If your idea of the perfect holiday is tapping into local cuisine, put these 8 must-try Sri Lankan dishes on your foodie map.
Jaffna Crab Curry
The beauty of this spiced delicacy starts with its core ingredient: the freshest sea or mud crabs.
These plump crustaceans are traditionally prepared in a clay pot, simmered in a tempered broth of onions, garlic, curry leaves and curry powder. With flavour sealed in with a hit of tamarind and a toasty paste of dry roasted coconut and pepper, you will find the gravy, succulent and the meat, delicately flavoured.
Palmyrah Restaurant is one place in Colombo that does this curry justice. Situated in Kollupitiya and open from lunch till 22:00hrs, the restaurant should be on your foodie radar. The authenticity of Sri Lankan food comes at a price at this restaurant, however. This dish costs around LKR 1,400.
But as you crack those shells and use either crispy hoppers to scoop up the soft meat or roast paan to lap up the gravy, you will feel that the experience was worth every cent.
Roast Paan and Pol Sambal
Roast paan is to Sri Lankans what the baguette is to the French. This crunchy, chewy bread is best eaten hot or toasted. Best combined with a vermilion coconut sambal, dotted with purple onion rings, green chillies and red chilli flakes.
Tosakanth’s Roast Paan creates magic with their awesome stuffed flavour combos. Visit their store at De Fonseka place and try their pol sambal and cheese roast paan sandwich for LKR 200. Other restaurants do have this yummy bread as a side dish.
#YohoTip If you are a sambal fanatic like us, have a read at what else Sri Lanka has to offer
This list would not be complete without Sri Lankan Kottu: a steaming combination of godamba or flaky paratha roti, vegetables, meat, sauces and gravy. A variety that has become a firm favourite in recent years with many Colombites, is the Cheese kottu. Choose to have yours at a streetside restaurant like the original Hotel De Pilawoos in Kollupitiya. This mean cheese kottu strikes the perfect balance of crunch and cheese.
The restaurant is open 24/7 and has takeaway and delivery options (the wait which can go up to an hour is a killer, though). However, we suggest you drive up as most customers do and have your kottu as a late dinner or early breakfast in the comfort of your car.
#YohoTip Lookout for their new black sign ‘Pilawoos 417’. It’s their latest attempt to lay hold of a name adopted by many other restaurants on the Galle Road strip.
For a uniquely Sri Lankan breakfast or tea-time treat, take your pick from a wide variety of finger food we Sri Lankans call ‘short eats’. From crepes and croquettes packed with spicy meat or creamy veg, buns baked with mixtures of caramelised onion or maldive fish and even pastries, samosas, quiches or rotis full of meat or veg flavour combos, these unique or familiar flavours will delight.
Choose to stay in a central hotel in Bambalapitiya like Yoho Regent Evergreen Park and take your pick of one of these three awesome bakeries for brekkie: The Royal Bakery in Wellawatte, Tasty Caterers at Fife Road and The Fab at the Bambalapitiya flats.
#YohoTip Making an early morning trip out of Colombo? Get breakfast to go from the Royal Bakery which opens at 05:00hrs
Home-made Ginger Beer
Don’t leave Sri Lanka without trying some homemade ginger beer. This champagne coloured zingy drink prepared from fresh ginger root and dotted with raisins, packs a punch and is good for you.
Get a hold of a refreshing sip of this truly Sri Lankan drink at the Barefoot Garden Cafe, located in a courtyard behind the Barefoot retail store. Be prepared to spend around LKR 500.
Black Pork Badung
Luckily, you don’t have to travel to Negombo to have this dish. We believe that the best black pork badung can be found right in the heart of Bambalapitiya. This flavoursome pork curry is a combination of cubed meat and fat marinated in dry roasted spices, slow cooked for an hour in a mixture of vinegar and tamarind, before creamy coconut milk is added. Yes, it truly is melt-in-the-mouth heaven.
Have this dish as a part of a traditional rice and curry meal at the beautiful Gallery Cafe, located in the heart of Bambalapitiya. The ambience of this former office of the renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa will elevate your dining experience, but at a cost (expect to pay around LKR 2,000 to 3,000 per head). Despite this, the Gallery Cafe is usually busy. Call +94 112 582 162 to reserve your table.
Prefer a cheaper option? Then, have your curry to go, as a ‘bite’ to complement your favourite beverage. For this, pop into Mythi Cafe (open daily 06:30hrs to 19:00hrs), a shy wayside restaurant located alongside Majestic city.
A Vegetarian Rice and Curry
Don’t fret, Sri Lanka is a vegetarian foodie’s paradise too. And if you’re looking for that delicious vege lunch you don’t need to look any further than the many South Indian restaurants around in Bambalapitiya. Ask for the Madras meal (around LKR 300) and you will be pleased by the combination of uniquely Sri Lankan vege curries like dhal, brinjal, onion pickle that are served up. Sarasvati Lodge at Bambalapitiya is our pick.
Upali’s by Nawaloka overlooks Viharamadevi Park and is great when it comes to reasonably priced mouth-watering Sri Lankan vege favourites. Don’t forget to pick traditional dishes like breadfruit curry, milky jakfruit curry, brinjal pickle and gotukola sambal.
If you want a slow-cooked explosion of flavour and a legacy of the past wrapped up in a plantain leaf, try this dish. It is a Dutch variation of the local rice and curry that is spicy but not chilie hot.
Head over to the VOC Cafe at the Dutch Burgher Union at Thumulla junction. Open up a yummy combination of samba-rice cooked in chicken stock, blanchan, frikadels, ash plantain and brinjal pahi. The Fab also does a really good version. Make sure to get your hands on your pack, which costs on average between LKR450 – 550, by 11:00hrs. They go fast.
Sri Lankan food is on your bucket list this year? It’s time you start planning. Having Bambalapitiya as your first base for your foodie adventure is also a good idea. The diverse food on offer in this tiny Colombo suburb will leave you coming back for more.