Sri Lanka is truly a paradise for food lovers.
Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known earlier has a rich culinary heritage which is a unique blend of the various spices and recipes brought over centuries by colonial powers like the Dutch, British, and the Portuguese, traders like the Arabs and the Malay navigators.
So, if you are planning a trip to this spice island here’s a list of Sri Lankan food for you to try.
Soups and Porridge Types
1. Kola Kenda
Feeling tired? Try Kola Kenda. Known as Sri Lanka’s natural energy drink, Kola Kenda is a type of leafy porridge made with indigenous leaves, rice, water and occasionally coconut. Lime green in appearance this variety of kenda tends to be quite sour and tangy in taste but is definitely worth trying for its numerous health benefits. It can also be eaten with jaggery, a traditional Sri Lankan sweetener made from the molasses of sugar cane juice, which helps to balance the sourness of the leaves. It’s a tangy wake up for your taste buds!
2. Kurakkan Kenda
Like its sister dish, Kurakkan Kenda, is another delicious Sri Lankan staple for the health conscious. Made with Kurakkan flour, water, rice flakes, garlic, onion, coconut cream and cinnamon, this savoury smoothie like concoction is a great way to start the day or end it. This variation of kenda is high in dietary fibre, protein, zinc and magnesium as well as essential amino acids. So, if you want to give your body some nutritional love, this is the dish for you.
If you are a fan of tangy, hot and spicy dishes then rasam is definitely one to try when visiting Sri Lanka. Originating from South India, this red tamarind or tomato based soup is now a beloved staple throughout Sri Lanka. Made with a blend of spices, vegetables and of course the tamarind base, the soup has robust flavours which will take your taste buds on a ride. It is generally served with other dishes as a drink due to its thin and liquid consistency. Alternatively it can be eaten with rice or served on its own.
Lets talk about a deeply flavoursome soup called Mulligatawny, or ‘pepper soup’. It’s a rich soup dish that has bold flavours mostly derived the curry power which is the principal ingredient in this dish. That and the combination of creamy red lentils, carrots, apples, garlic, coconut milk and a variety of fragrant spices. Yellow in appearance, this soup is sometimes served well blended or, more rustically, thick and chunky and is a quintessential Sri Lankan dish to try. It settles in your tummy leaving a warm and contented feeling.
5. Crab meat soup
Rich, exotic and uniquely Sri Lankan, crab meat soup is a celebrated staple throughout the country and just one of many delicious seafood dishes available. The dish is made from tender crab meat, smelling of the wonderful fresh ocean, which absorbs the brilliant Sri Lankan spices in the broth. Served with rice and lentils, crab meat soup is light but has a very delicate and exotic flavour. This soup really is a triumph of Sri Lankan cuisine.
6. Mutton Soup
Sri Lankan mutton soup is a wonderfully warm and comforting meal fit for any occasion. Made using mutton and spices, it is simple and healthy with captivating flavour and aroma. It is a dish many Sri Lankans will turn to when in need of some homely comforts. Depending on your tastes, it can be very spicy or not at all! Both are equally tasty. If you are a meat eater then you must give this a try as you may find yourself coming back for more.
1. Plain Rice
For centuries, rice has played an important role in Sri Lankan cuisine, sustaining the population and serving as a staple. It is a perfect accompaniment to the rich and flavoursome curries which dominate Sri Lankan cuisine. Although there are many varieties of rice the most popular in Sri Lanka is white rice, closely followed by red rice. The former is to a good curry what a lead guitar is to a rock band. One cannot exist without the other. It seems that the Sri Lankans agree, as nearly every curry or dish will come with a side serving of hot, fluffy white rice. Red rice, although less common than white rice is also very popular. It is a grain that has a much richer, nutty taste than its white and brown counterparts. Grown in the lush rice paddy fields in the mountains of Sri Lanka, the grain is touted for its health benefits which include lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining weight among numerous other benefits.
2. Milk Rice
This delicious, creamy dish otherwise known as Kiribath, is a traditional speciality food item of Sri Lanka which is usually served for breakfast on the first day of the month or on special occasions. It can be made either sweet or unsweetened depending on your tastes. The unsweetened version is made from rice and coconut milkand is deliciously thick and creamy. The sweetened version meanwhile can be made with vanilla and cinnamon and is likewise a very rich and filling breakfast dish. It can also be eaten with sugar, bananas or jaggery.
3. Ven Pongal
Ven Pongal is a delicious combination of rice and lentils cooked in water and garnished with creamy fried cashew nuts, curry leaves and pepper. It is a simple but tasty meal generally served with a chutney or sambar, that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ven pongal is very important to Sri Lankan cuisine with strong religious affiliations. It is often offered to the gods as naivedyam during festivals, auspicious days and in temples. It is one of a variety of pongal dishes. The sweet version, known as Sakkarai, is made with sugar and milk and like ven pongal, it is also prepared during festivals and offered to the gods or goddesses.
