A few weeks ago I headed out to photograph Pri who runs Kamala the kottu roti street food stall at Maltby Street Market. This is part of a series of photography projects where I have gone out and captured visual stories of Sri Lankan / Tamil food entrepreneurs.
You can read Pri’s story below.
A kottu roti making its mark on the street food scene
Kottu Roti is a Sri Lankan dish that’s been lurking on menus in Sri Lankan restaurants for some time. Not as famous as its counterpart hoppers, this humble street food is starting to make its mark on London’s street food scene.
What is kottu roti?
Kottu roti is made from chopped roti stir-fried with vegetables and/or meat, slathered in a curry sauce, and sometimes topped with cheese or scrambled egg. It’s typically cooked on a plancha-type grill using two sharp metal blades.
I went down to meet Pri and his sister Shiv, founders of the kottu roti street food stall Kamala on Maltby Street, Bermondsey.
Maltby Street is an unlikely foodie destination. Tucked behind Tooley street, nestled next to the St Saviour’s Estate, are railway arches that run the length of the street where bouji wine bars, upmarket greengrocers and hipster bakers have sprouted.
Maltby Street is about a mile away from the famous Borough Market. Borough Market traders used the arches as storage space. In 2009, the Monmouth Coffee Company started to sell their coffee from their arch, and other traders followed. And since then, more traders have started to set up and sell from Maltby Street.
A second-generation Sri Lankan and food entrepreneur
Pri is a second-generation Sri Lankan who grew up in North West London. His father is an accountant who provided the structure to his life, and his mother was the creative force. He studied maths, became a teacher, and now works as a consultant. As a food entrepreneur, Pri uses these skills to keep a watchful eye on costs purchasing the best raw ingredients for the best price and driving an efficient operation to keep prices competitive for his customers.
Kamala’s vegan kottu roti
Kottu roti can take many forms – made with meat, layered with cheese, or cooked with egg.
Pri has chosen to make a vegan-style kottu roti. Even so, this comfort food has it all, carbs, vegetables and curry rolled into one. As my kids would say, it’s banging.
Is this Sri Lankan kottu roti super hot?
Sri Lankan food has a reputation for fiery curries. Pri has adapted his kottu roti recipe to cater for all tastes. The Brits who love their curries to burn. And for tourists who find the gentle tickle of a traditional curry far too high up the Scollville sale.
With the simple adaptation of adding chilli, you get to choose how hot you want your kottu roti.
Are there any other dishes?
The latest addition to the Kamala menu is string hoppers served sothi, a lightly spiced coconut milk broth.
String hoppers are steamed rice noodles eaten with curries or with coconut milk and sugar.
Each time Pri has served string hoppers from his stall, he has sold out.
Where can you find Kamala?
You can find Pri and the Kamala Street Food team at Maltby Street Market, on Saturdays and Sundays.