FAQ Sri Lankan Food

FAQ – Lamprais

“The lamprais made in Sri Lanka is not the real thing. Most of the time an egg is added and a piece of chicken is placed on the top to make the meal look more inviting. That is not what should be in a lamprais.”

“Lomprijst” or lamprais which is the anglicized version, has to be made in chicken stock. A muslin bag containing all the spices has to be dropped into the rice. This gives the rice its rich flavour. It was originally made in beef stock, but it was changed as many people have stopped eating beef now,” the expert tells me.

The curries which are included in a lamprais are “frikkadels”, “brinjal pahie”, “chilli sambol”, “prawn blachang”, and “lamprais curry”.

Frikkadels or “forced meat” are small cutlets made of beef. Two of them are put on top of the lamprais which is placed on the plantain leaf. The prawn blachang is flattened into a circle and placed on top alongside the brinjal pahie and the chilli sambol. The lamprais curry is placed last – “It has five kinds of meat in it. Beef, chicken, pork, mutton, and ox liver. All diced,” I was told. Finally, it is carefully wrapped and baked for one hour so that the flavour of the plantain leaf seeps into the rice. “This is the ideal lamprais.”

Chances are the Lamprais that you know of, isn’t the real deal. The large portions of oily rice wrapped in a banana leaf that’s sold at fast food outlets are nothing close to authentic Dutch Burgher Lamprais.

Having been improvised in every possible way, except for the signature banana leaf wrap that can specially turn a serving of rice, curried chicken and egg, into ‘Lamprais’, there are quite a few rice dishes that are being passed off as the Burgher rice dish.

the misconceptions start with the size of the parcel. Most people seem to think Lamprais should be the size of a regular packet of rice and curry, when in fact it is not to be eaten in a heaped plateful. “Lamprais is a delicacy. It’s far too rich to be eaten in large quantities, though people think that unless you have a huge packet you’re getting short changed. Ideally, Lamprais is a breakfast cupful of small grain rice such as suduru samba that is boiled in stock and to which spices are added to make it flavorsome,”

But that’s not all that goes into traditional Lamprais. To complete the serving of rice and make it a whole meal there’s a mix of three different types of meat. Back in Dutch times, the three meats consisted of beef, pork and lamb. Now however, lamb has been substituted with chicken. Also into the parcel will go two cutlets, brinjal pahè, seeni sambol and blachan.”

However, even with the mixed meat and other curries, one parcel of Lamprais may not satisfy that large Sri Lankan appetite. The rice dish which is a convenient food when catering for parties has, since it was first prepared, been served as two parcels for ladies and three for gents. “The meal was prepared for the Dutch and they didn’t eat such large portions of rice. Also being prepared to suit the Dutch palate, it isn’t chilli spicy. And no coconut oil or milk is used in the preparation.”

Besides the changes in the recipe,  “the name of rice dish has been sort of anglicized as well. Originating from a Dutch word that translates into ‘a packet of food’, Lamprais is also frequently misspelled as Lump Rice.”