There is nothing we like more than street food, so we were super pumped to try Sri Lankan street food for the first time. Kottu House (250 Broome St, New York, NY 10002), is a postage-stamp-sized Sri Lankan restaurant tucked into a corner of the Lower East Side, with only a few tables and a tiny bar (though you can do takeout as well). The resaturant is a study in contrasts, guarded over simultaneously by a strobe light image of a neon dragon and a calm wooden Buddha figure. Previously, most of NYC’s Sri Lankan food had been found on Staten Island, so this location is definitely striking out on its own. Kottu House primarily serves its eponymous dish, Kottu, which is a savory stir fry that falls somewhere within the triangulation of fried rice, flatbread, and a dry curry. The base of the kottu is chopped rotis (which almost takes on the texture of noodles) fried with veggies, egg, and a spicy sauce. To go along with your kottu there are a variety of fried sides and an interesting selection of drinks, including a decent array of unusual (think pomegranate) hard ciders, as well as ginger and Sri Lankan teas.
There were a variety of proteins available with the kottu. Our server told us the chicken was the most traditional choice while the prawn was the most popular. There was also a “Little Italy” kottu that had tomato sauce and chicken sausages, as a nod to the proximity of Little Italy. For any protein, you can order your kottu with varying levels of spiciness from mild to “Sri Lankan spicy,” and the mild was described as closer to American “medium.” If so desired, the dishes can even be made vegan (or just without egg if that’s your mood). Sticking with the more traditional options, L selected chicken in “mild” and M went with the pepper beef in “medium”. The kottu comes in two sizes, small (for between $7 and 9) and large ($12 to 15). During happy hour (4 -7 pm) you can get a small for only $6.
For an extra kick you can order one of 3 sombols, chutney-like side condiments meant to mix into the kottu. We ordered the pol sambol which is fresh grated coconut, Sri Lankan chili powder and lime (which was described as medium) a milder sombol – minchi sambol – with green chiles garlic and mint, and a fiery hot one – lunu sambol – with raw red onions, chili powder and lime. The kottu came out in short order in paper takeout boxes, and our server instructed us to mix in the chutney right away to heighten the flavor of the dish, which really worked! The kottu was reminiscent of a spicy fried rice, but the bread as a starch gave it a very different texture. The overall flavor was salty, spicy and finished with a bit of lime, the mild was about a “medium” so keep that in mind. The kottu was delicious, satisfying and savory, real Sri Lankan comfort food. As such, kottu is the perfect food to grab and go, and would be an ideal way to soak up some late night drinks on the Lower East Side.