After a day of exploring the wonders of Sri Lanka, the next thing on everyone’s list (or at least mine), is to find something yummy to eat, and something refreshing to drink and cool off from the heat of day. Sri Lankan cuisine, like many Asian cuisines, consists of a dizzying assortment of colors, smells and spices. Delightfully delicious and devilishly spicy, Sri Lankan cuisine can be an unrecognizable assortment of goodies for the uninitiated. Not to fear, we are here to help, to allow you to navigate Sri Lanka’s cafes, markets, hawker stalls and restaurants like a pro.
Presenting to you an easy guide of the must-trys of Sri Lankan cuisine:
1. Rice and Curry
Rice and curry is the staple of every Sri Lankan, young and old, male and female. It is served everywhere in the country, and is probably the cheapest and easiest way to load up in Sri Lanka. The dish usually consists of a mound of steamed rice, a dollop of curry with meat, as well as a selection of interesting accompaniments such as curried jackfruit, pineapple, or vegetables. It is also usually served with sambol on the side for that extra oomph!
If you are like me, the dish’s name immediately brings to mind grasshoppers. Not too sure if I really want to eat that yet. Actually, hoppers are anything but of the insect variety! No idea why they’re called hoppers if they don’t hop, but they are small and cute little bowl shaped pancakes that can be eaten with curry. Sometimes, eggs are fried in the middle to make an egg hopper. For a sweet treat, yoghurt or honey can be poured into the hopper instead.
3. String Hoppers
Not to be confused with either hoppers or grasshoppers, string hoppers are a different dish altogether! String hoppers are little nests of vermicelli noodles that are steamed and eaten with different types of curry. A usual breakfast food for Sri Lankans.
4. Kottu Roti
The epitome of Sri Lankan Street food, Kottu Roti is immensely popular amongst the locals. It is essentially shredded and fried Sri Lankan roti, mixed with an assortment of vegetables and meat, with a generous lashing of spices and condiments to add flavour. There are a few variations to the kottu, and include the cheese kottu, or vegetarian kottu. They are sometimes served up with curry on the side.
Sri Lankans love their food fried and spiced, and the Vadai is both of these things! Vadais are made up of mashed potatoes or lentils, heavily seasoned and spiced. The resulting mix is then deep fried into a donut or disc shape. Absolutely delicious but artery clogging, they are often sold as a snack or eaten as a side dish.
When eating these from roadside stalls, try to get them freshly fried for you to prevent food poisoning.
Curd is the classic Sri Lankan dessert, and is a kind of yoghurt made from buffalo milk. This creamy treat is often drizzled with honey, or Kitul syrup. Nutritious and delicious, buffalo curd is a must try whilst in Sri Lanka!
Similar to the way we eat yoghurt, curd can be eaten both as a dessert, or as a light breakfast food.
7. Ceylon Tea
Sri Lanka is the 3rd largest tea producer in the world, and in this land of tea, even the most ardent of coffee drinkers have to set aside coffee for tea at least once. Ceylon tea is characterized by its rich, mellow flavor, golden colour and pleasant aroma, synonymous with quality and superior taste, as any serious tea drinker can attest to.
8. King Coconut Juice
The other popular drink in Sri Lanka has to be the juice of the King Coconut. A quick glance will confirm that the Sri Lankans love it. The tree of the King Coonut can be found is many a Sri Lankan household, and the juice is delightfully refreshing, especially in the warm tropical weather.