Makansutra: Sri Lankan Food serves up the real deal
Dishes like the Pepper Chicken, Mango Curry and Kale Mallung ensure you'll be back for more
If you walk around Tekka Centre, it's hard to tell the various Indian rice stalls apart.
They all look stunning and are either red, orange or brown - or all of it.
Whether it's food from Chettinadu or Kerala, they assail your senses and if, like me, you are not an expert on such cuisine, it could be overwhelming.
But if you take a moment to check out the curries, meats and vegetables, you'll note some stalls serve up different fare from the usual South Indian delicacies.
And those with a nose for such things will be able to tell they are regions apart.
Mr Odi has been hawking Sri Lankan fare at Sri Lankan Food (more popularly known as Raja Bojun) at Tekka Centre for almost 10 years.
Such hawker stalls, rare as they are, should not be forgotten in the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indeed, we should support them now more than ever, as they add to the colour of our potential Unesco-class makan culture.
They may be comfort food for a small community, but what they offer is no less comforting for the majority.
At first glance, on my maiden trip to Sri Lankan Food, I could not tell it apart from the stall next door.
But I had been told much about Mr Odi's food, and since his signboard proudly proclaimed it, I asked him: "Can you tell me what I must order that says 100 per cent Sri Lanka?"
My only other brush with authentic Sri Lankan fare was when Chef Publis Silva, a national culinary legend of sorts, held a Sri Lanka food festival at a local hotel earlier this year.
Mr Odi plonked down some soft steamed rice on a banana leaf and placed five items around it ($10).
The dishes were not so heavy with masala, easier on the coconut milk, and the saltiness and spice quotient balanced well with the rice. They were redolent with chilli and pepper, something very refreshing when it comes to such banana leaf meals here.
Each item was a Sri Lankan icon of sorts.
The Pepper Chicken was sitting in a seemingly diluted curry, but it was in-your-face, and the black pepper commanded the situation.
The meat was soft, and when I slathered the peppery curry over the rice with dal or parippu, it was a parade in the mouth.
I then tasted the Mango Curry - sweet, sour and spicy, yet savoury.
It demanded my undivided attention as it calmed all the spiciness and created an unusual taste sensation - the closest I had to this experience was mango chutney with my fish head curry meal.
The salad of shredded kale and coconut, Kale Mallung, was like a truce amid the assault of spices - raw and so attractive to the bite.
Blend it into the rice and you'll have a Sri Lankan nasi kerabu.
Whip up Sri Lankan food at your own kitchen. Get all the necessary ingredients from Lazada
Just add the fish curry, which Mr Odi made with fried mackerel simmered in a black pepper-laden masala sauce.
The sambal (or sambol) ikan bilis surrounded by caramelised onions and tomato was also a treat.
The spicy sweetness and texture of the fried little fish went so well with a spoon of rice and the curries.
I spotted a whole lot of other items beckoning at the stall, so I will be back for more, especially the pepper mutton curry that seemed as if it was teasing me.
I am already imagining slathering it over the string hoppers or Mr Odi's Sri Lanka-style prata Pol Roti, which he sells largely for breakfast.