Edmonton·Food review

Twyla Campbell: Sambol Sri Lankan Kitchen a 'flavour smorgasboard'

Sambol Sri Lankan Kitchen on 34th Avenue west of 91st Street is owned by Champa Pathirana, who used to own Razzelberries in downtown Edmonton.
Sambol Sri Lankan Kitchen recently opened on 34th Avenue west of 91st Street. (Supplied )

A new Sri Lankan restaurant just opened in south Edmonton, and Edmonton AM restaurant reviewer Twyla Campbell calls it a "flavour smorgasboard."

Sambol Sri Lankan Kitchen on 34th Avenue west of 91st Street is owned by Champa Pathirana.

Pathirana owned Razzelberries in downtown Edmonton which was forced to relocate over a rental increase.

Campbell never made it to Razzelberries but always heard great things so she was looking forward to checking out Pathirana's new operation.

"I really do have a soft spot for these mom and pop restaurants where they just put their heart and soul into the food," she said.

Not just curries

Everything at Sambol is homemade -- the sauces, the curries.  Pathirana even roasts and grinds her own spices.

Unlike other cultures that use yogurt or cream, the curries at Sambol use coconut milk as a base.

The restaurant serves up plenty of noodle and rice bowls and has many options for vegetarians. The menu also featured many items Campbell had never heard of. 

"So I got a real education," she said.

Included on the menu:

  • Roti - A soft flat bread, served steaming hot and fresh from the grill. Great for mopping up sauce in the dishes
  • Hoppers - A thin batter made with rice flour and coconut milk cooked up in tiny woks. Made either as noodles or a crepe. They are steamed and served with coconut gravy.
  • Cucumber salad,pineapple salad - Both provide a fresh, light contrast to curries
  • Sambol, a condiment - There are two kinds on the menu: one made with chilies, red onions and lime, or pol sambol, a grated coconut mixed with spices
  • Wattalapum, a dessert - Coconut custard with treacle, which is golden syrup, common in British cooking. The custard is thicker and firmer. More like a cake than a pudding.

On Twyla's table

Campbell said she went with a medium spice level on the dishes which she says was "very manageable." Anything "devilled" will be much hotter.

  • Fish rolls - Deep fried rolls with a tuna, potato and spice filling. Three for $5. Campbell said they have excellent texture with a blend of turmeric, garlic, and ginger.
  • Pastry patties - Homemade pastry with chicken, potatoes, and spices similar to the fish rolls
  • String hoppers: Campbell calls them "funny little things." Steamed rice flour noodles served with pol sambol (grated coconut condiment) and yellow curry sauce. You get five hoppers for $4
  • Kotthu bowl: A type of street food. Vegetables with sliced up roti, topped with rich goat curry. "Standout dish of the night," Campbell said.
  • Banana leaf bowl: Beef curry, eggplant and rice.  "Very filling. Had flavour to spare."
  • Devilled shrimp - Campbell said the dish had nice plump shrimp with a "sweeter" heat. The shrimp are mixed  with red and green peppers. "Get extra roti to mop up the sauce," she advised.
  • Hopper delight: A rice flour, coconut milk crepe, which is rolled up and served with three scoops of ice cream and drizzle of treacle. "That was the winner right there," Campbell said.

The verdict?

Campbell loved Sambol for the unique items and wonderful flavours.

"This is a small operation. The owner was serving us that night" she said.

"She is very proud of her food and she should be. It was great. And it was like sitting in her kitchen, she's so hospitable."

The restaurant decor is modern with long tables. Campbell said it would be a great place to take a group and share plates.


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