Pendle Hill, a small suburb in the western suburbs, lives large as a busy hub for the Sri Lankan community. The neatly packed Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurants and grocery stores along Pendle Way are busy with shoppers and diners stocking up on dried goods, curry spices and something readymade to take home for dinner. The most popular choice is a curry plate, and the place to get it is Abie’s Vegetarian Takeaway.
Here, you’ll find all the colours of the edible rainbow in the 20 different all-veg curries on offer. Tropical island flavours mix with Subcontinental spice. Cardamom, clove and cinnamon are repeat performers in fare from the ‘spice island’, with black pepper and chilli for kick. Coconut, curry leaves, tamarind and coriander provide freshness and balance the sweet and sourness found in sambols and soups.
You can pick-and-mix five choices onto a super-sized tray with rice so contemplate your choices while standing in the queue. Will it be a dark eggplant curry, tar black and slick from slow cooking? Or a bright orange, comforting dhal – the motherly hug of soft lentils? Green drumstick here is not the chicken leg kind but a hard skinned vegetable with a sticky okra-like inside; and purple beetroot might seem an unlikely contender for a curry base, but the root vegetable transforms from its slightly sweet base to a warm and deep spiced dish when sliced and braised with cinnamon and curry leaves.
A vibrant red devilled soy meat (a gluten meat substitute coated in a sticky chilli sauce) is also a worthy contender. Make sure you add a spoonful of pol sambol to the plate, an essential Sri Lankan condiment made from coconut, chilli, lime and red onion mix that adds even more flavour.
The curry plate includes pappadums; two salty, deep-fried, finger length and gently warming, crisp chillis; a digestive peppery soup; and a dessert – a sweet, milky sago and noodle pudding that calms down any lingering chilli heat. Snacks are called ‘short eats’ here and involve long crunchy crumbed and fried rolls (imagine a mini Chiko roll, only vego), triangles of potato in roti pastry, and samosas, but it’s the circles of vadai – deep fried patties of yellow split peas, onion and chilli – that will become your new go-to snack. Walk out with a bagful for later. They’ve also got Sri Lankan staples like hoppers (those crisp wafer crêpes) or delicate string noodly numbers eaten along with curry, spiced rice biryanis and roti and paratha breads.
Most of Abie’s business is takeout, but there are a couple of small tables where you can eat in. You might have to ask for some cutlery as most regulars eat the traditional way with their fingers, scooping up piles of curry and rice and escorting it neatly to their mouths. And to be honest, the food is so good here you'll use use any means necessary to get it in you.