Dish It Out: Nipun Liyanapathirana

Oct 27 2023.

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How do our food experts cook and eat? This week, Sydney-based culinary creator Nipun (@nipoopss) takes our Q&A!

1. How did you learn to cook?
- Just like most other cooks, I learned the basics from my mother. From the art of snapping the ends off green beans to peeling carrots and making different types of curries, my mom was my first teacher. Along the way, I engaged in a lot of self-learning, teaching myself to cook various cuisines.

2. What makes you passionate about food?
- The sheer variety of food fascinates me. The thought that there are perhaps hundreds, and thousands of unknown unique dishes out there truly inspires me to learn more about the food of my culture and others.

3. How did Nipun Cooks come about?
- It was during the early days of the COVID lockdown in Sri Lanka that I picked up a wok and began documenting some of the meals I prepared on TikTok. I first gained a following on TikTok and later extended it to Instagram.

4. What do you love about being a culinary creator?
- I love the challenge of learning new dishes from different cuisines around the world, including those from my home country, Sri Lanka. It also allows me to leverage my years of experience and skills as a creative
professional in marketing.

5. What ingredient is underrated and can make/break a dish for you?

- I'll answer this question in the context of South-Asian food. I believe that turmeric is a fantastic ingredient that doesn't receive enough recognition. The right amount of it can provide the perfect colour and balance to curry
flavours, while too much can overpower most dishes.

6. What’s your favourite foolproof recipe on your socials you’d recommend to anyone?
- I wholeheartedly recommend my Filipino Chicken Adobo. It's easily one of my best creations.

7. Teaching people to cook – what’s the trick to doing it right?
- I've partnered with the largest fresh produce market in Australia to teach Australians about Sri Lankan cuisine. I find that starting with accessible ingredients is the best way to teach anyone how to cook.

8. Your favourite childhood meal?
- My mom's chicken curry was a frequent dish during my upbringing, and I still make it every weekend.

9. If you have a free pass to travel anywhere to eat anything – where would you go?
- At the top of my food travel bucket list right now is China. It's the birthplace of many different types of food, techniques, and inspiration for numerous other cuisines. China's vastness offers an incredible variety in its cuisine.

10. The most adventurous food you’ve tried?
- Love this question! I've tried silkworms in Vietnam, Balut in the Philippines, and frog meat in Thailand. After eating a plate full of silkworms in Vietnam, I got a horrible allergic reaction! It was well worth it but now I try to be more cautious.

11. As much as you love to cook, you love to eat and explore – do you like to try everything or are you attracted to a particular taste palette?
- I'm an avid traveller with an open mind who respects other cultures. I prefer savoury food because I don't have much of a sweet tooth.

12. What food trend do you hate right now?
- High raw vegans don't make sense to me.

13. Easiest meal you would make to impress someone?
- When I have company, I enjoy preparing my Chicken Adobo recipe with garlic rice with Pinaputok (steamed tilapia) and a side of gochujang cucumber salad. 

14. Your favourite recipe that has been passed down to you from family?
- My family didn't focus on writing precise recipes, but the Ambul Thiyal recipe from my southern Sri Lankan ancestry is the only one that's been documented, and It'll never change it.

15. Your most unpopular opinion on a cuisine?
- In my opinion, Thai food is overrated, and I'm pleased to see a growing interest in Filipino cuisine, which I believe is highly underrated.

16. A dish you’d love to relive for the first time?
- I'd love to relive the moment when I first tried an authentic, steaming bowl of Beef Pho on a rainy afternoon in a cosy corner of Hanoi, Vietnam.

17. Your comfort food after a long day?
- My top choice would be a substantial order of Lebanese charcoal chicken with garlic sauce, Lebanese bread, and pickles.

18. Do you ever see yourself opening your own restaurant one day?

- I'm currently in the process of conceptualizing a Sri Lankan street food experience, initially in Sydney. I'm focusing on a casual dining concept accessible to everyone in the city. The goal is simply to introduce and share the wonderful world of Sri Lankan street food with the community, although I haven't settled on a name yet.


Panchali Illankoon

Law Graduate, food and travel enthusiast and full time dog mom..


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