4. String Hoppers
String hoppers or iddyappam, is a traditional Tamil, Kerala and Sri Lankan food consisting of rice flour pressed into thin noodles. The noodles are pressed using a press and hopper mats and are then steamed and served as an accompaniment dish to a variety of different curries. Hoppers can also be eaten with a yummy coconut gravy or with pol sambol (a spicy coconut dish). They is hugely a popular breakfast food and one you will likely encounter during your travels in the country.
Sri Lankan Pittu, a rice flour a coconut dish, is a popular breakfast dish enjoyed in households throughout the country. Now days Pittu is also eaten for lunch and dinner which is a trend that has emerged as Sri Lankans have gotten busier in their daily lives. Although simple, the dish is surprisingly good. It is made by mixing coconut with rice flour to form a crumbled texture which is then steamed. The end result is a solid pittu tube which can be served with warmed coconut milk or any spicy meat, vegetable or fish curry. For a sweet alternative it can be eaten with sugar, banana or jaggery. The texture of the dish is wonderfully crumbly and, when served with coconut milk, melts in the mouth.
Also known as appa, hoppers are an iconic food of Sri Lanka. The dish is essentially a simple pancake mix spruced up Sri Lankan style with coconut milk and toddy (Sri Lankan palm wine). What is unique about these pancakes is their rounded shape thanks to the small woks in which the dish is cooked. The rounded pans allow the dough to cook thick and soft on the bottom and thin and crunchy around the edges. The centre can then be filled with a fried egg or served plain depending on your tastes. It is often accompanied by lunu miris, a mix of red onions and spices.
7. Egg Hoppers
As if the breakfast options in Sri Lanka weren’t enough this dish is yet another national favourite to start the day. A variant on a plain hopper, Egg Hoppers, are the same crispy delicious round pancake but served with dripping egg yolk, yellow turmeric gravy and feisty fresh chutneys. Egg hoppers pack a punch in the flavour stakes and are a tasty way to start the day.
8. Plain Thosai
Sri Lankan Thosai is very similar to Indian dosa, it looks the same, tastes almost the same but is slightly thicker and less crispy than its Indian counterpart and uses different ingredients. This specialty is the Sri Lankan take on crepes but made with rice and black gram served alongside a hot sambar of potatoes, paneer and chutney. The beauty of the thosai is that it can be stuffed with a variety fillings depending on your tastes, to make a quick, yummy meal. It goes really well with a coconut chutney and is best eaten while hot and crispy.
9. Masala Thosai
Masala thosai is a variant on the Sri Lankan plain thosai, the difference being that masala thosai is stuffed with seasoned potatoes and spiced with delicious masala. The addition of masala in this dish makes it full of flavour and taste. Served with a side of hot sambar, masala thosai is filling, delicous and perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You will find the locals often snacking on this savoury dish.
10. Mutta Thosai
Mutta thosai, also known as egg thosai, is made using regular thosai batter with the addition of an egg poured in the centre. This variation of thosai is a really yummy take on the traditional plain thosai and, like the other varieties of thosai, it is a hugely popular street food cherished by locals. Not only is there a staggering amount ofvariations within the thosai genre but, true to Sri Lankan cuisine, there are also multiple variations of this particular dish. Some are also smeared with curry once cooked and some with spice powders or veggies.
Sri Lanka’s unique and eclectic cuisine draws its roots from the many diverse ethnic groups living there. This particular dish is a cornerstone of Dutch Burgher cuisine. The cooking process is painstakingly long and intensive which adds to the specialty of the dish. It is very rich and a pride and joy of Sri Lankan cuisine.
Lamprais is rice boiled in stock with frikkadels (meatballs), a mixed meat curry, aubergine curry, blachan (a spicy shrimp paste) and seenu sambol. The ingredients are then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in an oven. The banana not only allows all the flavours to infuse together with the rice during the steaming process but also gives the food a unique flavour and fragrance.
The dish is cooked twice, first the rice and the entrees are cooked separately and later what is already cooked is wrapped in the banana leaf and baked creating a unique recipe.
If there is one dish Sri Lankans absolutely love it is a flavour packed biriyani. An import from India, biriyani now holds an important place in Sri Lankan cuisine and is served at weddings, religious functions, festivals and on a daily basis. This flaky mixed rice dish is a great one-pot meal made with tender meat, fresh veggies and fragrant rice sometimes with the added sweet flavour of raisins. Karapincha sambol (what is this) and a boiled egg are important features of the Sri Lankan version of the dish. Curd or plain yogurt is a wonderful addition to this dish and can help to ease the spicy levels of the meal.
13. Seafood Fried Rice
This dish combines two staples of Sri Lankan cuisine, seafood and rice, into one delicious and flavour packed meal. Seafood rice, like most rice dishes in Sri Lanka, is hugely popular due to the fact that it is simple and cost effective to make but has all the flavour and taste of a much more sophisticated dish. The meal can be made with a variety of seafood options including fresh crab meat, cuttle fish and prawns. These are then combined with onions, egg and fragrant spices. It is a wonderfully simple Sri Lankan dish that you will no doubt encounter on your trip to the country.
