Taste of old Jaffna

Yarlpanam cuisine from Jaffna in Sri Lanka has distinct characteristics

18 Apr 2019 / 10:46 H.

BY TAN BEE HONG

AFTER 10 years, Yarl Restaurant has been given a new, chic look. Reopened two months ago, it now wears hues of black, white and grey, with tables in brown.

I notice power points at intervals under stone benches to allow customers to charge their mobile devices as they dine. Definitely a sign of keeping up with modern demands.

The interior is surprisingly cool despite the lack of air conditioning and the sweltering heat outside. The restaurant opens early to cater to the breakfast crowd.

Food is lined up against one wall at the front but some items such as apam and roti are made to order. The food counter is divided into vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.

Yarlpanam is the old name for Jaffna and as its name suggests, Yarl offers Yarlpanam food from the town of Jaffna in north Sri Lanka.

There is an emphasis on vegetarian fare with at least eight vegetarian curries offered daily, in addition to deepfried dishes such as vegetarian cutlet (RM8) and my favourite pavakai (deepfried bittergourd).

Manager Murali tells me the menu is changed on a daily basis. Prices are reasonable too.

A plate of rice with three vegetables cost RM7 and you also get complimentary rasam and chutney sambal.

I love Indian vegetarian fare and Jaffna vegetarian fare is no less interesting.

With pumpkin varai and beetroot varai, I don’t mind not having meat, especially when there’s also fiery hot brinjal-tomato-garlic curry.

If you can’t take food that’s too hot, the lentil sothi (lentils cooked with turmeric and coconut) and bayam curry will go well with rice.

Yarl serves both ordinary and parboiled rice; on Friday, the specialty is red rice.

For meat eaters, there’s chicken, mutton and seafood.

Surrounded by sea, the island of Sri Lanka is rich in seafood which plays a major role in its cuisine. Yarl has at least five to six seafood dishes, such as fried fish, fried tenggiri, fish curry (including head and tail), prawn sambal and sura (shark) varai.

The sura varai is amazing. Shark flesh is flaked and cooked with dessicated coconut, onion, turmeric and chilli to give a dish deceptively simple in appearance but tops in flavour.

The turmeric and chilli give it some oomph.

The prawn sambal has large prawns, fresh and sweet. The sambal is quite hot but it’s so yummy.

The fried chicken is well marinated, so is the chicken varuval but it is the mutton bone curry that makes me smile.

There is not too much meat on the bone but here, the focus is really on the soft, jelly-like marrow. The way the bones are chopped up, diners can easily suck out the marrow.

If you don’t want rice, there’s a choice of dosai, roti and puttu as well as apam, which is served from 4pm.

Yarl egg dosai (RM4) is made with turmeric, fried curry leaves and dried chilli.

Good enough to eat on its own, it is served with condiments of onion curry, dhal and perhaps a meat/fish curry.

Atta puttu is a wholemeal flour roll with coconut and served with dhal curry and the aromatic vendhaya kulambu (fenugreek curry).

Then there’s chicken kothu (RM10), that famous Jaffna street food that’s a complete meal in itself.

Roti is chopped up and stirfried with leek, onion and scallion as well as egg. There’s also mutton (RM12) or prawn (RM15) kothu.

One mustn’t leave Yarl without ordering apam, whether you like it plain (RM2), savoury (egg apam, RM3) or as dessert (sweet apam, RM2.50). All apam are freshly made, with crisp edges and a soft centre.

The sweet apam is my favourite. The sprinkle of brown sugar and drizzle of coconut cream in the moist centre complement the crisp edges perfectly for a super duper dessert to end a Yarlpanam meal.

Yarl Restaurant (halal) is located at 50 Jalan Pedang Belia, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

Opening hours: 7am to 10pm daily. For more information, call +6010-360 6624.

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