BY GUSTAVO ARELLANO
Of all the cuisines I’ve eaten in my life, none excites me more than Sri Lankan food—yeah, even more than tacos. It’s the world’s greatest intersection between heat and sweet, funk and subtle, heft and wispiness. The only times in my life when I was left gasping because the food was so spicy were after eating black curry in Manhattan. Sambol, the greatest condiment in the world and the backbone of Sri Lankan grub, resembles orange granola but is actually dried fish, coconut shavings, lime juice and a payload of chiles—perfection. There is so much going on in Sri Lanka’s eats they make French food seem as complex as a Dr. Seuss book.
Orange County used to have a great Sri Lankan restaurant, but it closed years ago—the food was amazing, but the spot proved too esoteric for mainstream palates. Whoever the owners are of Rice ‘N Spice must’ve learned from that shuttered spot’s mistakes because its small Anaheim location is all about sleekness and making things easy. Giant pictures of food adorn one wall; lunchtime is just a buffet, with nice employees explaining every unnamed tray. Those taters looking as if they were coated in napalm? Why, those are deviled potatoes. The large yellow chiles stuffed with onions and even more chiles? It’s like a chile relleno without the cheese. Beef curry with a sauce redolent of coconut milk and fenugreek? It’s beef and delicious.
Hell, they could offer no clue (as frequently happens at Filipino turo-turo joints), and you’d get a winner with every dish—Rice ‘N Spice is that good. And Tuesdays and Thursdays are even better because those are hoppers nights, Sri Lanka’s most famous meal. The marquee helpfully describes hoppers as a crepe, but it’s far better: injera-like bread made of rice flour and coconut milk you use to scoop up food—unless it’s the string hoppers, disks of compacted, steamed noodles upon which you pile food. The menu is not much more than this, but it doesn’t matter: One Rice ‘N Spice trip will make you a convert to the most enthralling food on Earth.
Rice ‘n Spice, 1732 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, (657) 230-9275.