14. Koththu Roti
Koththu roti, literally meaning “chop”is a one of the most famous street food meals which can be found in just about every nook and corner of Sri Lanka. This flavoursome dish is a mix of shredded flat bread called gothamba roti, meat, curry, spicy gravy and vegetables. It is blended together on a heated iron sheet using metal blades. Often you will head the distinctive sound of the blades clashing together before spotting where it is being cooked. Second to that will likely be the aroma of the dish, known to waft down the street from vendors. Also known as kottu roti or kothu roti, this specialty is considered the Sri Lankan equivalent of the hamburger due to the quantities in which it is eaten. It can be served vegetarian or with meat depending on your tastes.
15. Cheese Koththu
It is often said if you haven’t tried at least one version of koththu while in Sri Lanka then you haven’t really experienced the food. As the name suggests, is a dairy lovers delight. Cheese koththu is the genius creation of the original koththu roti dish smothered in melted cheese. The result is a sticky, gooey meal full of spice and bold flavours of tomato, capsicum, curry leaves and of course cheese. Chicken pieces can also be added or it can be served as a vegetarian dish.
16. Roast Paan (Roast Bread)
Many Sri Lankan dishes aren’t complete without an accompanying side of steaming hot flat bread. Roast paan is just right for this job. Thick and chewy on the outside and soft on the inside the paan perfectly balances out spices and flavours of a good curry. It also makes for a good breakfast dish topped with jam or coconut sambal or even simply dipped in tea. Freshly made, a roast paan is heaven on the taste buds providing all the comforts of home. Baked with coconut oil, it has a unique flavour and aroma.
17. Godamba Roti
Originally from Singapore, this Asian take on bread is a now big part of Sri Lankan street food culture. Godamba roti is a flat crispy bread not all that different to paratha. When chopped up, it is also the main element of Koththu roti. Found cooking on the hot plate of just about every vendor on the streets, this yummy specialty can be wrapped around any savoury filling or served plain with a spicy curry. It is best eaten using your hands.
18. Egg Roti
Egg roti is one dish you can get anywhere on the go in Sri Lanka. It is basically a combination of egg and flat bread made from whole meal flour. First the roti is made, if authentic this will be on a rocky surface, and then egg is added on top of it with extra add ons like tomato, green chilli, onion and spices. Combined with a warm, thick gravy made using coconut milk and even more spices, the dish is amazing.
Forget all you know about bread. Literally meaning layers of fried dough, Paratha is the Sri Lankan answer to bread. Paratha, like its cousin, the roti, is eaten throughout Sri Lanka and indeed over the whole Indian subcontinent. A freshly cooked paratha has that amazing warm bread smell which will be enough to make your stomach growl with hunger. It can be served plain or stuffed with goodies such as potato and onion. While it is heavy enough to be a dish on its own paratha also makes a great accompaniment to a hot curry. Like roti, it is best eaten with your hands and you will find locals doing just that. Yes it is messy but so worth it with the added benefit of being able to lick your fingers afterwards.
A traditional breakfast food, idli is a soft pillowy steamed cake make with the batter of fermented black lentils and rice. Spices such as chilli, peppers, cumin, coriander and ginger are sometimes also included in the batter mix. There are several variations including rava idli made with semolina, or idly with the addition of yogurt which gives the dish a slightly sour flavour. Idly is served with a delicious sambar and a spicy, slightly sweet chutney. Soft and spongy, the idli soaks up the flavours of the sambar and the chutney.
Although its origins are Indian, poori is a popular and much loved dish eaten throughout Sri Lanka. Made with unleavened dough which is then deep fried, poori looks like a crispy, golden brown puff. This versatile dish is usually served with a curry or a side of potato but can also be served with a range of sweet dishes such as aamras (mango pulp). If you try poori, use your hands to tear some off and use it like a scoop to mop up delicious sauces.
Sri Lankan Curries
1. Jaffna mutton curry
Another uniquely Sri Lankan delight, Jaffna mutton curry originates from the coastal Jaffna, one of the main cities in Sri Lanka known for its spicy, robust flavoured local cuisine. This dish gets its spicy and distinct flavour from the signature spice mix ‘Jaffna curry powder’ and from the curry leaves used to prepare it. The dish is best served with a steaming hot side of fluffy white rice and/or freshly cooked rotis. Jaffna mutton curry is a must try when visiting Sri Lanka.
2. Wambatu Moju (Brinjal/ eggplant moju)
No festival in Sri Lanka is complete without a serving of this spicy fried eggplant curry. Akin to a pickle the Wambatu moju is a wonderful combination of soft roasted brinjal, (eggplant), onion, chilli, garlic, ginger and an array of aromatic spices. This flavoursome delicacy is generally served with rice and other curries. It also goes really well with a variety of meat, poultry, fish or seafood dishes. Although quite heavy due to the amount of oil used, Wambatu Moju is definitely worth trying.
3. Cashew curry
This creamy Sri Lankan delight is every bit as yummy as it sounds and a perfect treat for vegetarians and nut lovers. This simple yet rich dish is made from pan fried cashews combined with chilli powder, curry leaves, garlic, fennel seeds and a dash of coconut milk, then tossed with green peas. Served with a side of fragrant yellow rice not only is this meal tantalising tasty but also highly nutritious.
