Kothu Roti is a uniquely Sri Lankan dish: Here's everything you need to know
We have a dish that we haven't come across in all our travels. Something completely unique to Sri Lanka. It's called the Kothu Roti...
It all starts with flour, water and a little bit of oil – coconut oil because it's popularity is second only to water over here. There are ooooooooooh so many variations of this combination around the world it's not funny. Parata, Msemen, Shrak or Manaqish are all virtually identical. Locally, this combination is called Gothamba. It's a popular base for a meal here. As a gothamba, it can be eaten with a curry or two and sambol or three. There are two types of gothamba – egg gothamba and plain gothamba.
Egg gothamba has an egg folded in it and the plain gothambas don't. Simple. Straight forward. Then people got creative and started putting things like Nutella and even ice cream into the gothamba. But long before these innovations were launched, the Kothu was born. I had my first roast chicken kothu circa 1978 - and it had already been around forever. If I was to take a guess, I'd say the Kothu was born between 1969 and 1975. The simple, logical, reason being, my parents never had it – and their "partying" days ended around 1972-73.
Flour, water and oil... unlimited potential in little balls. 😇
The Kothu was born on the East Coast of Sri Lanka, in a town called Kattankudy. The local folklore goes that an all night eatery, the kind revered by truck drivers, found that they had a stock of gothamba rotis from the night before and an enterprising chef cut them up, added vegetables and freshly made curries and served it up to their customers.
What makes it unique is the way it's "cut". https://youtu.be/6Enh-X0m_wI
Naturally, our larger neighbours have something similar and thanks to the 'diaspora' it has spread around the world - but it began here. Period. No arguments entertained.
An unmolested gothamba roti. Waiting to become a Kothu.
Mr Bourdain, God rest his soul, even featured Kothu in his No Reservations program. He was the one who brought me to the world of Foodies. https://youtu.be/zwu9eiA3sNY
At home though, we do away with the sound.
100% soundless .... but still effective.
Cutting the gothamba at home gives you more control over the shape you want.
The thing about Kothu roti is you actually can add anything, anything at all, to it - and it works. Today, we pushed the boat out. For dinner, we had a bratwurst and bacon Kothu - now, called the B&B Kothu. Both the bratwurst and the bacon were store brands (read: not very good).
Bratwurst, bacon, ginger and garlic - nothing over here is cooked without ginger and garlic.
No griddles for us... just a well used, large frying pan. Eggs are thrown in too. The Great Sri Lankan fry-up!
A generous amount of pepper added
The thing about the kothu, is the fact that you can add anything to it. This, hand on heart, was the first time ever we made the B&B Kothu for dinner. And it worked. Our usual combos are whatever curries we have left over from lunch, or from dinner the night before. Roast chicken kothu? A standard. Beef curry kothu? Definitely.
The chopped kothu is added to the bratwurst and bacon and eggs and they are all mixed up.
Tomato - chilli sauce added to zing things up.
The magic of the kothu, or indeed, the gothamba itself, is it really can be used as the base in anything - including desserts.
Just chop chocolate, fruit, cake, any sweet treat you can think of, or even cheese (this is also a main dish, should you need it) into the kothu, and viola - you've got dessert. Marmite? Yup. Jam? Yup! Pickles? Yup? Jams and Pickles? Ummmmm.... whatever turns you on...? I guess...? That is the magic of the kothu! You could plan an entire meal, from starter to dessert having a kothu roti base. Dare me if you dare.
The B&B Kothu. Dinner. Garnished with leeks and bell pepper.
So – the kothu roti – the uniquely Sri Lankan dish that's the answer to the question: "what else can I do with flour, water and a little bit of oil"? The answer to that question is, a lot! The end.
P.S. Curfew is technically over. But there are pockets in Colombo that are no-go areas. So I can drive from my place to the coast, but I can't stop over at my parents place because their area is a no-go area. I'd have to drive through their area, no stopping, no putting the vehicles window down, nothing - until I get to the coast. Go figure.
Adusting to this new world order is hard!