Mahela Jayawardene co-owns the Ministry of Crab, in Colombo. The restaurant, which he started with former teammate Kumar Sangakkara and chef Dharshan Munidasa, was recently voted among Asia’s best. In an interview with The Indian Express, Jayawardene talks about his favourite dishes, eating out in London and his foodie teammates.
Which is your favourite memory connected with food?
It’s hard to go past mom’s cooking, isn’t it? I grew up with the traditional rice and curry, and didn’t really stray from my comfort zone. It was only when I started to travel, that I started trying out different cuisines, especially with my wife Christina. Now when we travel, we make sure that we find out what are the good places to eat, and go to those places. Nowadays you see chefs paying so much attention to detail and are so dedicated to their craft that it is important to acknowledge that as well.
What’s the one thing we will always find in your refrigerator?
Dal! (laughs) You will always find frozen or cooked dal in my refrigerator. I love my dal, whether it’s the Sri Lankan dal curries, or some other preparation, I always try and have dal curry with my meals.
Do you have a sweet tooth?
Indeed, I do (laughs). I really love my chocolates. Initially it would be the local chocolates – Kandos is a very popular brand in Sri Lanka – and during my travels I have sampled many more.
Who among your teammates in the various teams you have played in – Sri Lanka, IPL, county cricket – has been a big eater?
Quite a few of them. In fact, nowadays, most of the guys are foodies, keen to try out different food. Kumar Sangakkara is one of them, that’s one reason we are such good friends. We have eaten out quite a bit, tried lots of different food. Another one is Ross Taylor, as was B Mac (Brendon McCullum.)
What’s your favourite Indian dish?
I really liked the slow-cooked lamb I once had at Bukhara. It was off the bone and was delicious. I also like a lot of the South Indian fish preparations. When I was with Kochi (Kochi Tuskers Kerala) in the IPL, we went on some boat trips, and had fish that was freshly caught and prepared. That was really good.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
I am quite traditional that way, especially being a sportsman. It is quite basic — eggs and toast, mostly.
How did Ministry of Crab (MoC) come about?
MoC was a concept that Dharshan came to us with. He is a real genius, and we allowed him to realise the vision he had with MoC. For us – me and Kumar – it has been about learning more and more about food, and through MOC, allowing different flavours to come through, as we love to taste different kinds of food. There are so many different flavours, in street food, for example, I went to Koh Samui and there were so many small places where even simple dishes, like a wet curry fish, had so many flavours. We wanted to improvise on that with MoC. It is a casual place and with it, our focus is on local produce.
Which are your favourite restaurants in Sri Lanka, and which restaurants do you seek out when you travel abroad?
Apart from MoC, there is another restaurant in Colombo called the Gallery Cafe, which I enjoy tremendously. They have maintained their standards. I make it a point to try different places; there have been some lovely restaurants in Cape Town, and some fancy places in London, which have had really good quality food.
What do you eat when you are on a diet?
Well, as sportsmen, we are advised to stay away from junk food. You get so much good food, prepared so differently in many eateries now, and that was what we would look at. I made sure I stayed away from sweets! It was important to ensure you got your proteins and healthy carbohydrates, and stay nourished, with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Do you cook? If so, what do you cook well?
No, no, I have to admit, I am not a very good cook (laughs). I love tasting food, but as far as my cooking skills go, I probably do a decent dal maybe, that’s it.
Which are your favourite spices?
I love my chillies. I like chilli powder because I enjoy that extra kick in the food. There is also the Sri Lankan curry powder, a blend of different spices, which is very flavourful.
You mentioned that you Christina like eating out together and trying different food. Have you had any special food experiences?
One thing that we do love is dim sums. A couple of years ago, we went to this Chinese place in London, A Wong, and really enjoyed the dim sums there.