4. Prawns curry (white curry)
If you are a seafood lover then this is a dish for you. Loaded with spices and seasoning, Sri Lankan prawn curry is a fusion of yummy flavours which will draw you back time and time again. Made with prawns, coconut milk, vegetables and of course spices, this curry, although quite simple to make, is a triumph of Sri Lankan cuisine. The delicately cooked prawn meat soaks up the spices and flavours of the dish while the coconut milk gives it a decadent, rich texture and taste.
5. Chicken curry
Chicken curry is a favourite of many who have travelled Sri Lanka. Made right, this dish is intoxicating; tender chicken meat, aromatic spices, garlic, onion, shredded pure white coconut and a dash of coconut milk. Full flavoured and served with a side of rice, this creamy curry will leave you feeling full and oh so satisfied. It also tends to be a favourite among children so if you are traveling with the kids, feed them this dish and they will most probably be asking for more.
6. Jaffna crab curry
Another delicious dish originating from Jaffna is the Jaffna crab curry. Although messy to eat, this delicacy is well worth trying for its full bodied flavour. Being that Sri Lanka is an island with a tropical climate, coconuts and seafood are two highly influential components of local cuisine. This dish combines both of those elements with the addition of ginger, onion, curry powder and a range of spices. The crab, cooked in its shell, takes time to devour allowing the eater to enjoy every minute of this dish.
7. Parippu (Dhal curry)
If there is one dish that is truly Sri Lankan, loved and eaten by all, it would be the Parippu. It is one of the most basic yet beloved curries in the Sri Lankan cookbook. Made from dhal, chilli, spices and coconut milk, it is simple and easy to make, low cost and packed with flavour. Yellow in colour and oat like in appearance, Parippu or dhal curry, is a essential staple in Sri Lanka. The dish is often served with a side of rice or dished up as a side to many meat or fish curries.
8. Sri Lankan style pork fry
Curries don’t get much better than the Sri Lankan style pork fry. The pork meat is cooked from raw in a mildly spicy sauce until fork tender and then combined with thick creamy coconut milk, curry leaves, chilli, onions and fragrant ground spices. The best pork fry dishes are cooked in a clay pot over a fire which gives the meal a wonderfully smokey flavour that you wouldn’t otherwise get from a steel pot or pan.
9. Kiri Maalu (Fish white curry)
Kiri maalu or white fish curry is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous dishes and a must try for anyone heading to the country. Like many of Sri Lanka’s beautiful curries, white fish curry is a blend of fish and coconut milk. What is unique about this curry however is the addition of Sri Lankan curry powder, tamarind and chilli which gives the dish a distinctly exotic flavour. A well made kirk maalu will have the white fish swimming in a sweet and slightly sour sauce. White rice is usually served as a side and is perfect for soaking up the sauces left behind.
10. Ala thel dala (Devilled potato)
Although Sri Lanka is best known for its yummy, creamy coconut based curries, perhaps one of the most delectable dishes to come from the tropical island nation is Ala Thel Dala, also known by many as devilled potatoes. The name basically means potatoes fried in oil and while that may not sound particularly appealing, these potatoes are loaded with spices and flavour guaranteed to make your taste buds tingle. It is ideal for any occasion and can be served with steamed rice or garlic bread.
11. Sudulunu Maluwa (Garlic curry)
Just as seafood and coconut milk are staples of Sri Lankan cuisine, so too is garlic. It is added to all kinds of curries, stir-fries and is even drunk in boiled water to aid digestion. But by far the tastiest way to enjoy garlic is the Sudulunu Maluwa or Garlic curry. This dish is literally whole garlic pods floating in a pond of golden brown onions, a plethora of spices, a little chilli and of course coconut milk. Prepared just right, the garlic will melt like butter in your mouth. Not only is this dish delicious and wonderfully aromatic, it is also renown for its health benefits. According to Ayurvedic medicine, among many other benefits, garlic is said to combat pimples, ulcers, wounds and even help with snakebites.
12. Bedapu maalu (Fried whole fish)
Being that Sri Lanka is a country that prides itself on its seafood delights, this dish is somewhat of a hallmark of local cuisine. As the name gives away, fried whole fish is literally just that, a wonderfully crisp, seasoned fish served whole with a side of steaming rice and lemon wedges. The fish is salty, the lemon sour and the seasoning wickedly tasty. Add to that a bit of fresh chilli on top and this meal is one that will take your taste buds on a journey.
13. Polos Maluwa (Baby/green jackfruit curry)
Polos Maluwa is another Sri Lankan delight made with the beloved jackfruit. Unlike other jackfruit curries however, Polos Maluwa uses baby jackfruit which gives the dish a distinctly sour flavour. Blended with a variety of aromatic Sri Lankan spices, this dish makes a great substitute for meat as the jackfruit has a similar texture to that of shredded meat. The jackfruit can be prepared in a variety of ways: simply boiled, or curried into milk gravy. Served with a side of rice, this meal is filling and delicious.
