There sits a small mud thatched shop nestled away among the wilderness of Kumbugollawa, Kahatagasdigiliya. The crook flowing past at the front and the paddy fields swaying ever so gently in the back gives this cozy spot its name, “Wele Kade”. Here sits an old man, whose kindly face eagerly peeks out from between the plastic bottles when someone enters the shop. He greets them with a smile and his cow tied behind the shop greets them with a small tinkle from her bell and a soft ‘moo’.
I stumbled upon this tiny piece of paradise with my father accidentally and I cannot not say that I am not pleased with the ‘accident’. We spotted this small shop on the way to Kahatagasdigiliya. “Wele Kade” was written in crooked letters next to a small hole used as the door. Of course, my first impression was not great, as I did not expect to be met with the beautiful coziness and yummy treats that I did.
“Umma” and “Make-Up”, two peculiar words that one cannot in any way connect with food, but there they were, the two words that will from that day on, make my mouth drool upon their very mention. “Umma” is what the Sri Lankans call a kiss, but in the Kumbugollawa “Wele Kade” this was a mouthwatering fried dough food. When I say fried dough, people might ask “What is so special about a piece of fried dough?” or “Anyone can fry dough at home and eat it”. However, the so-called easy fried dough was not so easy and not so common. “Umma” has a special ingredient that makes the taste more unique while being healthy at the same time. Instead of using plain flour for the dough, the shopkeeper uses “samaposha” and adds in spices to give it a slightly hot flavor. The shape of an “Umma” is simple flat, circular and its proportion is very generous. In other words, an “Umma” looks like the dough version of an English pancake.
“An ‘Umma’ is not complete without its ‘Make-Up'”, says the shopkeeper whenever anyone orders “Umma”. This “Make-Up” is a kind of a savoury dressing for the fried delight. We are all aware of how makeup enhances beauty, right? Just like that, the “Make-Up” in “Wele Kade” increases and perfectly complements the delicious flavour of an “Umma” with a touch of tanginess and spice. This heavenly combo of a dish costs only 20 Rupees per piece. Best part? We can get as many refills of the spicy “Make-up” as required, without any additional charge!
I had two “Ummas” fresh out of the stove and piping hot. Having a taste for spicy food myself, I ordered extra “Make-Up” on the side. The dough was very crunchy on the outside soft and chewy on the inside. The oil used for frying was fresh coconut oil, and thus, gave a beautiful coconut aroma to the fried “Umma”. The “Make-Up” was indeed a paste worthy of chef’s kiss. The spice, the sour and the thickened texture beautifully complemented the “Umma” and increased its flavour by tenfold. I washed down this mouth-watering delicacy with a warm cup of plain tea. The hot tea with its sweet and cleansing flavor blended beautifully with the spicy meal of “Umma” and “Make-Up” and I can responsibly say that these three combined are indeed a match made in heaven.
Simple as it sounds, this tiny meal gave me immense pleasure given the freshness of the food, the warmth of the hut and the peaceful, lush scenery outside. The shopkeeper’s sweet hospitality was a bonus to this delightful snack and tea. He was very polite and extremely efficient in his service. The food was served on paper plates and the tea was poured into paper cups, which I felt was a very sanitary method of serving. Despite the shop being a hut, it was very clean. I won’t be exaggerating if I said it was spotless because that was how it was; the shopkeeper cleaned it hourly. The cow behind the shop was well groomed and kept in a clean stable. Customers could pet her and feed her grass from a bundle provided by the shopkeeper, as they pleased.
“Wele Kade” is definitely one of my top 10 comfort food places and the hour I spent in that shop felt like a comforting hug after the long and tiring road trip. The shop may not be on Google maps or among the many tourist spots. Yet it is deserving of such an honor. “Ummas” and “Make-Up” of the “Wele Kade” is one of the hidden gems in the wilderness of Kumbogollawa, that needs much more recognition and praise from the public.
Rtr. Sayuri S. Wijesinghe
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