Friday, July 17, 2009

Elephant House Ginger Beer

I grew up on Elephant House Hot Dogs and Ginger beer, of a quality that does not exist anymore.

As children our mom used to take us once a month for a hot dog and ice cream to the back of Fountain Cafe where the hot dog stand used to be right next to the little merry go round and swings - this used to be the highlight of the month and I can still close my eyes and see things as they were then.

A meal at Fountain Cafe was a special treat, and not to be taken lightly. This was where I had my first Spider - Lemonade and Ice cream, happily munching away at a grilled pork chop with chips to be followed by vanilla ice cream and nuts with chocolate sauce... Fountain Cafe got its name from the beautiful ornate fountain that graced the garden in front of the building.

Fountain Cafe was subsequently moved to the front of CCS, with the snack bar tacked on to the side of it - the little merry go round was gone. But the food remained just as good and for many years later we would still make our way there, now taking our mother there for a meal instead of her taking us.

Sadly there seems to be no place for nostalgia in the world of big business and soon economics took its toll on what was for many years a family restaurant and Fountain Cafe and its signature hot dog was no more.

An Elephant House Hot Dog made a come back subsequently, but for those of us who had had the real thing, it was a sad imitation of a great product. I remember talking with a young urn working for Keells at the time who, in exasperation, threw her hands up and proclaimed that she just could not understand this eloquent waxing about a sausage in a bun! Cant blame her being from another era, not knowing what it used to mean - to them it was a product to hype through sales and marketing...

It was therefor really no surprise to see Ginger Beer become branded as EGB - apparently to make it more appealing to a younger generation. It stuck me at the time that it was just a bunch of people with too much time on their hand fiddling with what was a really good product!

EGB I was quick to point out could also stand for "Eke Godayate Bon de" an interpretation I dont think many people involved with the product liked to hear! But I really thought it was stupid to go play with something that worked!

This afternoon I happened to be looking up ginger beer and it was indeed a pleasant surprise see that its been re branded to what it should be, Elephant Ginger Beer.

I'm wondering now if the Hot Dog will be back too? Not the one that they serve at the ODEL Food Court, oh no, I'm talking about the real kosher Fountan Cafe Hot Dog with that awesome sauce!

I'll end with two things

First a comment by Sanesh Fernando which I niked off someone's blog which describes well what a Fountain Cafe Hot Dog should be

The Elephant House HotDog is nothing compared to it’s previous Owner “Fountain Cafe” in Slave Island. I was very sad when Elephant House acquired ”Fountain Café” and closed it up. The Softness of the HotDog Bun and the Creaminess of the Special sauce they make is no more. Just the thought of it makes my mouth watered. It was those days that I gave Hot Dogs to Millennium IT staff, from “Fountain Cafe” for my First Salary Treat and for my Birthdays.

And to end a few of what I consider to be Colombo specials

a) The Original Fountain Cafe Hot Dog - now extinct

b) A Buriyani at Hotel De Buhary in Maradana

c) A mutton Chinese roll from Nippon

d) A Green Cabin Cream Bun and Lumprai

e) Lime juice and Coffee from Pilawoos

f) A Cheese kotthu from the place NEXT to Pilawoos

g) A kothu (regular) from Gihan's in Delkande(?)

h) Nan from Nana's at Galle face - Old Nana is no more, murdered one day as he sat in his wheelchair

i) The Crab curry they used to serve at the Chinese Restaurant (cant remember the name anymore) next to Alerics in Wella - Apuhamy was our favorite waiter and he gave us royal treatment.

j) A good malu pan

k) A string hopper buriyani from Hotel De Majestic

Be nice to see what else is there - feel free to add


  1. Dis is the nth post about da Elefant Haus hotdogs recently! I commented on one before (on another blog) as well, but being much younger to u, from mi childhood to now, don't think the quality drop is DAT drastic...
    I'm sick n tired of old timers sayin this n this was soooo much better back then n what not. Its all perception, on things dat we tried long before n then later- Things before were novel n shit so our minds by default perceive the previous experience to be 'better' cos we were new to it.
    For example, I'm sure u think sex was much better back then too innit

  2. Sorry to sound like an old fogey, Girigoris, but Sigma's quite right - the old EH Hot Dog was a quality all of its own.