14. Maalu ambul thiyal
Uniquely Sri Lankan, this fishy delight is yet another example of extraordinary Sri Lankan cuisine. Maalu ambul thiyal, which can be roughly translated to sour fish curry, has its origins in Sri Lanka’s beautiful south coast. Today however it is loved universally thanks to its intense flavour. During the cooking process, the fish is seeped in spices before being coated in a goraka paste and cooked over a wood fire stove. The paste gives the fish a sourness which is is then balanced out by the spices. It is quite a dry dish so it goes really well with rice.
15. Kiri Hodi
Kiri Hodi is a simple, mildly spicy Sri Lankan dish that is essentially a coconut milk gravy eaten with yummy steamed string hoppers. Not only is it wonderfully fragrant and cream but also extremely versatile. It be used as a base to many other Sri Lankan curries or can have ingredients such as potatoes or hard boiled eggs added to it to bulk it up. Although a fairly basic dish, don’t be fooled by its simple appearances as a tasty and well balanced Kiri Hodi requires practice, patience and knowledge usually passed down from generation to generation to make. It is well worth seeking out when visiting Sri Lanka.
16. Kiri-kos (Jackfruit curry)
Anyone who has spent any time in Sri Lanka will have smelt the wafting, pungent odour of the jackfruit. It is similar to a combination of rotten-onions, bananas and pineapple if you can imagine what that smells like, although far less obnoxious in smell compared to the infamous durian fruit. Despite the smell the jackfruit is second to rice as a staple in Sri Lanka. Not only can it be served on its own or as fried chips, jackfruit also makes a fantastic, deliciously tasty curry. Cooked in coconut milk and combined with aromatic Sri Lankan spices, Kiri-Kos is creamy medley of sweet and sour flavours minus the smell.
17. Black pork curry
Complex and irresistible, Sri Lankan black pork curry is a dish to be cherished. This dark, sinful concoction is made from pork pieces braised in a vast multitude of Sri Lankan spices. And when I say vast I mean vast. It is this variety the gives the dish its complexity and irresistible allure. Blended with onions, garlic, curry leaves and ginger among other things, the spices and produce create a truly tasty dish with wonderful aromatic undertones. If you love pork, it is almost guaranteed you will love this tasty Sri Lankan delight.
18. Karawala thel dala (dried fish curry)
Like many other Sri Lankan foods, dried fish was originally conceived as a nessesity. Before the days of fridges, Sri Lankan fishermen would sell their fresh catches and then salt and dry any remaining stock so as to preserve it for later use. Today, dried fish is still widely used but rather than nessesity, it is used for its wonderfully salty flavour. In karawala thel dala, chunks of dried fish are cooked in a spicy and creamy coconut sauce. Combined with onions, potato, chilli and spices, the dish extremely satisfying and delicious.
19. Pumpkin curry (Wattakka niyambala)
It is sweet and spicy, delicious and tantalising, healthy and heavenly. Sri Lankan Wattakka niyambala or pumpkin curry is another simple yet delicious dish enjoyed through out the nation. This dish is a medley of Sri Lanka dark roasted curry powder, toasted rice and desiccated coconut. Simple to make yet deceptively tasty, the dish is well worth trying for its heavenly flavours and thick creamy texture. Wattakka niyambala is generally served with steamed rice, bread or roti and will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
20. Cuttlefish curry
This dish is a real feast for the tastebuds and yet another hallmark of Sri Lankan seafood culinary delights. Cuttlefish tends to be very tender and has a wonderfully delicate taste which, when combined with the usual Sri Lankan staple of coconut milk and spices, creates a creamy full bodied curry. The goroka meanwhile adds a slightly sour earthy taste and a little acidity to the meal which helps to balance the flavours. This delicacy is another absolute must try for seafood lovers heading to Sri Lanka.
21. Hot butter cuttlefish
There is nothing better than a hot, decadent deep fried dish. And if that is what you are craving then hot butter cuttlefish is the meal that will satisfy your cravings. This plate is an amalgamation of flavour and aromas which are released as the cuttlefish is fried in butter. Hot butter cuttlefish is crispy, sweet, salty and spicy all at the same time, and like most Sri Lankan meals, usually comes with a side of fluffy white rice. Eating a serving of dish of this, or several, should absolutely be at the top of your to do list when in Sri Lanka.
22. Ambarella curry
Ambarella curry is another yummy vegetarian delight on offer in Sri Lanka. Not only is this curry slightly sweet but also loaded with spice. Made from the ambarella fruit, otherwise known as the jew plum, the curry is a wonderful combination of traditional spices, onions, aromatic curry leaves and of course coconut milk. Ripe ambarella has the flavours of mango and pineapple combined with a somewhat sour undertone. It is these tastes that are brought out in the curry as the fruit is cooked giving the meal a very unique flavour that is popular among Sri Lankans.
