When it comes to Sri Lankan food, there are two things you need to know. Rice and curry. These two are staples when it comes to any type of meal served. I could fill this list with 20 different types of curries and their variations for you to get the point but I will try my best to mix it up. While it’s easy to assume that Sri Lankan food is typically Indian, the variety of flavors and spices differ, shaping a unique taste which is a treat to anyone traveling this region. So get your taste buds ready as here are a few of our top picks of must try dishes while in Sri Lanka.
Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour Fish Curry)
Fish curries are one of the most usual dishes that you will find anywhere in Sri Lanka which is served with some rice and often accompanied with a few side dishes. The curry itself is very flavorful and includes some distinct flavors like turmeric, pandan leaves, and a tamarind like fruit called goraka which gives it the sourness. The whole thing is cooked and simmered to perfection until you get a dry curry that is often insanely spicy yet super flavorful.
Parippu (Dhal Curry)
This vegetarian staple is one of the most common types of curry that you can find in Sri Lanka. They often use red lentils and boil and simmer it with spices until soft. The dhal curry is then topped with a splash of fresh coconut milk, often added to give it a light yet creamy flavor. Dhal is often eaten with either rice or roti.
Wambatu Moju (candied eggplant)
Often served as a pickled side dish with curries, these candied eggplants are delicious! Deep fried, sliced, then caramelized with lots of oil, salt, sugar, and soysauce, this eggplant dish is the perfect side dish. It is sweet, savory and sour, working perfectly well with the spiciness of the curries that they often serve it with.
Appa or Appam (Hoppers)
If you’re looking for something slightly sweet, Sri Lanka has their own version of pancakes. Similar to pancake batter, they ladle it on to a wok and swirl it around, making it either a sweet or savory dish. You can order it plain, or with an egg in the middle. The egg hoppers are then served with a spicy sambal sauce to add flavor. You can also find string hoppers which is made from a thicker rice flour which they squeeze into noodle like consistency, steam, then serve with….you’ve guessed right, curry!
Kukul Mas Curry (Chicken curry)
Similar to the Philippines national dish, adobo, there are multiple variations to Kukul Mas. Every single one is different so narrowing it down to one flavor is rather difficult. However, no matter what they put, the end result is almost always a delicious blend of coconut and spices. A bowl of kukul mas served with a bowl of hot rice and freshly made roti is to die for!
Polos (Jackfruit curry)
While I literally wasn’t kidding when I said that Sri Lankans love their curries, this one has a rather unique taste which I love. The jackfruit is cooked until tender and mixed with various spices and chilies giving it a soft potato like flavor. Although I love eating meat, this dish is something I don’t mind eating regularly. Trust me on this one!
Looking for an adventure in Sri Lanka? How does driving a tuk tuk around the country sound? Check out our article: Racing Across Sri Lanka on a Tuk Tuk: Do You Have What it Takes?
Fried Salted Fish
While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Sri Lankans often eat these tiny fish which are heavily fried until crunchy. Often eaten with with lots of rice, chilis, small side dishes and curry, this is definitely you should try at least once while in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Samosas
While samosas are often associated with Indian cuisine, Sri Lanka has their own version of samosas which you can easily munch on as a snack. You can find samosas that are filled with either meat or vegetables pretty much anywhere in Sri Lanka.
When you’re on the go, lamprais is definitely the way to go as it literally translates to a pack of food! You will see it almost everywhere and is difficult to resist. Composed of a banana leaf filled with rice, meat, some vegetables and sambal chili, it is the Sri Lankan’s version of bento boxes. The meat is often beef, pork, or lamb that is stewed with cloves and cinnamons and is very tender and flavorful.
Served in different variations, kottu is made up of shreaded roti and is fried with lots of vegetables or meat. I will boldly make the claim that it is just similar to fried rice as you can literally chuck anything with it. Often used to get rid of leftovers and other small scraps of food, this dish is one of Sri Lankas’s ultimate street food meals. Vegetarian versions are often cooked with leek, onions, and cabbage while you also get meatier versions and ones topped with cheese. (P.S. Cheese Kottus are out of this world!)
Aside from delicious flavorful curries, Sri Lankan’s have a wide array of snacks like cassava chips, deep fried jackfruit seeds, or fried batter with curry leaves. While not entirely healthy, these are often flavored with salt and pepper then placed in a bag, ready for snacking and long bus rides. Oh and there sure is a lot of them in Sri Lanka!
Pol Roti (Coconut curry)
This quick snack is widely available in train stations and are a good way to keep your hunger levels in check. When freshly baked and served warm, this coconut flat bead served with a salty chili sauce is delicious!
Whatever you do, our best advice for getting the best gastronomical experience in Sri Lanka is to go local. Ask around, see where the locals are eating, and most of all, don’t be afraid to try things out. The flavors are wonderful (and spicy!) and are all worth trying at least once.
Looking for more insight on food around the world? Check out our other articles below
- What to Eat in Indonesia: Dishes You Need to Try
- What to Eat in Thailand: Food You Will Love
- What to Eat in Vietnam: Must Try Dishes