No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without diving headfirst into the country’s cuisine. Though Sri Lankan food is not as well-known internationally as India’s is, our cuisine packs a ferocious punch in the kitchen. Richly spiced food and unique dishes bursting with flavour will have you following your nose — and stomach — around the whole county.
Rice and curry
Rice and curry is a staple menu in Sri Lanka. Some families have as many as three meals of rice and curry on a daily basis. You can find authentic Sri Lankan food in almost any shop in Sri Lanka especially the hole in the wall kind. For a more refined experience try Upali’s by Nawaloka.
Hoppers in their simplest form are bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk. Cooked in small round pans, they tend to come out crispy around the edges, thicker at the bottom. They make a fantastic Sri Lankan breakfast. You can find hoppers in almost any Sri Lankan roadside eateries.
Two of the most popular sambols of Sri Lanka are the Pol Sambol and Katta Sambol (a.k.a. lunumiris). It is a must-try in Sri Lanka without which most Sri Lankan meals seam incomplete. You might start wishing these little side dishes accompanied your every meal. The good thing is that sambols are served as a garnish for many meals and pol sambol often accompanies rice and curry while katta sambol is a hoppers essential. A sambol is a celebration of simplicity: it’s made of simple ingredients, is simple to make, and the taste is simply drool-worthy.
Isso Wadey from the carts at Galle Face Green
Oval in shape, red in colour and made of a mixture of gram flour, chilli, and spices, these prawn cakes are round and flat and usually have two or three long prawns pressed onto it – with the heads still intact. They are deep-fried halfway and placed on trays to be re-fried before being served. Biting into these little cakes, you can taste the tart chilli sauce, the lime and onion fuse with the fried prawn and crispy base cake, – it all generates the sensation of a mini bomb imploding inside your mouth.
A rustic flatbread made up of flour, grated coconut with diced green chillies and onions for extra texture. You’ll come across Pol Rotti as street food at stationery carts or roadside eateries. They are served with a spicy lunumiris sandwiched between two rotis making it an easy snack on the go.
Kottu Roti is the Sri Lankan street food favoured by locals and visitors alike. Some love it late at night after a stint of partying, others love it for breakfast. The coolest thing about Kottu is the way it’s made. Believe it or not, Kottu-making has a rhythmic beat. It’s a Sri Lankan icon, once only for the low and middle class, now a favourite even with the upper-class youth. The preparation of Kottu Roti has a rhythmic tune that can be heard blocks away. The most popular kottu joints in Colombo are Plaza Hotel and Pilawoos which have their biggest crowds late into the night adapting to the midnight kottu craze going around Sri Lanka.
Even though it’s a small country, there are many things in Sri Lanka that can keep you and especially your taste buds busy while you’re here. With eateries of all kinds lining the roads of Sri Lanka, these are a great option for when time doesn’t permit a lingering meal. With every bite you take be prepared for a culinary journey of your senses, may your trip to Sri Lanka be a tasteful one.