23. Jaffna Murunga/Drumstick curry
Yet another amazing dish with its origins rooted Jaffna is the Jaffna murunga, or drumstick curry. Judging by the name you may be lead to think this is a chicken dish but believe it or not this dish is completely vegetarian. The murunga is a fruit that is grown on the murunga tree, also referred to as the miracle tree. The fruit derives its alternate name ‘drumstick’ from its long finger like shape that, when cooked, are eaten the same way as artichokes; you drag the flesh away with your teeth. Although they take time and some effort to eat, these meatless drumsticks are totally worth it. Combined with all the usual Sri Lankan curry ingredients they make an absolutely delicious curry.
24. Karawala Hodda (dried fish curry)
Karawala Hodda, or dried fish curry, is yet another mouthwatering seafood delight. Best made with tuna, this meal is a very popular among those living inland and in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The fish component of the dish is dried and preserved with salt. After this process it can then be stored for months without going off. When used in karawala hodda, the dried fish is added to a gravy or ‘hodda’ of spices and coconut milk. It is a very rich, savoury Sri Lankan delicacy that is not to be missed.
25. Banana flower stir-fry (Keselmuwa thel dala)
The Sri Lankan vegetarian cookbook has just about every fruit imaginable made into a curry and the banana is no exception. Also known as Keselmuwa thel dala, the main ingredient in this dish is the banana flower which are bananas in their earliest stages of growth. At this stage you might not even recognise them as bananas however as they look more like big purple bulbs with blossoms tucked inside. While they may not look like much in a vase, they are seriously good in a curry as they have a distinctly sweet taste. Banana flowers are also loaded with health benefits and are said to be particularly good for womens health.
24. Potato stir fry (Ala beduma)
While potatoes don’t play a central role in Sri Lankan cuisine like they do in Western cuisine, they are used in a number of traditional dishes and Ala Beduma is one such dish. Otherwise known as a spicy Sri Lankan potato stir fry, this dish is Sri Lanka’s answer to a Western potato bake. It is essentially a bed of hot and steamy devilled – loaded with spice – potatoes that are fiery on the tongue and filling in the stomach. Ala beduma is simple to prepare and makes a great side dish with rice, bread or string hoppers.
25. Tempered sprats
A signature Sri Lankan delicacy, tempered sprats are one of the many fruits of the ocean that are on offer in Sri Lankan. A plate of the small silver fish, akin to sardines, is traditionally served as a side dish with curries, rice, bread and hoppers. Fried with spices and produce, it is full of flavour and exquisitely crunchy.
Despite having its origins in South India, one of the most common dishes that is served with just about every meal in Sri Lanka is simple yet flavoursome sambaru. This South East Asian delicacy is a blend of lentils and vegetables in a mouth-watering tamarind and coconut sauce which creates a tasty meal with soup like consistency. It is most commonly served with dosa, a thin crepe like dish, or as a side to many curries and other Sri Lankan dishes.
27. Bitter gourd curry
Although named bitter gourd curry, this curry is actually a far from bitter and is actually a wonderfully delectable Sri Lankan meal. Made from the bitter gourd, a popular and widely used vegetable, this curry, also known as Hagalkai palya, is a very simple dish made with few ingredients. The vegetable itself is slightly bitter but when combined with chilli, Sri Lankan spices, coconut, tamarind pulp and a little jaggery to sweeten it up, it loses that bite. While it doesn’t have may components, it still packs a punch in the flavour stakes and is well worth trying. Bitter gourd is also considered to be very good for your heart, liver and immune system so not only are you benefitting your tastebuds by eating this dish, you are also helping your body.
28. Pineapple curry
It may seem like an odd fruit to have in a curry but trust me, the famed Sri Lankan pineapple curry is a treat on the tongue and a dish well worth trying. It is hugely popular among the locals and served in just about every corner of the country meaning you won’t have to go far to get your hands on a bowl of this stuff. Pineapple curry is tantalisingly sweet but has a wicked spice hit. As with practically all Sri Lankan curries, the ingredients in this dish include coconut milk, turmeric and curry powder making it quite rich and creamy with strong flavours.
29. Miris maalu (fish chilli/red curry)
Bursting with spicy flavour, this traditional Sri Lankan curry is a gastro treat with a hot punch. Miris maalu is a light and tasty red curry that is very popular particularly in the south of Sri Lanka. Unlike most Sri Lankan curries however, miris maalu does not have any coconut milk in it which makes it less dense than other dishes. Instead water is used with garlic, ginger, curry leaves and a plethora of delicious spices. Chunks of fish are then added and left to simmer until ready to eat.
30. Sprats curry
Not only do fried sprats make an amazing side dish but they are also great in a curry. A Sri Lankan specialty, sprats curry is a blend of the salty fish, coconut milk, onions, curry leaves, tomatoes, goraka and other spices. The coconut milk makes the dish wonderfully creamy while the fish provides a rich savoury flavour.
The salty deliciousness of this sprats is a key reasons it is so popular among locals and foreigners alike.
31. Saman curry (canned jack mackerel)
It may come from a tin but don’t let that put you off, saman curry, or sardine curry as many Sri Lankans call it, is a delightfully flavoursome dish which is well worth trying. The main ingredient, canned mackerel, is combined with coconut milk, garlic, onion, fenugreek seeds and a multitude of spices to create a creamy full bodied dish that truly delivers on flavour. High in omega 3, protein and zinc, jack mackerel is also touted for its health benefits.
