Upali's comes alive at lunchtime, when Melbourne’s Sri Lankan community flocks to Glen Waverley for a taste of home during what is traditionally the biggest meal of the day in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan dishes are rarely served by themselves, and layering is fundamental. The set lunch menu here is excellent value and allows for the hearty layering of multiple dishes over one another. It consists of rice, three vegetable curries, one meat or seafood curry, papadams and sambols (condiments to be eaten on the side), all for $14.50.
Local workers and students filter through during the day for street-style snacks such as roti with melted cheese and diced red onion, kottu roti (small squares of roti stir-fried with vegetables, spices, egg and meat – usually chicken), and hoppers (bowl-shaped fermented rice and coconut crepes served either plain or with an egg, and eaten with sambols).
Most diners here order a selection of fired-up and focused curries, devilled dishes (meat or cashew stir-fried in a sweet-and-sticky sauce), rice, breads and sambols. Rather than a mix of vegetables, it’s more common to see a curry of just one vegetable – jackfruit, pumpkin, potatoes or even raw cashews – cooked with onions, garlic, chilli, coconut milk and spices.
Each dish is cooked to its region’s spice preference. If you see a ramekin of luminescent green sauce on the table and you can’t handle heat, go easy. It’s made in-house from fresh green chillies, onion and garlic, and it’ll hit you in the nose.