Archive for July, 2012


Saturday, July 28th, 2012

TROPICAL TOPICS,  Sunday 29 July, 2012.

Welcome to readers around the world to this week’s topics about life in the tropics.

Made In Sri Lanka

Last week I featured the rice of Sri Lanka’s traditional dish of  rice and curry, so this week here is a curry. OK, I have cheated as it is not cooked in a clay pot over a cinnamon wood fire (the ultimate!) but heated up on my gas stove in a non-stick saucepan.

It looks good enough to eat and, of course, it was, even though it came from a tin, in this case a locally produced Keells’ product: Beef Curry, labelled  “Heat and Eat.” I checked the ingredients carefully to see if gluten was involved and it’s probably not since Red Rice Flour is used instead of wheat flour.

The other ingredients are given as Beef (VL65), Mixed Spices, Iodized Salt, Flavour Enhancer MSG (E621). The tin of 425g net weight cost Rs285 [£  1.39; US$ 2.19] – and it makes a very satisfying breakfast served with rice flour egg hoppers (see Newsletter Nos 11 & 33).

Beekeeper Wanted

I’ve had a swarm of bees buzzing around the garden during the week and now they have settled in a menacing, heaving mass hanging off the branch of an araliya tree, (frangipani or temple tree).  Although they’re far enough away from the cottage not to disturb us, I am wondering what to do? Obviously a beekeeper is needed to relocate the bees somewhere safe (for us as well as them.)

Alistair Smith, CBE.

Dr Edward Alistair Smith CBE died in hospital in Colombo on Wednesday 25 July, from a heart attack, age 73. Professor Smith, or Alistair as he was fondly known by his many friends around the world, had retired from Aberdeen University to live in Sri Lanka on the government’s “Dream Home” scheme of residential visas for retirees.  He rented a cottage near mine, in Bentota, furnished it with his treasures and tried to adjust to a quieter life after a robust one travelling the world promoting the educational opportunities at Aberdeen University.

Not only did Alistair help hundreds of young people from Sri Lanka and India and other countries to change their lives through advanced education, he was also incredibly generous with his time and money in assisting anyone who asked for his help. At one time he was Chairman of the Conservative Party of Scotland and counted many British and Sri Lankan politicians among his friends, and protégés.

He will be missed by many people who have reason to be grateful to him, as well as by his friends here who enjoyed his stimulating company, forthright opinions, camaraderie – and warm hospitality.

Ministry of Crab

It sounds a jocular name for a restaurant but it’s very cheek has attracted the attention that its food and service deserve. Opened only a few months ago at the old Dutch Hospital restaurant, bar and gift shop complex in Colombo, it is already being acclaimed for serving the best crab dishes not just in Colombo, but also in the whole of Asia. In other words, it’s a restaurant that’s earned it’s laurels and intends to keep them.

With two of the partners behind the venture being the former and present Sri Lanka cricket captains, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and the third partner being the renowned Sri Lankan/Japanese restaurateur, Darshan Munidasa, eating out in Sri Lanka has taken on serious dimensions.  Munidasa explains that the two cricketers have not just lent their names to the Ministry of Crab restaurant, they are actual “Crabinet” ministers, taking an active part in it.

The restaurant concentrates on crab creations (with pepper, chilli, butter, garlic or curry) with the price based on size, ranging from Rs1,800 [£ 9; US$ 13.85] to Rs4,900 [£ 24.50; $37.69]. Prawn dishes and Mahela’s own favourite, Chicken Curry Rice (served with Japanese sticky rice, pol sambol and fried egg) at Rs880  [£ 4.40; $6.76]  are also available. Veuve Clicquot is the house champagne and there is short list, presented enticingly in an empty bottle, of good wines.

The crab is fresh, succulent and absolutely amazing, cooked with kitchen-ground local seasoning, nothing imported. With superb, unobtrusive service to back it up and a novel ambience dedicated to sincere crustacean appreciation, The Ministry of Crab provides one of Sri Lanka’s best gourmet experiences. And a chance to cool out in the courtyard afterwards, as I am doing here with ebullient host Darshan Munidasa.


Apologies in advance to subscribers and regular readers if the distribution of this newsletter goes a bit haywire during the next few weeks. We are not preoccupied with watching the Olympics on television but are trying to adjust how this newsletter is created each week. (Don’t ask; it’s too technical for me!)

Fan Mail

From Vicky, whom I don’t know but who found my website on the Internet, I have received this email: “Hello: I just wanted to say I’m reading your book, an original copy, that came from my grandmother’s house, and I’m finding it fascinating. Glad you still write. The book I have has been signed to my aunt from ‘Johnny Tempest,’ so I googled him, thinking he sounded like exactly the kind of person you described; quite tragically, he was. It’s a sad story and apt that he should have signed this book. Thanks for the book.”

A new edition of THE BIG BEAT SCENE is available through


Beat regards,

Royston Ellis.