32. Kalu-pol meat curry (pork/chicken)
Kalu-pol or ‘black coconut’ refers to a special paste made from roasted rice, dried chillis, freshly grated coconut, fennel, cumin and mustard seeds. It is then added to a pork or chicken curry to create a delicious dish full of flavour and spice. Traditionally served with red rice or coconut rice (kiribath) and occasionally paratha, a kalu-pol meat curry is definitely worth trying during a visit to Sri Lanka.
33. Mango curry
Anyone with a sweet tooth needs to try Sri Lankan mango curry. It is the dish Sri Lankans turn to for a guilty pleasure; whole mangoes served in a gooey sweet and spicy sauce. Its sweet yet tart flavour is derived from the green mangoes cooked until just tender in a typical Sri Lankan base of spices, coconut milk, aromatics and curry leaves. Added to that is a sprinkling of chilli which creates a dish that will leave your taste buds tingling and your sweet tooth satisfied.
34. Beetroot curry
Deep pink in colour with a unique beetroot flavour, beetroot curry is one of those wonderful treasures in the Sri Lankan cookbook that demands attention. The colour in this dish is also a rather accurate representation of the way Sri Lankans feel about food – very passionate. The dish is simple: beetroot, spices and coconut milk combined, yet like many Sri Lankan dishes, absolutely bursting with flavour. What is unique about the beetroot curry is the earthiness of the beets which contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the coconut milk. The beets are neither crunchy or mushy but a perfectly balanced texture that pairs well with rice.
35. Mushroom curry (Hathu Maluwa)
Any mushroom fans with absolutely love Hathu Maluwa otherwise known as the seven vegetables curry. Although there are many different versions of this glorious dish, a popular one is a Hathu Maluwa made from a base of mushrooms. The raw, earthy, delicate flavour of the mushrooms is perfectly complimented by a dash of coconut milk and spices in this dish. Along with a steaming bowl of rice, mushroom curry Sri Lankan style is a hearty and filling dish. It is also a common feature on the table at many festivals and celebrations.
36. Ela-batu curry
Internationally known as the Thai eggplant curry, ela-batu is a uniquely Sri Lankan delicacy made from small green Thai eggplants. Slightly bitter in taste, these eggplants are completely different in appearance and flavour to the purple aubergine. That said, they are really delicious in a curry and not bitter at all when cooked properly and blended with spices, tamarind, coconut milk and tasty produce. Served with steaming rice, these eggplants just may become your favourite of the eggplant family.
37. Ash Plantain Curry (Alu Kesey Maluwa)
A traditional recipe from northern Sri Lanka, Alu Kesey Maluwa is a delicious delicacy made wholly from the ash plantain fruit. This fruit looks almost exactly like a banana but unlike their doppelgänger, the ash plantain fruit is almost always cooked before it is eaten as raw, ash plantain has a bitter taste. When cooked however, the fruit develops a distinctly sweet and delicious flavour which is the dominant flavour of this curry. Combined with Sri Lankan spices and coconut milk this Alu Kesey Maluwa goes really well with rice and many other curry dishes.
38. Devilled dishes (cuttlefish/prawns/chicken/fish)
In a country renown for its seafood and its spices, a devilled dish is a Sri Lankan specialty you must try while in Sri Lanka. Devilled, in cuisine terms, essentially means a dish cooked with hot spices and in Sri Lanka, there are a number of these dished on offer. The most popular; devilled cuttlefish, prawns, fish and chicken, each with their own unique flavour and taste. Devilled prawns is a hot and spicy dish made with succulent prawns, tomato and a helping of paprika and turmeric which gives the curry its georgeous red colour. Devilled fish on the other hand is fried fish tempered with a sweet and sour sauce. Similarly devilled chicken is cooked in a sweet and sour sauce and is devilishly spicy.
Salads, Sambola, and Pickle
1. Pol Sambola
Made almost wholly from the beloved coconut, Pol Sambola is one of the most loved dishes in Sri Lanka. This is thanks to its unique flavour which is a subtle combination of spiciness from the chillies and a milky flavour from the coconut. Created from combination of red onion, chillies, garlic, Maldive fish, and of course, grated coconut this sambola makes an excellent accompaniment to rice, string hoppers or any bread.
2. Lunu Miris/Katta Sambola
Literally meaning onion (lunu) and chilli (miris) in Sinhala, this dish is a fiery Sri Lankan sambal paste made from a fusion of chilli pepper, red onion, Maldive fish, sea salt and lime juice. It is often served during breakfasts as an accompaniment to egg hoppers, coconut roti or kiri bath (milk rice). The flavours in this dish are distinctively Sri Lankan and a must try for anyone who wants to experience the real cuisine of this tropical island nation.
3. Malay Achcharu (Malay Pickle)
The Malay community of Sri Lanka may be a minority but they have had a huge impact on Sri Lankan cuisine, helping to shape and craft its wonderfully diverse menu. Malay pickle, which is now enjoyed by almost all Sri Lankans throughout the island nation, is a primary example of this contribution. A union of onions, peppers, dates, garlic, ginger, spices and other veggies, this dish is a mix of sweet, sour and hot and makes a great accompaniment to most curries. No feast or wedding buffet is complete without it.
