>> LakFood | Eat the World NYC

05 June 2019



Through enough contact with Sri Lankan cuisines, and sometimes those of southern Indian states, a crucial ingredient always seems to be Maldive fish. Without doing the proper preparations, one might wander in and look for this over ice or in the freezer, but recently it was stumbled upon on the shelves of a Sri Lankan grocery store just off of Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, Queens a bit beyond the final stop of the F train.

This is its natural state, for tradition dictates that the flesh of the fish, in this case skipjack tuna, is smoked and dried by the sun before being cut into small pieces. This manner of preparation allows the small pieces to retain a very long shelf life and was used long before there was electricity.

The "chips" actually come out of the jar looking like small wood chips (below), and are certainly not meant for satisfying a late night snack crave. In the cuisines of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, the Maldive fish is used similarly to how dried shrimp paste is used from Myanmar to Malaysia, as a concentrated base of taste. A typical purchase (somewhere near the Indian Ocean, but not in Queens) would usually be a large filet that has been smoked and sun dried whole, taken home like a piece of wood, and then broken apart as needed in the kitchen.

In addition to these, LakFood stocks an array of other ingredients necessary for any Sri Lankan kitchen, as well as some homemade foods brought in on weekends. Since this visit took place on a Saturday, a case full fried fish and vegetable cutlets (rolls) were inviting, as well as the onion (seeni sambol) or fish filled triangular buns (below).

Inside the seeni sambol bun.

In front of this case were single portions of lamprais, string hoppers, and chicken curry, all made in the same home and only available on Saturday and Sunday.

A roam through the three aisles here is also fun, many dried goods share the shelves with bottles of liquids and the refrigerators are full of plenty to explore. The spicy cocktail snack below was delicious, full of what you might expect from looking at it, but also with chewy sweet raisins to counteract the good heat it brings.

The only disappointment of the day.


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