A trip to the island of Sri Lanka is a chance to feast on its wealthy, melting pot cooking that is influenced by its geographics. Situated in the Indian Ocean, between the Eastern and Western culture, expect an abundance of flavors.
20 Most Popular Foods to Eat in Sri Lankan
1. Rice and Curry
Rice and curry is Sri Lankan comfort food.
Ingredients: It is made of red lentils cooked in coconut milk along with tomatoes and onion. Tastes best when cooked in an earthen pot.
It’s a spicy jackfruit dish.
Ingredients: Jackfruits, cinnamon, curry leaves, coconut milk, spices, garlic, lemongrass, and mustard seeds.
Eaten with: Rice and Parippu(crunchy, fried cutlet made of lentils).
3. Wambatu Moju
Prepared by cutting the eggplant in wedges and deep-frying them to give a crispy texture. It is then caramelized with sugar, vinegar, green chilies, red onions, and mustard seeds.
Ingredients: Eggplant, vinegar, sugar, red onions, oil, green chilies.
Eaten with: Plain rice and roasted paan.
Hoppers are basically pancakes with crisp edges and are shaped like a bowl.
Ingredients: Oil, flour, coconut milk, and batter.
Eaten with: Rice curry, spicy chili sauce, and chutney.
5. Kukul Mas Curry
Spices are fried in oil and coconut milk and tomato puree is then added. Chicken pieces are added to the thick gravy and stewed for a little while.
Ingredients: Spices, lemongrass, coconut milk, chicken, and curry leaves.
Eaten with: Plain rice.
Malay influenced Watalappan is a very popular dish among Sri Lankan Muslims and is a must for their religious festivals. It is a steamed egg custard.
Ingredients: Kitul jaggery, coconut milk, and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
7. Beetroot Curry
If you have never tried beets with curry before, you are definitely in for something new.
Ingredients: Onion, turmeric, beetroot, coconut.
Eaten with: Rice.
8. Pol Sambol
Sri Lankan food might be one of the easiest things to cook but also the most flavourful dishes are included in this cuisine, pol sambol is one of them.
Ingredients: Shredded coconut, dried chilies, red onions, lime juice.
9. Wood apple Juice
Wood apple is a fruit available in Sri Lanka, it’s not available in supermarkets though, as it’s grown in the dry region of the country.
Wood apple with coconut makes for a delicious juice with a refreshing finish just like lemonade. There is nothing better than a large glass of wood apple juice to finish off a Sri Lankan meal.
A very common Sri Lankan breakfast dish that originated from the Asian nation. Served with hot thick coconut milk historically as an accompaniment to the dish, is currently substituted with curry and Katta sambol. This is a steamed dish with rice flour and grated coconut.
Ingredients: Rice, flour, coconut.
11. Parippu (Dhal Curry)
Curries are eaten everywhere and served alongside almost everything, from the humble mother’s kitchen to roadside stalls and restaurant buffets. Sri Lankans love their spices and a lot of it goes into making a good curry.
Masoor dhal (split red lentils) are boiled and used with fresh ingredients like curry leaves, onions, tomatoes, and green chillies that are sautéed and mixed with a variety of spices. Finally, the dhal is cooked over flame till it turns a yummy yellow. For a nice creamy consistency, a splash of coconut milk is added and is finally served as a side to rotis and parathas or eaten with rice.
Upali’s is one of the best restaurants in the city to sample authentic local cuisine with flavourful Sri Lankan curries.
12. Lunu Miris
Lunu miris is a spicy sauce, or as the Sri Lankans call it, a sambol. Made from pounded red onions, chilli powder, crushed red pepper, lime juice and smoked Maldives fish, this is an amazing combination of easy-to-find ingredients. These are ground into a chunky paste using a mortar and pestle. Most households have their own versions using ingredients from their own regions, but this superb chilli sauce is enjoyed heavily by the locals, served with almost everything as a sauce or a topping.
