Sri Lanka is an amazing coastal country with exotic food, culture and traditions, but mainly the food with its blend of raging spices, creamy curries and fiery flavours. Street food is something that this country thrives on and once the evening sets, the carts selling their arsenal of goodies are out, each offering a mouthwatering plateful that you can’t miss even if you’re full!
Here are the 9 street food options, also called short eats that you can’t miss if you’re in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has its own version of the ever favourite pancakes – called hoppers. Made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water, with a hint of sugar, the batter is taken in ladles and fried in a small wok specially made for this. It is swirled around the edges of the pan to give it an even consistency so that it comes out like a bowl-shaped crispy wonder with a soft bottom!
To give these hoppers a twist, an egg is cracked in the middle of it, sunny side up, and garnished with chillies, onions, coconut sambol, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon. Served with dhal curry or chutney, this is cute bowl-shaped pancake is a local favourite!
Wander over to the Grand Oriental Hotel which puts up a hoppers night every Friday and Saturday where visitors can stuff themselves with the tasty fry-ups and take their pick from an extensive buffet.
A lot can be said about this humble food that originated as a takeaway dish for the lower socioeconomic classes. Now having become a go-to fast-food for locals and tourists alike, Kottu is basically a plate of chopped up roti mixed with everything that goes with it.
Resembling fried rice, but made of fried Godamba roti, it is chopped and tossed with vegetables or juicy meat shreds and an assortment of spices, or sometimes given a little twist according to the chef, and then served with spicy curry sauce that you can use as a dip or pour over the entire plate.
It is an extremely comforting dish that is popular among the youth as a midnight snack on a night out. You know that Kottu is not far away when you can hear the chef clanging his knives as he chops up the roti over the noise in the Sri-Lankan market.
Numerous restaurants serve up the sumptuous meal, yet one of the most popular places to sample the treat is the Hotel de New Pilawoos, a no-fuss restaurant frequented by numerous locals.
3. Wood Apple
One of the native fruits found on this exotic island country, wood apple is shaped like a de-husked coconut with a hard shell and a pungent aroma that you can detect in markets much before you see them.
The inside of this fruit is a pulpy brown paste that looks like fermented raisins. Locals eat wood apple directly from the shell but more popular is the wood apple juice made from blending this fruit’s juicy interior with jaggery and water to sweeten it out and give it a refreshing kick. Wildly popular, wood apple juice is used to wash down any Sri-Lankan food!
A bite of the wood apple can easily be found around Pettah Market, one of the city’s busiest commercial areas with numerous vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables of great quality.
4. Vegetable Rotis
One of the widely spread and most popular snacks around Sri Lanka, vegetable roti is something that brings a wide smile on the face of anyone who hears it.
Traditionally made from a batter of flour, water and salt, the rotis are flattened and then stuffed with a filling of your choice, be it wholesome veggies with spices or minced meat. Unlike the samosa that is fried, vegetable roti is cooked or baked over a skillet till it achieves a slight crisp perfection on the outside.
An all-time favourite local street food, it is something you can grab on the go and is even sold in the mobile bakeries called tuk-tuks.
5. String Hoppers
String hoppers are one of the popular breakfast options and are eaten across the country. Similar to the Egg hopper pancakes, these pancakes are made from rice flour that has been moulded into noodles and pressed into flat spirals and steamed. Served with coconut Sambol, Dhal curry or coconut milk curry, these string hoppers with spicy curries are the most delicious way to start your mornings, especially with a cup of hot tea by the side.
The best place to grab your plate of a scrumptious breakfast is along the Galle Road where numerous restaurants prepare string hoppers along with other local cuisines.
Samosas are staple Sri Lankan short eats that can practically be found all over the city. These little savoury triangles are made by frying flatbread loaded with veggies or beef and plenty of spices. These crispy triangular treats make for quick bites when you’re hungry and on the run or can be enjoyed with a creamy curry while you sit back and relax with your friends in the evening. Be careful of the spice though if you are sensitive to it!
The best place to grab a paper bag full of samosas is at Galle Road, or when you stroll around Pettah’s central station.
7. Isso Vadei
A typical evening visit to the Galle Face can’t be complete without these crispy treats. Isso Vadai is made from a batter of dhal that is shaped into round discs and lightly fried with three prawns either mixed in or balanced on top. Served with some spicy Onion Sambol, these lentil cakes are addictive once you get over their weird looks. Head out after a hot sunny day and gorge yourself on these little treats while enjoying the waves.
8. Manioc Chips
Made from the humble cassava, these are favourite munchies for locals with their evening beer. As the evening arrives, the roadside vendors start peeling the cassava, and the chalk-white flesh inside is grated into tubers or flat discs and then fried in a wok of hot oil until they are nicely crisp and golden brown.
These yellow chips with slightly brown edges are ladles out and sprinkled with a salt and chilli powder mix, making a satisfying snack sold to all walks of life and once you start, you can keep munching on these for hours, beware!
9. BBQ seafood
A few stalls along the Galle Face serve up freshly barbecued seafood. Every evening, the catch of the day, be it fish, prawns, lobster or crab are on display, and one can choose whatever they like. For those who drool over seafood, this is the place where you can enjoy a snack by the sea with your favourite drink. Served with chips, salad or potatoes, these are delicious grilled snacks one can’t miss!