Not many know where Sri Lanka is located on the world map. It is an island nation located off the southern tip of India. The ancestors of Sri Lankans were from India. Recent centuries brought the Dutch and a few other Europeans. You will find Canra Sri Lankan Plus, a taste of Sri Lanka, in International Village Mall/Tinseltown. It is in the food court on level two. Normally, food courts are not a culinary destination, but this place is truly an exception. The tastes are unique, yet will appeal to any eater. No worries about too much heat from curries and spices.
First off, it’s good to know the difference between these two cuisines. What separates Sri Lankan from Indian cuisine is that Indian is dairy-based while Sri Lankan dishes do not use any dairy products. Coconut is one of their main crops and this dominates many of their dishes as a replacement for dairy. In addition, the proportion of spices is different with Sri Lankan being much lighter than Indian cuisine. Their food appeals to vegetarians and vegans, yet lots of choices from meat and fish.
Mahendra Gamplage is the proud owner/chef. Her family emigrated to Vancouver in 2000 and has owned and operated the restaurant for the past three years. The staff and owners are very friendly and will strike up a conversation if you are willing. They believe in fulfilling their customers wishes with healthy fresh food and are genuinely interested in your feedback and happiness.
In addition to their authentic Sri Lankan dishes they have North American inspired food. About 75 per cent of their sales are from their Sri Lankan dishes and the remaining 25 per cent from non-authentic dishes. We focused on the Sri Lankan food.
Other excellent facets include gluten-free choices, no grease used, only fresh products and all sauces and chutneys are made in the restaurant. This is classic home-style cooking that you will need to wait for. They will ask if you want mild, medium or hot and their mild is just as described.
There will be zero ambience in the food court, but the flavours and variety of dishes will minimize this inconvenience. It is a very casual destination without any pretensions. You will be using plastic forks, knives and spoons.
The authentic Sri Lankan food is represented by three choices: Dosa, Biryani and Kottu Roti. In addition, there are side orders that qualify as true Sri Lankan cuisine. Examples are milk rice, hoppers and lentil cutlets. Save some room for dessert.
Our first appetizer was the Lentil Cutlet. Very unusual as they tasted like a falafel, yet crunchy on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside. It was flavourful with something slightly spicy that we couldn’t identify.
An order of the Coconut Roti was another good appetizer dish. Not like any roti eaten in an Indian restaurant as it was thicker and more substantial. We didn’t find the coconut taste, but pleasantly surprised by the various flavours that were not sweet or savoury. Best described as tasting like a green onion pancake.
Up next was the Dosa. This Dosa was different than the Indian Dosas that can be found in Indian restaurants that are influenced by food from the south of India. This Sri Lankan Masala Dosa was made of rice and lentil. Crispy on the outside and looks like a crepe, but much crispier. It’s also gluten-free. The inside tasted like a vegetable samosa and there was some bite to the curries. A real hit for a vegetarian selection.
The Biryani dish is rice mixed with spices, yogurt, onions, potatoes and tomatoes served with eggplant moju, egg, pickle and raita. Again, another dish that can be found in India. The Sri Lankan profile of biryani uses different spices and a much lighter treatment of various spices. As you can see from the picture below, it is aesthetically pleasing and tastes even better. Good blend of flavours with the rice perfectly cooked.
Kottu Roti is typical Sri Lankan street food. Their Kottu Roti is shredded paratha roti chopped on the grill with fresh vegetables, egg and choice of meat or fish. We tried one with fish and one with lamb. Both were so tasty and full of different textures. Each forkful provided different flavours and a crunchy factor. No particular spice stood out and overall the spices were moderate. If you like a dish that provides contrasting textures and varying tastes then you will love this dish. The lamb meat was tasty and the fish was properly prepared.
Kottu Roti Fish
Kottu Roti Lamb
This is a place where you can try another food native to Sri Lanka being hoppers. Hoppers are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy. We tried the egg hopper and regular sweet hopper. Another hit given there was a strong coconut taste with the middle of the hopper being like a pancake yet more spongy. These are the sweeter examples of hoppers. The restaurant serves string hoppers, which are more savoury and served with gravy.
Lastly, the native Sri Lankan dessert Watalappan was served. Yummy coconut custard pudding made of coconut milk, cashew nuts, eggs and various spices including cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. The picture doesn’t do this dessert justice. The maple syrup was a perfect complement to a bouncy texture. The delicious tastes were described as finding Christmas in a bowl.
This food court restaurant is good enough as a destination in itself. Another option is when you are seeing a movie in the mall, then grab your lunch or dinner here before or after the movie. Spend some time talking to the staff and understanding their cuisine better. Vegetarian or meat eater or vegan, you will not be disappointed. The curries and spices are mild. The tastes and textures will ensure you return. There is free parking below the mall. The entrees range from $6.50 to $8.50. While there are no native beverages, pure coconut water is a great option.
Food Court Second Floor, Tinseltown/International Village Mall
88 West Pender Street, Vancouver
Hours: Seven days a week for lunch and dinner
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