Ten years or a decade is a significant milestone for any restaurant in Klang Valley’s highly competitive F&B scene. When Aa Li Ya touched that historic occasion, the Sri Lankan restaurant marked its 10th anniversary with a 4-day ‘A Journey To Jaffna’ celebration.
Our genial host and marketing manager Janaka Ranjana welcomed us with Jaffna Nuts cocktail and Pink Lips mocktail upon arrival. Holding court in the kitchen was guest chef Dr. Parvathy Kanthasamy who cooked up 50 dishes with executive chef Sivarajan Suppiahto for the dining session.
|Puttu is made fresh to order by the chefs at A Li Yaa|
The resulting spread whisked us on a spellbinding culinary journey through Jaffna and a showcase of heady spices and fragrant herbs, market-fresh ingredients, and painstaking traditional preparation.
|Keerai (Sri Lankan spinach kerabu-style)|
We found ourselves drawn to the magnetic allure of Sri Lanka’s assortment of Sambals from the get-go. Among the hot, robust variations were Eggplant Sambal, Bittergourd Sambal, and Onion Sambal; perfect accompaniments for freshly made Roti (bread) or Koli Pungal Rice and Pulungal Rice.
The plain looking Spicy Oats Kanji held its own; each spoonful delighting our palate with tangible creaminess and heady spice accents. Other distinct offerings included Odiyal Puttu with Mixed Anchovies, Fish Sothi, Keerai and Beetroot Varai which can be enjoyed with String Hoppers.
|Spicy Oats Kanji|
Sri Lanka is a paradise for curry lovers. The plethora of curries served at the food fest bore testament to this. According to Janaka, the Nandu Peratal (mud crab) Curry and Nandu (sea crab) Curry were such crowd-pullers that those offerings might remain permanently. Enthusiastic home cooks can buy the curry mixes from the restaurant to replicate the dishes at home.
We were also reeled in by the piquant and flavourful Pathiya Fish Curry, Mutton Paal Poriyal and Chicken Koli Curry. Each was more salubrious than the preceding one so much so we abandoned our less carb bandwagon and surrendered to the currying flavours.
Even more heartening were the vegetarian Murungakkai Curry and Pumpkin Curry. Each was characterised by an artful integration of herbs, spices and produce that we readily succumbed to second helpings.
Originally from Jaffna, guest chef Dr. Parvathy Kanthasamy now resides in Canada. Citing puttu and curry as her favourite food, Dr. Parvathy said vegetables and pulses in addition to seafood and shellfish are typical in most Sri Lankans' diet.
When you dine at A Li Yaa, be sure to try at least one of the house speciality of Appam. A concave pancake with paper-thin, crisp edges, the freshly made to order appams stand in as a delicious canvas for savoury sambals and robust curries.
Eggs can be added into the equation for a richer taste whilst jaggery – Sri Lankan palm sugar – is the requisite condiment for sweet appams. My fave part of this pancake was the spongy soft centre.
Sweet provenance favoured by the Sri Lankans veered between Payasam with Pineapple and Wattalappam (spiced coconut custard) to Caramel Pudding and Mung Guli.
Local artist Yusof Gajah’s finest elephant-inspired artworks not only graced the walls inside A Li Yaa but some of his sketches can alse be found inside the resto's commemorative colouring book for young guests.