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The Great Maalu Paan Taste-Off - 2019

Here we try maalu paan from 13 places and decide what's the cream of the crop.

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With fish, without fish, from a fancy hotel or from the para ayine dara poranu kadey, Maalu paan is a way of life! Our childhoods are dotted with hundreds of memories of this beloved snack merged into the background. And let's be honest, it still is, even as adults. 

We at YAMU have had our fair share of maalu paanmultiple times. So, without much ado, here we go again - the 2019 edition of our Maalu Paan Round-up! 

 A few points before we begin; 

  • Here we try Maalu Paan from 15 different bakeries that we're all pretty familiar with.
  • The point of this escapade is to figure out which bakery has the best Maalu Paan in town. We've considered the flavour above all which are brought by the quality of the bun, and the filling.
  • Our initial list had 25 entries, but unfortunately, we couldn't find all of them (some of them were already sold out). These are the results of 4-5 hours of traipsing around Colombo traffic looking for standard fish buns.
  • Enjoy!
Bakery Price Rating
Perera & Sons Rs. 50 5/10
Family Choice  Rs. 50 5/10
Sen Saal Rs. 65 7.5/10
Sumanadisi Rs. 50 7/10
Royal Bakery  Rs. 45 5/10
Cakes and Bakes Rs. 60 7/10
Goodies  Rs. 220  6/10
Sponge Rs. 140 8/10
The Fab Rs. 80 7/10
Bread Talk Rs. 90 6/10
Apey Cafe Rs. 80 5/10
Keells Rs. 80 6.5/10
Caravan Fresh Rs. 50 5/10
Family Baker  Rs. 60 6/10
Little Star Rs. 60 7/10

1. Perera & Sons

Bun: Shape eke moist, sweet and kinda nice, we found this to be okay. How they managed to maintain that size with an air pocket that big is astounding.

Filling: The filling in this one had heaps of pepper and touches of induced fish.

Overall: 5/10

2. Family Choice

Bun: While this doesn't necessarily make the cut for the toughest bun on the list, it comes close. Very close.

Filling: There was quite a bit of paste involved. But, if it was fish is a complete other question. Because there wasn't. Instead, we faced an exceptionally spicy potato curry, which, tbh, we enjoyed. But, kinda loses its points as a fish bun.

Overall: 5/10

3. Sen Saal

Bun: Aye, anyone who has eaten from Sen Saal knows that their buns are super soft. Sweet and kinda thin on the sides, we liked it. 

Filling: We're gonna go straight off the bat and say we liked this one. While not having particularly large quantities of fish, the Sen Saal Fish Bun managed to salvage itself by dousing the eater in...carrots and other veggies, alongside a good amount of fishy notes. 

Overall: 7.5/10

4. Sumanadisi

Bun: Unfortunately, due to its tendency of leaning more towards the dry side, we weren't blown away.

Filling: The fish filling at Sumanadisi turned out to be a wonderfully strange mix of potato and pepper. Yes, there wasn't much fish involved but, the paste was surprisingly good. 

Overall: 6/10 

5. Royal Bakery

Bun: With a perfectly average sized bun, we found this to be a little dry but altogether quite soft. 

Filling: Winning the title of the Most Affordable on the list, the fish bun at Royal Bakery was nothing to complain about. But, it wasn't anything to rave about either. It had a strange tanginess to it which -3 days later, we're still a little confused about.

Overall: 5/10 

6. Cakes and Bakes

Bun: Walking into Cakes & Bakes is like walking into a bakery out of a storybook. And thankfully, our fairytale hopes weren't completely destroyed because they delivered.

This was the heaviest bun of them all. The fact that we didn't have to weigh it but knew from just holding it proves just how big. But, it wasn't the bun, instead, it was the filling.

Filling: Actually containing fish, we were pleasantly surprised by this one. Not too spicy but kicking exactly the spots it needed to, we liked it. Plus, do you see the sheer amount of it!?

