When planning your next trip to Sri Lanka, leave plenty of room for experimenting with the flavours of the country’s signature dishes. Sri Lankan food is rich with influences from India, but undoubtedly has a distinct local style born from a diverse blend of cultures and regional ingredients like fresh-caught fish, rice, coconut, curry, and cinnamon.
Here’s what to satisfy your appetite with for breakfast, snacks, dinners, and dessert when you travel to Sri Lanka!
Plain and simple, you can’t avoid curry in Sri Lanka. Many staple dishes incorporate the warm, rich flavours of curry blends, but the most common iteration is a rice and fish curry dish. Vegetable curry, mutton curry, candied shrimp curry, and chicken curry are all widely popular as well, and worth sampling if you can.
2. Kottu Roti
Also spelled koththu or kotthu, kottu roti is ubiquitous street food bursting with umami flavours. It’s an indispensable part of an authentic Sri Lankan experience. Kottu is made from shredded flatbread, which is grilled with vegetables and spices (and often meat), then chopped up and served hot.
Usually saved for celebratory occasions, lamprais (or lump rice) is a double-cooked labour of love. First, rice is cooked in a seasoned stock, then mixed with pre-cooked meatballs, curry, chilli sauce, shrimp paste and rolled up into a banana leaf to be baked through, allowing for all the tasty layers of flavour to fuse.
Hoppers (or appam) are a filling food choice for either breakfast or dinner. The dish is similar to a pancake, but mixed with coconut milk and palm wine and cooked in small, rounded pans until the edges are crispy. A versatile dish, hoppers can be served with curry, coconut cream, eggs, or honey, depending on the occasion and your preference for sweet or savoury at the moment.
5. Pol Sambola
Not a meal on its own, but widely featured as a side with other dishes, pol sambola is a type of coconut relish, made with grated coconut, Maldives fish, lime juice, chilli powder, and onions. Sometimes it’s sautéed with spices, in which case it’s known as badapu pol sambol. Treat your taste buds to this popular accompaniment to Sri Lankan food, and start feeling like a local.
Also called puttu, this Indian breakfast dish makes regular appearances in Sri Lankan cuisine. Rice flour and grated coconut are steamed and formed into cylinders, then commonly served with curry, plantain, or jackfruit. Don’t forget to pair your breakfast with Sri Lanka’s signature Ceylon black tea.
7. Ulundu Vade
This savoury Tamil snack, also spelled “ulundhu vadai”, is a deep-fried doughnut-shaped fritter made of spiced dhal. It’s a common street food, and a great way to satisfy a craving while you’re exploring Colombo or Kandy or just taking it easy on the beach.
Kiribath is a sweet and savoury breakfast loaded with cultural significance. It’s usually enjoyed on the morning of a special occasion like Sinhalese New Year and personal celebrations like weddings. The dish is made from rice cooked in salted coconut milk, and it’s often served with a spicy chilli relish.
We can’t decide if faluda is a beverage, dessert, or meal unto itself- the answer is probably all three. This sweet and filling treat is made from ice cream, rose syrup, basil seeds, and vermicelli and served cold. There’s plenty of room for variation with the ingredients, and you’ll find that every faluda spot has its own unique spin.
10. Deep Fried Jackfruit Seeds
Jackfruit is only recently gaining popularity in Canada for its versatility as a vegan pork substitute, but since it’s native to Sri Lanka and neighbouring countries, it’s long been a popular feature in dishes. Jackfruit seeds are not only edible but quite delicious, especially when deep fried to crunchy perfection and seasoned with salt and chilli flakes. Perfect for an on-the-go snack.
Why not try a guided tour of Sri Lankan cuisine on your holiday? Our Travel Experts can point you in the right direction for authentic, mouth-watering meals.
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