if you aren’t used to it, it might be too hot to handle. We ourselves ordered it medium and are glad we didn’t opt for it to be hot.
For more details about the restaurant and the menu, click on www.sigiriyanyc.com.