    Your point on how "old timers" gloss a little too much over the past is taken, but there are just somethings (like the hot dog, mate) that'll never be the same again and will be missed for a long long time...

  3. There is a reason for old timers to 'gush' about the past, quite a lot of it was in fact pretty good. In today's world of instant gratification and gloss its nice to look back at a time when quality was just that. Sadly hype now takes the place of the real thing more often than not. Chances are Gregoris, that in time to come, you too will wax eloquently. Not quite sure if I agree with you about the mind perceiving a previous experience better due to novelty; somethings do get better with time, point to moot sex. If you think it's great now, wait till you've had a little experience, it does get better!

  4. jaffna hotel crab curry? Bath amma's lunch? and the gem of home made sauce at Klassy, Dickman's Road.

  5. OK Dee you have got to tell this old "fogey" about the crab and the bath kade!

  6. Kandy - Muslim Hotel Buriyani with all the fixings. Different to Colombo versions but deelish all the same

  7. wow how come I missed this post! O.o

    and I was fortunate enough to visit the fountain cafe a couple of times with my dad before it closed down, and savour the amazing hot dog and divine sauce... and the one they have at Keells now doesn't even come close!


  8. I desperately want to go back to Sri Lanka, we have an amazing cuisine that just cannot be duplicated in foreign countries.

    I can't wait to go back to a Green Cabin, or get some mutton or chicken Kotthu from a roadside restaurant.

    I'm only 20 but i remember my mother taking me to the Galle Face elephant house location (it was somewhere around there). Those hot dogs were so delicious back then, so I envy those who say that the Fountain Café ones were even better! We went back last year I think, and that hot-dog spot was gone because of barricades and things of that nature, what a shame.

    Thanks for this post though! Made me a little hungry, and a lot homesick.

  9. Does anyone know the actual recipe for the elephant house hot dog sauce??? I just feel like making it this weekend will never be the same as eating in Colombo. Love to hear from you food freaks!

  10. I am trying to figure this out myself ,here goes my version
    In hot oil add mustard seeds when spluttering add curry leaves chopped onion, saute till golden add unroasted curry pwd,turmeric,chilli pwd. Stir add chicken stock , tom sauce and 1 cube chicken stock. Simmer for 1/2 hour.add corn flour to thicken, let me know how it goes.

    1. hey Zay, thanks for the tip. it's close - not close enough. mine became more curry flavored; I guess i am gonna need some practicing to get the quantities right. I don't think the tom sauce is right though - if my memory serves right, the original sauce had a bit of a cheese taste mixed with caramelized onion/and spices. Will let you know if i get any closer.

  11. I feel sorry for those of you who havent tasted the original FC hot dog and sadder still for those of us who have. Will we ever get it back? If we did, would we know it? Is it all in our heads? With all the culinary delights and fast food options we have now, would we ever find anything as good as what the FC hot dog meant to us 70’s kids. In any case, just the thought of it brings water to my mouth, every time! Just went to SL after 12 years of being away and the only two things I wanted to taste badly was the FC hot dog and a good crab curry. Never got the latter but after much searching (and almost giving up), that took me to Crescat (closed) and Odel (closed) food vendor locations (where I was told they had the famed dogs), found the small café at the back of KEELS in the original FH location. Who would have thunk? I have a picture of the hot dog and also managed to get a picture with an old worker. It was extremely nostalgic as he was garbed in the FC uniform. Wish I can post it here. But to get back to the taste, no it doesn’t taste as good as I remember it. Maybe I need to recreate the exact circumstances… My grandfather used to pack us 4 cousins and parents in his Oxford and drive us to FC after 6pm Sunday mass at All Saints. One time, my greedy cousin consumed 4 dogs and ended up barfing behind the restaurant. Good times! As I sit here and write this, munching on a FC hot dog that I dared to freeze and bring back with me, I wonder, if this is an expat phenomenon. And I agree with Sigma that some things do get better with time. Zay thanks for a good start, I will be trying a few sauce recipes to see if I can get the right concoction. Please post how you are progressing. I think I found a close enough dog. Will find the name and post it here. Here’s to the good times and for future ones!