U.A.E. is a melting pot of various cultures and cuisines. If you live in Dubai and want to try a cuisine from anywhere in the world, you don’t have to get on a plane. Just get in a car, drive around and your bound to find food from all over the world at your fingertips. It is was on one such ride when we discovered Ayubowan in JLT. This was a few years back, when it had just opened, and we hadn’t even been to Sri Lanka. Fast forward to the present, I again dined at this beautifully set-up Sri Lankan restaurant with a few friends.
Sri Lankan food is similar in many ways to Keralite food. There are similarities in the names, the way it is prepared and eaten and yet it is so different. It is believed to be very very spicy. But having dined here twice and also having been to Sri Lanka (2 yrs back), I can honestly say that all Sri Lankan food aren’t so spicy. There are some coconut-based dishes which aren’t spicy at all and then there are some dishes which are too hot to handle. It all depends on your level of tolerance. Here, at Ayubowan, they cater to various nationalities and so you can request them to increase/decrease the spice level according to your taste.
This restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating areas. Though the outdoor area is perfect for this weather, the indoor area has a nice ambience.
We were served some of their fresh juices like Ambarella, Jack fruit & Wood Apple in shot glasses. Ambarella is a very common fruit in Sri Lanka and is considered to be healthy. The wood apple juice was a bit sour for my liking. I also tried the Sri Lankan King Coconut. It’s massive and can easily be shared by two people.
For starters, we had Fish Cutlets, Prawn Triangles & Veg. Cutlets. The cutlets were warm, crispy, and delicious.
We had an array of dishes for the mains and there were a lot of accompaniments. There was Jaffna Crab Curry, which is made using coconut and mild spices and hence it isn’t too spicy/hot. It’s definitely hard work to get the meat out of the shells, but it’s all worth it in the end. This curry was one of my favourites. This can be eaten with pittu (ground rice layered with coconut and steamed), hoppers, rice or bread.
Another one of my favourites was the Chicken Kothu, a popular Sri Lankan street food, which is a curious mix of chopped up roti, vegetables, egg and chicken.
I also enjoyed the Yellow Rice and Coconut Roti with various curries like in a thali. The notable ones were:
Fish Ambulthiyal – with a strong but nice flavour; Brinjal Moju – spicy, sour and sweet at the same time; Karavila Salad – fried bitter gourd and topped with strawberries, goes well with rice; Deviled Chicken – it was spicy but I loved it; Veg. Curries – Daal, Mixed Veg., Ladies Finger, Roasted coconut.
We also tried one of their weekend specials – Lamprais. It is a very popular dish in Sri Lanka and consists of rice, meat, veg. and egg wrapped in a banana leaf and baked. It gives a certain thrill to open it up and devour it.
After such an elaborate meal, we definitely had desserts 😉 Watalappam, Sri Lankan Pancakes and Banana Fritters were what we tried. Watalappam is like an egg pudding butmakes use of jaggery instead of sugar. It is Sri Lanka’s answer to the crème caramel. The Sri Lankan Pancakes come stuffed with grated coconut mixed with jaggery and was served with ice-cream. I ‘ve had Banana Fritters many a time as it’s a very common snack in my home but in Sri Lanka, it is served as a dessert item along with ice-cream.
Ayubowan had won the Hidden Gem Award by Dubai Food Festival in 2018 and indeed it’s a hidden gem serving wonderful authentic Sri Lankan cuisine.