Hot butter cuttlefish is surely the King of Snacks in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city. Most citizens regard it as the as the chewiest and spiciest thing on their local menus. As Colombo is a coastal city, it’s appropriate that the dish is a seafood one.
It’s a wonderful concoction involving strips of cuttlefish (obviously) that have been coated in egg-white, cornflour, salt and turmeric powder and then deep-fried in oil; a sauce of chili powder, butter, garlic and sugar; and various accoutrements including sliced capsicum, chives, spring onions and chilis.
According to an investigation by Colombo’s prominent food / drink / events website www.yamu.lk, the best hot butter cuttlefish in the city is served up at the Barracuda Restaurant, a beachside venue in the Dehiwala district specialising in Chinese and Thai cuisine. Mind you, this survey was conducted in 2014, and as times change and (importantly) chef s change too, Barracuda may not be top of the hot-butter-cuttlefish league today. (I should say I’ve eaten and drunk in Barracuda many times but for some reason I’ve never sampled the dish there.)
I’m biased, but personally I’d suggest an unpretentious Colombo pub as the best place to procure hot butter cuttlefish – even though you usually eat it in a dim, enclosed environment full of the smell of beer, spirits and cigarettes and the sea seems very far away. Indeed, this dish and beer are a marriage made in heaven. Nothing tastes better when you’ve drunk a couple of pints and suffered an attack of the munchies. I’m partial to what’s served in the public bar of the Atlantica Hotel on Galle Road. Overall, though, I’d probably nominate the Randoli Sports Club on Kirula Road as Colombo’s very best purveyor of the dish.
One last thing. In my view, the accoutrements – the onions and chilis – should be cooked for only the briefest of times, so that when they arrive on the plate with the deep-fried cuttlefish they’re almost raw and able to sting your tongue and moisten your eyes when you bite into them. This gives an additional, delicious edge to the dish’s taste. But it means that the greatest hot butter cuttlefish isn’t for people with wimpy taste-buds.