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Sri Lankan Food – What to Eat in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan culinary heritage is quite distinct with unique recipes and spices. The staple dish is rice and curry which is more like a mini banquet on its own with lots of contrasting flavours made with lots of different spices; such as chillies, turmeric, cinnamon, curry leaves, curry powder(contain coriander & cumin seeds), onions, garlic, coconut milk, etc. Rice is considered the principal ingredient topped with few various curries. In most cafes and restaurants a plate of rice is served with few vegetarian curries, chicken or fish curry and a sambol. Sambols come in various forms and can be hot. The most common one is the ‘Pol Sambol’ which is made with grated coconut, chopped onions, maldive fish and chilli powder.

In more sophisticated restaurants there are various versions of rice (E.g. plain rice, fried rice, etc.) accompanied by as many as ten different curry dishes. Curry dishes could include potatoes, brinjal (aubergine), green beans, lady’s finger (okra), dhal (lentils) etc cooked using various spices and coconut milk. As a tourist, some places may offer the choice of spiciness of the food which can be varied by changing the amount of spices and chilli powder. You will probably also be offered some local vegetable as a curry dish; such as jackfruit, murunga (drumstikcs), Alu kesel (plantain), Pathola (snake gourd), Del (bread fruit), karawila (bitter gourd), etc. Another common dish is a mallung; shredded green leaves cooked using grated coconut or fried with coconut oil using other relevant spices.

Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants will describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. Generally, in Sri Lanka, the food is very cheap with a cheap meal costing about a dollar or two. The most expensive tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than ten dollars. Eating out in Sri Lanka is not at all a problem. In fact, this beautiful Island provides you with a number of delicacies to choose from. Apart from the traditional Sri Lankan food you can find all kinds of cuisines over here. There are a number of restaurants catering to the needs of people fond of international cuisine.

Almost in any street in city centers you are sure to come across a small cafe, or a coffee shop. (Most of them are called ‘Hotels’). These ‘Hotels’ normally sell meal packets which contain rice and curry, as well as a collection of spicy rolls called ‘short eats’ which are ideal if you need a quick bite to eat.

Sri Lankans also enjoy plenty of seafood gifted by the Indian ocean. You will definitely enjoy the taste of Devilled prawns, cuttlefish, as well as other fish curries such as jumbo prawns, lagoon and sea crab cooked in red hot curries, western style or grilled on a sizzling BBQ spit and is served at hotels and small beachside restaurants.

Another unique Sri Lankan speciality is “Kottu Roti”; a medley of chopped roti, vegetables and your choice of meat which tastes best when made fresh by street vendors.

Another popular eating option in Sri Lanka is “Hoppers”. Hopper is a type of food in South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. Hoppers are bowl-shaped thin pancakes made from fermented rice flour. They are served as Plain hoppers, Egg hoppers and Honey hoppers in most of the food stalls. Try hoppers or egg-hoppers, string hoppers, kiribath, Roti, Pittu and Vadais; you will definitely enjoy the taste.

As a traveler the ideal place for a proper meal or to grab a bite is a food court where you get a huge selection under one roof. Majestic City and Cresscat in Colombo are famous for their food courts. In addition the familiar fast-food outlets such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut etc. can be found in major cities.

Vegetarian food is a common choice in Sri Lanka and available in almost all restaurants and hotels. You can also enjoy a wide variety of delicious tropical fruits growing throughout the year; pineapple, papaya and banana being particularly good. Most restaurants offer seasonal fruit as desserts in their menus.