Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Colombo's last Gothamba Rotti cart

This evening when returning home I came across something that I had believed was extinct: a man wheeling a cart selling gothamba rotti.

Piyadasa, making gothamba rottis.

These were a familiar sight years ago, the carts would go by in the evening, 'bell' clanging. The 'bell' was not a real bell but the head of a small mammoty which would be stuck with a small metal rod to make that familiar clanging sound. There would be a sudden shout - "gothamba rotti- does anyone want?" there would be a split-second decision and someone would be sent running out to flag it down.

People would need to be quick, the carts were generally wheeled at quite a fast pace. As children my cousins and brothers would run out looking for the cart. If it had gone past we would sometimes chase it down the road, plate in hand, with someone else running behind with a bowl of eggs-needed to make the egg gothambas.

If caught in time, the owner would turn the cart in the driveway or porch of the house and make whatever rottis the household wanted before moving on.

Sometimes the rotties would be made on the side of the main road, which would attract neighbours and passers-by who would stand around waiting to place their orders. The stove in the cart had a small metal pipe attached into which the owner would blow, whenever the fire died down. As children we would eagerly take turns to keep blowing at the fire.

Although gothamba rotti is available in shops I have always preferred it from a cart, the rotti is is much lighter and crispy. The wood fire adds a distinct aroma to the rotti that gives it a unique flavour not found in ones in the shops.

I had not seen a rotti cart in years, so I stopped immediately and ordered some. Not a lot has changed from what I remember I my childhood although he has added cheese, chocolate and vegetable to the traditional plain and egg gothamba's. I seem to remember that the carts had some kind of brake but Piyadasa has improvised his own.

Piyadasa's improvised brake system

I asked Piyadasa, the owner what happened to all the carts. He says everyone he know has given up, its hard work and people prefer to do other jobs. He thinks that he is probably the last cart that is operating in Colombo.

His day starts in the morning buying ingredients and preparing the dough, which he says takes pretty much the whole day. He then sets off in the evening at about 5pm and will be on the go on until 9pm or 10pm, when he finishes his last order. Then he wheels the cart back, washes it down before going to bed.

He is based in Borella and has a few set routes: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays its Cinnamon Gardens, on the other days it is the area beyond the Borella junction, towards Cotta road. He does have a phone number: so if you can now call him up to find out where he is and try some of his delicious rottis.

I'm staying up writing this because I feel like a stuffed christmas turkey after gorging on gothamba rotti.

Piyadasa : Gothamba Rotti Cart Mobile : 0725-813-455

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