Former New York City restaurant Kottu House has taken over the kitchen at the Tank Bar, bringing with it a whole new world of Sri Lankan flavour!
With one eye on tradition and another on experimentation, owner Chelaka Gunamuni (known to everyone in the brewery as Chaz) has brought his take on Sri Lankan cooking to London, after previously operating Kottu House in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and getting rave reviews (New York Times, Village Voice).
Chaz is no stranger to the brewery either – having worked as Assistant Manager at the Tank Bar, he’s perfectly placed to join his passion for Sri Lankan food with the beers of Howling Hops. Who better to tell you about the amazing food of Kottu House than the man himself!
How did Kottu House start?
“I would either cook for my friends after an evening of drinking around the East Village (Manhattan) and St. George (Staten Island), or we would wake up hungover the next day and find a place in Staten Island (knows as Little Sri Lanka) and get Kottu and mutton rolls.
When it was time for me to go to Graduate School, I decided to open my own restaurant. Since I paid to go to college out of my own pocket by working in restaurants, I saw that I could raise that same amount on a business.”
What is ‘Kottu’ and what is its origin?
“Kottu, also spelled Kothu, is a dish mainly made out of chopped-up roti mixed with vegetables, curries, and eggs. The dish originated when there were a lot of curries leftover from the day before, they would all be chopped up and mixed together with different types of roti. Later this came to be known as Kottu Roti.”
What’s the inspiration for the dishes on the menu?
“Kottu traditionally has only a few choices, chicken, mutton, and a vegetarian option. I wanted to try different curries and different sauces, kinda like pizza. And I wanted to cook curries in different styles, like slow cooking the curry for hours so the meats would tenderize, which isn’t a popular style for old school Sri Lankans.”
What should people expect if they’ve never had Sri Lankan food before?
“Spice would be the main thing. Sri Lankan food tends to be spicy with a punch of Umami. We use lots of green chilli and tamarind along with coconut milk.”
What’s the most popular dish?
“Crispy Prawn Kottu - one of my favourites as well! The kottu has a prawn curry (with no shell or tail) cooked with coconut milk and tomatoes and then garnished with two fried shrimps that are in the shell that has been marinated with turmeric, ginger, and soy sauce. The shell is edible and since it's deep-fried it's easy to eat.”
What’s the best beer to pair with Kottu?
“Anything light and floral, like Tropical Deluxe!”
Kottu House are serving every day from 12pm at the Tank Bar!