Just one short bus ride away from the bustling satellite Chinatown of Flushing, Queens is Bownie restaurant, a modest Sri Lankan eatery that has been owned and operated by Nanthini and Sri Kandharajah and their family for 11 years now.
While there are plenty of appetizing traditional Indian dishes on the menu, you’ll find that the Sri Lankan specialties really stand out. That night, dinner at Bownie was one in a continuing series of
Just two weeks before, Joseph, Jeff and I set out to approach restaurants to participate in
Skip to two weeks later, and this was the menu for the ambassador dinner:
Medu Vadai and Dhal (Lentil) Vada
Idiappam with mutton curry
Uppumai with cocunut chutney
Puttu with coconut milk and sugar
For our first dish, we were each given a plate with a medu vada and dhal vada with a side of coconut chutney. Like salty, spiced donuts, the medu variety was made with rice and the dhal version with lentils. We dipped both into the accompanying pale green chutney, flecked with coconut and what appeared to be coriander, which might be responsible for the green hue. The chutney also contained some other mysterious spices that, when eaten in spoonfuls, can give your mouth a real kick. After a few bites, our tongues began to tingle and our eyes dashed towards of the drink cooler.
As soon as our idiappams disappeared, plates of uppumai arrived. Uppumai may resemble mashed potatoes from afar, but they are actually made by mixing fluffy semolina flour with a mild medley of vegetables, herbs and spices. Eaten alone, they were a bit bland, but there again was the omnipresent coconut chutney. The uppumai served as the perfect carb vehicle to sop up the flavorful chutney.
Our dinner concluded with a plate of puttu, a compression of course ground rice, coconut and water. By itself, the puttu had a flaky texture, like oat bran. It wasn’t until a few bites in that I noticed the sweetened coconut milk, camouflaged against the white plate. When poured on top of the puttu, the sweet coconut milk added a welcomed flavor and moisture to the dessert. We washed it all down with a complimentary cup of hot milk tea.
At the end of the dinner, I collected our dues and finished with a group shot of the diners.
Thanks to Joseph, Jeff, and the Kandharajahs for this introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine.
143-05 45th Avenue
Flushing, NY 11355