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25 Minutes In Kollupitiya Market

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In this era of supermarketization YAMU encourages the people of Colombo to give the old Kollupitiya Market a try. For first time users here’s a guide to a 25 minute shopping spree.

Ice cream faluda at Bombay Sweet House, during the mixing

1.  Brace Yourself At Bombay Sweet House

Brace yourself for the sights, smells and bargaining with an infinitely more relaxing five minutes at the Bombay Sweet House - just three doors down from the market’s main entrance. This was one of Colombo’s first Indian Sweet shops and still serves some of the best jalebi, barfi and laddoo in town. Grab a bag of sweet meats and sip an excellent ice cream faluda in their beautiful old premise.

Beemah's vegetables

2. Enter The Market

Enter the market.  The main entrance will see you hit the fruit and vegetable section; colourfully arranged piles of everything – snake gourd, manioc, bread fruit, jack fruit, lotus root, banana flower, sour sup, prickly pears, durians and well everything else, its all here.  We bought a durian for Rs 400 (asking priceRs. 500) we could probably have got it for 350 but it was an excellent durian, much better than the ones on Havelock road.  As you don’t want to carry a heavy, smelly durian through the market just ask the vendor to keep it for you and collect it on your way out.

Dead chickens in front of soon-to-be-dead chickens

3. Meet The Meat

Past the vegetables you get the meat, again, Asian wet market style so not for the squeamish. There are whole carcasses, bits of gore and various live creatures, mainly chickens, which once you point to one you like and agree on a price, don’t stay live for long. There is nothing like curry from a freshly slaughtered chicken but if that’s not for you head upstairs (2nd floor) to the less gory seafood section.

Oysters for sale

4. See The Seafood

It smells but you’ll find - well displayed - the finest fruits of Sri Lanka’s seas; lobsters, scallops, mussels and clams, which can be hard to find elsewhere in Colombo.  We bought 12 oysters  for 400 rupees. Should have haggled but in many parts of the world 400 rupees ($3.50) barely buys you one oyster.

One of Colombo's few pork butcheries

5. Peruse The Pork

Next is the pork butcher.  The small pork stall next to the fishmarket is a real gem as Sri Lankan pork is excellent but not that easy to find as the majority of Colombo’s butchers are Muslim and pig averse.  This however seems to be a Catholic run stall and the pork is inexpensive and tasty.  They are fairly knowledgeable about cuts so you can request pork loin, ribs, belly, trotters etc.  We bought 500 grams of lingus – traditional Sri Lankan sausages made from highly spiced ground pork and pork fat- they’re delicious.

The imported goods, displayed in an imported style

6. Imports

Once you’ve stocked up on meat and fish head to the third floor for dry goods- things like rice, lentils, things that comes in jars and cans.  The lack of wetness means the top floor feels quite different from the others. In one corner are two venerable institutions Beema’s and Brana’s , mini-supermarkets with the faint air of bootleggers dens.  They sell an assortment of things - nachos, golden syrup, Tropicana juice, imported jam, fancy American cereal brands - that are hard to get locally.

The top floor is also home to a couple of Chinese vendors who supply the city’s growing Chinese community.  So this is where to come for your noodles, dried mushrooms, oyster sauce, tofu and Chinese spices. We bought  a cup of Chinese-brand instant noodles, Rs. 180 – it's better than Maggi.

Our final shopping list;
  • Durian – Rs. 400
  • Oysters- Rs. 400
  • 500 grams lingus (pork sausages)- Rs 250
  • Noodles- Rs 180
Oysters, fatty sausages, durian and cup noodles - food of the gods - and YAMU.
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