Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Everyone Should Love ‘Kottu,’ It’s Just Patriotism!

Like a Rock Star rocking the stadium with his pulsating music, he would clash his metal blades to create exhilarating rhythms. As the metal clatters to create vibrant tunes, you would wait in anticipation to taste his musical masterpiece. The whole process of making a Kottu is so exhilarating that it is musical. The thrill in the overall experience is such that it makes your taste buds waltz in ecstasy.

If a Kottu Baas could create all those exhilarating emotions, would it be an exaggeration to call him a Rock Star? May be not, the feelings that he arouses are so pulsating that your everyday Kottu Baas is worthy of being called a ‘Rock Star.’For what he eventually composes and serves to you on a platter has the capacity to lift your spirits and revitalize your soul with zest and energy.

As an avid Kottu enthusiast Phusathi Liyanarchchi would say, ‘ Kottu, just as the name suggests never fails to tease the taste buds by its fusion of taste; the slight tinge of Sri Lankan along with a zillion others is exactly what you would need to fill you up after an exhausting day.’

Kottu deserves better

As the seasoned culinary specialist, Chef Publis Silva explains, “making Kottu is an art and a one big musical performance.’

However, Kottu is never placed in the same pedestal as the so called Sinhalese traditional food which we embrace with so much heart. Though Kottu has transcended social boundaries to become a popular meal among rich and outgoing, it has always being treated as a junk food, nothing more than that.

Therefore, it begs the question as to if a simple Kottu could lift your spirits and delight your taste buds with euphoria in such a way, shouldn’t Kottu deserves better than to be cast away as just another junk food? If anything, we need to feel grateful and take a bow to those creative culinary artists who initially invented the food. As Kottu Baas Sumanadasa, from Pannipitiya Kottu parlour shared, ‘Not everyone has it within them to become a good Kottu Baas. It is not something that everyday cook can do. You have to have it in your genes, and some of it comes from experience. Each Kottu Baas has his unique way of making a Kottu. In Sinhalese we call it the Ath Gunaya.


Chef Silva insists that Kottu was originated in Sri Lanka and that Kottu is a pure Sri Lankan food. According to the internet sources Kottu Rotti originated in Batticaloa, during early 1970s. The common belief says that Kottu was initially originated by mixing leftover food, but as Chef Silva points out that would be doing a great injustice to those who initially invented the food.

Kottu was initially made by the boys who made Gothamba Rotti. After their day is done, they wanted something to eat, and they mixed Gothamba Rotti with other spicy stuff, and created the food,’ Chef Silva says.

The evolution of Kottu

However, as it stands today, what was once just a cheap take away meal has now evolved to the extent that it has broken barriers and even invaded the lush dinner parlours of Five-Star Hotels. Kottu no longer belongs only to the commoner, but also to the posh and outgoing, who consider it a trendy and rich food to be indulged in. As a young and outgoing, Kottu enthusiast, Adi Weerasinghe would say, ‘It has a nice fried garlic smell, and it is filling without being a legit food for a meal. Everyone should love Kottu, it is just patriotism.’

Also the evolution of Kottu means that various varieties of Kottu have come to the fore. Kottu has surpassed its original roots and has even evolved from its usual varieties in Chicken, Beef, Mutton, Vegetable and Egg. Kottu is no longer meat based, for instance, vegetable based ‘Mushroom Kottu ‘ has become very popular among Vegetarians. Also as Chef Silva recently exhibited at the ‘Healthy Kottu Festival’ at Mount Lavinia, Kottu has the potential to evolve further. At the event, he introduced a whole new variety of Kottus in, Kohila Kottu, Bread Fruit Kottu, Lotus Kottu, Polos Kottu, Karankoku Kottu, Pala Kottu, etc.

Kottu can now even be found in other countries which has a large Sri Lankan population. Chef Silva says he has taken Kottu to 27 countries, where he has been met with positive responses. As he constantly emphasises, the key lies in the overall performance and the presentation.

Health issues

‘Eat Kottu everyday at your own peril,’ a wise man would say. Health concerns often prevent people from turning Kottu into their everyday meal. For all that spice, zest and energy that Kottu adds to your life, it demands compensation. As Kottu is made using meat fat, eggs, and other food tasting material with fair amount of oil, it is safe to say that Kottu is perhaps not the healthiest food you could consume. Also there is the issue of hygiene, therefore when it comes to Kottu, it is quite fine to be judgmental. Judge your Kottu Baas.

The way he dresses, the way he talks, his attitude, etc. all matter in the ultimate dish he serves. If the Baas is the unhygienic kind, it is often safe to stay away. As the Chef Silva wisely points out, ‘When you cook, it is not just ingredients that you add, you also pour your heart and soul into it.

A good chef would cook with so much heart; he would add kindness, compassion and other such humane qualities into the food that he makes, and he will not want his consumer harmed in anyway’.

Just as the name suggests, Kottu never fails to tease the taste buds by its fusion of taste; the slight tinge of Sri Lankan along with a zillion others is exactly what you would need to fill you up after an exhausting day. 

Amalshan Gunerathne