PETALING JAYA: Tucked away in a quaint neighbourhood here, just a stone’s throw from Jalan Profesor Diraja Ungku Aziz, lies Umac House, a Sri Lankan culinary haven.
This decade-old restaurant, formerly a banana leaf eatery, operates from a charming 50-year-old bungalow, which has been home to the University of Malaya Academic Club. And honestly, it is one of PJ’s best-kept open secrets.
Aromatic scents waft through the air, carried from the kitchen where three generations of Tamil Sri Lankan expertise translate into culinary magic. Umac House isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a portal to home-cooked authenticity.
A great way to start off your meal here is with the exquisitely refreshing Special Drinks offering. The coconut, dates, jaggery (unrefined sugar made from sugar cane or palm) and fresh milk combo is particularly delicious. If you come here on a hot afternoon, this is a perfect thirst-quencher.
Bite into freshly deep-fried eggplant chips while waiting for your main dish to arrive. These crispy and flavourful slivers of eggplant come with a spicy and tangy dipping sauce that instantly elevates the dish. However, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea as the sauce can be a tad overpowering.
Now for the mains, try the Sri Lankan Lamprais. It also happens to be the best seller at Umac House.
This unique dish consists of fluffy rice cooked in ghee, accompanied by tender chicken masala, melt-in-your-mouth mutton paalkari, fish cutlet, boiled egg, spicy eggplant pickle, fiery maasi sambal (sambal with Maldives fish), coconut belacan and vegetable paalkari, all neatly wrapped in a banana leaf parcel.
Unwrap the banana leaf and let each bite burst with contrasting flavours in your mouth – creamy coconut, tangy tamarind, smoky spice, and the subtle earthiness of the leaf. A journey through Sri Lanka’s culinary heritage, the Lamprais is more than a meal; it’s a feast for the senses, a vibrant celebration of history and flavour.
Fun fact: the Lamprais was created by Dutch Burghers, an ethnic group of Dutch, Portuguese Burghers and Sri Lankan descent. Borrowing Indonesian “lemper” rice packets, they infused them with local spices and simmered meat curries.
Lamprais, meaning “rice packet” in Dutch, evolved, blending European meats with Sri Lankan coconut, chilies, and fragrant leaves, becoming a symbol of cultural fusion.
Vegetarians, fret not. There is a Sri Lankan vegetarian set that comes with white rice, papadom, a side of curry and a generous assortment of sour and tangy mango chutney, bitter gourd cooked in coconut and spicy potato.
Craving for something lighter but still satisfying? The Keema Thosai, which is thosai stuffed with either minced chicken or mutton, would get the job done. Think of it as a murtabak made with thosai!
This delectable dish has a crispy exterior and as you cut into its crunchy shell, a bed of succulent meat, fresh vegetables and egg gently reveals itself with an intoxicating scent. Dip it in the rich coconut chutney and curry and you’ll be in culinary wonderland.
For a taste of Sri Lankan street food, try the kuttu paratha which comes with a chicken or mutton option. This popular Sri Lankan dish consists of chopped paratha, scrambled eggs, onions, aromatic spices, chillies and a meat of your choice. Spicy, flavourful and simply comforting.
End your visit here with a hot cup of masala tea and a paal appam, which is an Indian pancake. Served hot and made fresh to order, the paal appam is crispy with a fluffy centre. Pour the coconut milk and sprinkle some jaggery on top and watch this paal appam disappear within seconds. If you’re not a purist, there’s also an egg, and anchovy variation.
Overall, Umac House offers a decent selection of Sri Lankan food together with other Indian dishes Malaysians love. If you’re in this part of Petaling Jaya, drop by for lunch or bring your family at night, when the space is transformed with fairy lights and lamps. Definitely worth a try!
1, Jalan 12/5
PJS 12, 46200 Petaling Jaya
Business hours: 11am-11pm (closed on Mondays)
Contact: 012-952 1822
Follow Umac House on Facebook.