13. Fried Salted Fish
Fish is something that is a part of the staple diet in Sri Lanka given that it is a coastal country. Eaten in various forms, fishes are relished by the locals and the tourists that come here. One of these dishes is the fried salted fish that are heavily salted and deep-fried until crunchy. Unlike the normal saucy fishes curries, this crunchy delight goes well with any plate of rice and curry. They are also included in a range of different sambols like chili sauces or lunu miris and is a must-try if you ever step into Sri Lanka.
14. Fish Ambul Thiyal
Sri Lanka being an island has a culture of rich seafood. Fish Ambul Curry or Sour fish curry is one of the hot favourites. Curries vary from household to household and everyone has their own grandma’s recipe but the basics are the same. The fish (usually tuna or something large) is cut into cubes and sautéed with a lot of spices like turmeric, garlic, curry leaves and the most important – garoka (a small fruit responsible for the sour taste).
Coconut milk is sometimes added along with water and the entire curry is simmered until the liquid reduces, leaving a rich creamy fish curry where each fish cube absorbs the flavour and spice and is eaten with rice or theta paan.
15. Devilled Sweet & Sour Fish Curry
Influenced by the Portuguese and Dutch communities in Sri Lanka, this is one of the most mouth watering dishes among the Sri Lankan public, especially among the youth who love to have these as a side dish during special occasions.
This dish, also called ‘Devilled Fish’ contains fried fish smothered in delicious sweet and sour sauce which comes from adding sugar and vinegar. Slightly fried with red onions, capsicums and banana peppers and garnished with drops of lime, this tastes best with fried rice or parathas (flatbread) on the side. Yellow tuna fish is one that is best used for this dish and the amount of chilli and spice put in differs from place to place.
16. Kukul Nas Curry
For non-veg lovers, this is a very common household curry which like most curries has different variations all across the country. Spices and condiments like cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks are tempered in hot oil before combining with succulent pieces of chicken along with chilli powder, curry powder, curry leaves, tomato puree and lemon. Coconut milk is added too like in most Sri-Lankan dishes, which gives it creamy gravy. The chicken is stewed in this delicious broth until each piece absorbs the flavour that is finally enjoyed with roti, bread or hot rice.
The word comes from the Dutch combination of the words ‘lump’ and ‘rice’ and is a combination of meat, rice, sambol chilli sauce, shrimp paste, and starchy vegetables like brinjals or plantain. This mixture is folded into parcels in banana leaves and then steamed. The meat used is usually cooked with sweet spices like clove and cardamom while the rice gets cooked in the flavourful meat stock. These banana leaf packets often include eggs, pork, or lamb instead of chicken. Found in most restaurants and sometimes prepared in elaborate occasions at home, this dish is something that has been inspired by the Dutch community.
18. Kakuluwo Curry
A traditional spicy crab curry (also known as Jaffna crab curry), this dish is popular across the country, especially near the coastal regions where seafood is the everyday diet menu. Made from blue swimmer crabs (or mud crabs) which are cleaned by removing the grills and membranes, it is then broken into smaller pieces and cooked.
A gravy of onion, garlic, curry leaves, chilli and turmeric is simmered in a clay pot to which the crabs are then added along with the seed pods of the drumstick tree. Cooked till the crabs turn all meaty and tender, it is served with pol sambol and rice or even pittu or bread.
Eaten most during special occasions, this is a mildly flavoured rice cake. There are different versions of Kiribath but the traditional way is to cook rice with coconut milk and a pinch of salt. It is then cooled, set into plates and cut into wedges and served like a cake. This creamy cake with a hint of coconut flavour is garnished with sambol chilli sauce or onions and can be sweetened with jaggery or consumed with spicy sauce or curry.
Traditionally eaten for breakfast in Sri Lanka, these rice cakes are made by mixing coconut (shredded) with rice flour to form a crumbly mixture. It is then steamed in bamboo traditionally till it comes out as a solid Pittu funnel cake. Nowadays circular Pittu steamers are available that make it easier to steam these precious little cakes.
Either red or white rice can be used to make this dish which is then served with warmed and sweetened coconut milk and eaten with lunu miris on the side or any spicy meat, fish or vegetable curry. Simple and delicious, Pittu is a dish that people grab and go while they are rushing to their work or school and is also served as an evening snack!