Overall: 7/10

7. Goodies

Bun: This is the standard fish bun at Goodies, in Cinnamon Lakeside - which explains the whopping price tag of Rs. 220. The bun was flavoursome, with a light crunch on the outside and tasting delicately sweet. 

Filling: When we bought this, we were told that this was the 'Fish Baduma Bun.' For one, there was no "baduma" anywhere and whilst being particularly fishy and rather tangy at certain angles, it was alright at best. 

Overall: 6/10

8. Sponge

Bun: Whilst being the second most expensive bun on the list, the Maalu paan from Sponge was actually good. The bun was deliciously soft and sweet and went beautifully with the paste.

Filling: I'm not going to beat around the bush on this one. We liked it. Creamy and positively stacked with fish, this turned out to be really flavourful in the most unconventional way possible. Plus, it felt like the type of fish bun you'd give the Queen. Got it? (Because of the general creaminess of the filling, not for any other reason).

Overall: 8/10

9. The Fab

Bun: The Fish bun turned out to be a pleasant surprise because it had a slight crunch to it. Which means that they hadn't been stingy with their egg wash. Nonetheless, it's still a win-win for us. 

Filling: This reeked of salmon - in a good way. With plenty of fishy paste and enough vegetables to balance everything out, we ended up really liking it. Top 5 for sure. 

Overall: 7/10

10. Bread Talk

Bun: As you can probably tell from the picture, this bun was pretty lit. Soft, slightly sweet and all in all, lovely. 

Filling: This is what they gave when we asked for their standard fish bun. Containing cubes of fish, which are fried nicely and packed into a bun full of pepper, onions and chilli flakes, this one was on the spicy end. Plus, it was oilier than the rest. 

Overall: 6/10

11. Apey Cafe

The reason we went with this particular cafe was that the last time Vishvi paid them a visit, they gave up a pretty solid Fish Bun.

Bun: Decidedly crispy on the outside and having a pretty thick layer of egg wash (to the point that you could taste hints of the egg), we found it to be quite tough. Not exactly the same as the one Vishvi got on her last visit.

Filling: Spicy and particularly potatoe-d, this barely tasted like fish.

Overall: 5/10 

12. Keells

Bun: Hands down, softest buns on the list. 

Filling: While the bun was soft to the point of being God's gift to Earth, the filling was a tad disappointing. Comprising of large quantities of potato, a variety of spices and not much else, it didn't necessarily boast the fishy flavour that we were looking for. 

Overall: 6.5/10

13. Caravan Fresh

Bun: As you can probably tell, the fish to bun ratio isn't particularly grand. But, the bun was just okay. Nothing special.

Filling: This is where things get slightly complicated. While I liked this spicy, slightly fishy concoction, the others did not. Thus, we came to a solid conclusion of,...

Overall: 5/10

14. Family Baker

Bun: The fish bun at Family Bakers turned out to be a pretty thin encasing of pretty great potato curry. True, the bun was a tad dry and not all that amazing. 

Filling: With no trace of fish anywhere, this was the best kind of potato curry on our list. Taking into a very literally version of paste, the potato was almost pureed. Plus, it had a load of spices and other stuff too. 

Overall: 6/10

15. Little Star

Bun: We didn't have high hopes for this one. But, the bun, albeit a little on the dry, floury side, turned out to be sweet and surprisingly good. When you look forward to eating the bun without the filling, you know they've done something right.

Filling: Extremely fishy and not spicy at all, we enjoyed it. It somehow tasted fresh too. But, it wasn't very spicy, so, if you're one of those people who look for loads of spice in their fish buns, you might want to stray away from this one. But, if you're more inclined towards them not so spice but very fishy, we suggest going with this one. 

Overall: 7/10 

Conclusion

Well, we wanted to have a top 3 but we ended up with 4.

1st place - Sponge,

2nd place - Sen Saal,

and the 3rd place is a tie between The Fab and Little Star.

Thus, 15 maalu paans later we come to the end to yet another successful edition of YAMU taste-offs where we destroy our appetites for your viewing pleasure. But, we have no regrets, purposes are fulfilled and we're content. 

 Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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