Archive for January, 2015

Heart & sole

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Heart & sole

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 240

Sunday 1 February 2015.

Greetings to readers around the world to this subscriber-only, insider’s report on scintillating Sri Lanka.

Dosa Heaven

Having made such a hapless hash of my attempts to cook thosai (also known as dosa) pancakes made from gram flour, I was yearning for the real thing. So on a recent trip by train to Jaffna (more on that next week), I followed the advice of travellers posted on http://www.tripadvisor.com and sought out Mango’s Indian Veg restaurant at 535/3. Temple Road, Nallur.

It’s become an institution among foreigners in Jaffna wanting local food and the place was packed with foreigners when I went there about 7.00pm. Locals, including bare-chested worshippers from the nearby temple, drifted in later. I had read about the Masala Cheese Dosa which sounded intriguing and the waiter explained it is featured on the menu as Mangos Sp. D.

Creating a special masala dosa

Creating a special masala dosa

I watched it being made at the open counter. The cook spooned on the pre-prepared, already risen, batter on to a searing hot plate, sculpting it into a circular shape. He let it bubble for a while and then bunged in a lot of raw, chopped vegetables. With a final flourish, he unwrapped a cheese wedge and added it to the steaming mix where it melted quickly. With amazing speed, he scooped up the pancake, rolled it and shaped it into a cone, and slapped it down on a banana leaf on a plate.

Dosa for two

Dosa for two

Kumara had the simple masala dosa at Rs180 [£ 0.90; US$ 1.50) while my cheesy one cost Rs280 [£ 1.41; $ 2.12]. It was crisp, moreish, crunchy, filling and packed with flavour; no wonder the place is so popular. Now I know how to do it at home…

Inside a special masala dosa

Inside a special masala dosa

 

Heart and Sole

I’ve written before about the lure of handmade leather shoes obtained from only one source in Colombo, the Colombo Boot Manufactory, which has its last remaining outlet in Union Place, Colombo.

To enter the shop, and breathe in the lingering, dusty aroma of leather and crepe soles is to step back in time. So is the payment process when bills are neatly written out by hand and checked by two people before change is dished out from a desk drawer.

The Ceylon Boot Manufactory was founded in 1923 and brought to prominence by the late P. A. ‘Christy’ Perera for whom, according to his obituary in 2005, “footwear manufacture was a science. His shoes were never out of step with one’s health or skin. They were comfortable and light to the feet, while being strong and durable…most presidents and prime ministers of Sri Lanka obtained the services of Christy to provide them with quality footwear.”

We put our heart and sole into it

We put our heart and sole into it

This time I popped into the shop in search of a pair of easy-to-wear, comfortable sandals and was so happy to find exactly what I wanted, I didn’t even ask the price. This pair cost Rs2,250 [£ 11.36; US$ 17.04]. I noticed some very modern designs, including some enticing suede loafers, on the shelves, so I expect I’ll be back there soon. As the slogan says, they “put their heart and sole into it.”

Affordable hotels

From a reader in the UK, I have received this comment.

“I read with interest your comments about budget hotels and travel in Sri Lanka.

“Since my first return to Sri Lanka since 1956, in 1999, and for subsequent 10 visits I have adopted a policy of not booking with online companies, but using the same internal company and driver to arrange hotels and transport within the country.

“This has resulted in not only very good prices but a relationship that has proved very reliable and useful. This has not only been favourable to me, my family and guests, but has ensured that all of my money gets spent in Sri Lanka. I pay in cash avoiding other costs. Hopefully benefiting many people as well as me!

“I am a firm believer in spending my money for the benefit of folks in Sri Lanka, including local traders.”

Booking direct can save money

Booking direct can save money

I fully agree. I booked a room at a hotel in Jaffna last weekend through an international online booking agency (I had no other contact at the time), only to discover when I arrived that I could have had the same room for Rs1,000 less if I had booked direct. I’ll be writing about this new discovery in a subsequent newsletter.

 

Please forward

I’m very happy to discover that some recipients of this newsletter are forwarding it to friends – that’s fantastic and helps push up the readership, now around 900,000 hits a month. If ever you feel the urge to pass on extracts to others, I’d be grateful if you add my website link – www.roystonellis.com/blog – as byline credit. It helps spread the word!

 

Railway Book

At last I’ve managed to get my hands on a copy of the book that I was commissioned to write about the 150 year history of Sri Lanka railways. It looks very impressive with some splendid photographs, especially those of the various classes of diesel locomotives.

My latest book

My latest book

If you’re lucky enough to get a copy (it’s a very limited edition published by Sri Lanka Railways, ISBN 978 955 0821-04-4) you’ll search in vain (as I did!) for the author’s name. But my initials do appear at the end of a story about how I rode the last steam train to Nugegoda in 1991, and my rail books are listed in the bibliography.

Meanwhile, catch up on beat poetry with Gone Man Squared available as a hip pocket paperback and a Kindle from all the amazons.

Signed cover & paperback editions of GONE MAN SQUARED

Signed cover & paperback editions of GONE MAN SQUARED

Beat regards

Royston