The tear-shaped Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka is a true culinary treat. Through years of colonization and trade, many cultures have influenced its cuisine, creating a spice-filled fusion of Dutch, Portuguese, English, Malay, Indian and indigenous flavors to tantalize the taste buds.
You will find plenty of fish, vegetables and spices to turn into tempting curries. Coconut is the key ingredient of Sri Lankan cuisine and is used in everything from bread to salads, dressings and inside curries. Once you taste this food you will surely come back to visit the best places in Sri Lanka for more.
Rice and curry is a staple in Sri Lanka and this may be the reason why it is called the Island of Rice and Curry. Sri Lankan cooking delivers an abundance of incredible dishes, making liberal use of local fruit, such as seafood and an arsenal of spices, jackfruit and coconut.
Here is a list of Sri Lankan foods you need to try on your trip to this tear-shaped island.
This is a typical breakfast food that’s cooked in a small, high-sided wok-like pan. It is made from a batter of fermented rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water and a sprinkling of sugar. While it cooks an egg is broken into it and it’s served with a spicy sambol.
Sambols are is the classic side dish, is fresh and fiery, chunky sauces, made with a stone pestle and mortar. It is a mix of finely grated coconut, red onion, dried red chillies, lime juice and a dash of Maldivian fish, or cured tuna.
Other favorites include sweet and sour seeni sambol, a flavorsome fusion of onions and red hot chillies with caramelised onion, and sharp and spicy lunu miris.
The vegetable curry consists of fragrant seasonal curries, each one bursting with flavour. You’ll find the British influence in curries with potatoes, carrots and pumpkin. It also includes more exotic varieties of meaty-textured young jackfruit, long okra-like drumsticks and bitter gourd, which resemble lumpy cucumbers. This is served with rice white, brown or red.
Gotu Kola Kanda
This is a herbal porridge, a nutritious green concoction made from wild leafy greens including medicinal herb gotu kola and hathawariya, part of the asparagus family and rice. It reduces cholesterol, aids digestion and boosts the immune system.
Sri Lanka’s lagoon crabs are famous the world over for their succulent sweet meat. A regular appearance on Asia’s best restaurant lists is Colombo’s Ministry of Crab. You can relish the curry crab, chilli crab and pepper crab.
This delicious street food is stir-fry made out of leftovers. It is finely sliced roti flatbread together with garlic and spices and meat or vegetables, on a large iron skillet. Another favourite here is pol roti, made with coconut and eaten for breakfast with lunu miras and dhal.
Lentil curry is a staple side dish, eaten two or three times a day. It is cooked in coconut milk, with onions, piquant green chillies and spices such as cumin, cinnamon, fenugreek and pandan leaves. This dish is extra tasty when made in a traditional clay pot.
Is a savoury delicacy passed down by the descendants of Dutch Burghers and served for Sunday lunch. The authentic recipe includes Dutch-style meat balls, and a three-meat curry infused with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom, and seeni sambol. All this is mixed with rice boiled in a spicy stock, before being wrapped in a banana leaf parcel and then slowly oven baked.
Green jackfruit curry
Jackfruit is consumed from very ripe and sweet to green and starchy. Polos is a Sri Lankan delicacy prepared with young green jackfruit.
The fruit is sliced into bite-sized chunks and boiled until soft, then cooked with onions, garlic, ginger and spices like, turmeric, chili powder, roasted curry powder,mustard seeds, pandan leaves and curry leaf sprigs. Coconut milk is added in the end and simmered to reduce most of the liquid, leaving all the flavors within the cubes of jackfruit.
Sour fish curry
Ambul thiyal is one of the best fish curries. Cubes of tuna are cooked in a blend of spices, including black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic and curry leaves. The secret ingredient here is dried goraka that gives the dish its sour flavor.
Watalappan is the most popular sweet treats, and is a must-have for special occasions. This dessert is similar to egg custard, with the addition of cardamom, nutmeg, coconut milk and dark kithul jaggery, or palm sugar. To add some crunch to the dish chopped nuts are sprinkled on top.
The discussion of Sri Lankan food would be incomplete without wood apple. You will find this in all Sri Lankan markets and can be eaten directly out of the shell or in a thick smoothie, known as wood apple juice. It can be blended with jaggery and water to smooth it out.
Coconut and Honey Pancake
This breakfast food consists of thinly cooked pancakes made of flour and water and filled with caramelized coconut and honey. It is then rolled and eaten in less than 3 bites. This is eaten for breakfast, snacks and sometimes as a dessert as well.
Another favorite is coconut roti, a simple combination of coconut, flour, salt and small amounts of water to bind the ingredients together, then cooked on a hot pan. It can also have additions such as grated vegetables, onions or chilli.
Vegetable Roti the Triangles of Sri Lanka
Filled with spicy vegetables, although some come with fish or egg, they are just skillet fried, and sometimes with breadcrumbs made in the shape of a triangle, square or cylinder and can be eaten hot, cold, warm, crispy, it’s yum no matter what.
Sri Lankan cuisine has certainly left a lasting impression on us travellers.