4. Sinhala Achcharu
Crunchy, spicy and full of zing, this Sri Lankan dish also introduced by the Malay community, will perk up even the simplest of meals – not that many meals in Sri Lanka are ever that simple. Made with onions, carrots, raw papaya, garlic and chilli, this pickle is very much a dietary staple in Sri Lanka. Sinhala achcharu makes a wonderful addition to any meal at any time of the day particularly a creamy curry and rice.
5. Seeni Achcharu
This wonderful dish is another gem from the achcharu family and a must try. Seeni Achcharu, a red onion relish, is made from a mouth-watering combination of onions, chilli, sugar, tamarind juice and spices. During the cooking process, the onions are caramelised making this particular achcharu much sweeter than others. Thanks to the spices however, it also has a distinct tang customary of many Sri Lankan pickles. This pickle is delicious alongside any curry and rice dish.
6. Gotu Kola Sambola
Gotu Kola, a leafy green vegetable, is actually better known for its medicinal qualities over its culinary usage. According to traditional Ayurveda medicine, this green is believed to be good for memory and brain function and also great for your eyes, hair and skin. Culinary wise, when combined with grated coconut, onions, chilli, salt and a squirt of lime juice, Gotu Kola makes an amazing salad that is really tangy, crunchy and delicious with an unexpected depth of flavour for such a simple meal.
7. Lunu-Dehi (Lime Pickle)
Lunu Delhi, or lime pickle, is an integral part of Sri Lankan cuisine. Made from ripe yellow limes stuffed with salt crystals this pickle is incredibly sour and tangy but at the same time wonderfully tasty. The crystals act as a preservative which, once a four week fermenting process has taken place, conserves the pickle for about five years. It is also a great way of using up all the excess limes that fall from the trees in Sri Lanka during the summer period.
8. Fried Bittergourd Salad
It may be the most bitter vegetable in the greenery family, but this earthy Sri Lankan delight is surprisingly tasty, particularly when fried. In this salad, the bittergourd is sliced and coated with salt and then fried in oil until golden brown and crispy. The slices are then mixed with onion, tomatoes, chilli and lime juice creating a truly mouthwatering delicacy. Although this salad is best served with a side of plain boiled rice, Sri Lankans also love to eat it as a side dish to a good curry.
9. Polos (Baby/Green Jackfruit)
The jackfruit is a beloved fruit in Sri Lanka and features prominently in the cuisine. Polos is the name in Sinhala for baby or green jackfruit. As unusual as it sounds, jackfruit has a remarkably similar texture to pulled pork so it makes an excellent meat substitute in vegetarian dishes. Flavour wise, polos also tastes very similar to pork however opinions on this are varied. Some say the Sri Lankan delicacy tastes like a mixture of banana, mango and pineapple. Whatever the case, this delicious fruit is well worth trying in order to taste the unique flavour for yourself.
10. Karapincha Sambola
Curry leaves, or karapincha, is an essential element in Sri Lankan cooking and features on the ingredients list of just about every curry, pickle and side dish unique to the tropical nation. Karapincha Sambola is a side dish made almost entirely from curry leaves combined with shredded coconut, garlic, ginger and a few spices. This sambola is ideal with rice and curry. It is also said to be very good for your health as it helps to reduce high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
11. Minchi (Mint) Sambola
Another exquisitely simple but delicious Sri Lankan sambola to try is the minchi, or mint, sambola. Much like the karapincha sambola, this dish is made almost exclusively from minced mint – the only additions to this being garlic, shredded coconut, chilli and lime juice. The mint has a really amazing refreshing flavour and is a perfect accompaniment to really hot food as it acts as a cooling agent. The cooling sensation actually derived from the menthol in the plant which tricks the brain into thinking the area where the menthol is applied – in this case your mouth – is cold.
12. Pol Mellum
Given the coconut’s popularity and prominence in Sri Lankan cuisine, it is only appropriate for there to be a dish made exclusively from shredded coconut with the addition of a few spices. That dish is Pol Mellum, a wonderfully straightforward and uncomplicated meal that tastes amazing and is great to add to curries or any dish really. The shredded, spiced coconut has a flaky consistency to it which, when eaten with curd, creates almost a creamy flavour in your mouth. It is also a great cooling agent for a wickedly hot curry.
13. Tomato salad
Sometimes there is nothing better than a light and refreshing salad to accompany a dish or to have as meal on its own. In Sri Lanka, the most popular kind is a simple tomato salad which combines the red fruit, onions and chilli. Although rudimentary, this plate of goodness is a medley of flavours and completely guilt free. Lets face it, who doesn’t love the humble tomato.
As anyone who has spent anytime eating Sri Lankan food will know, many of the dishes in the Sri Lankan culinary cookbook are very spicy and full of bold flavours. Sometimes the trick to eating these very hot meals is to have something to offset the heat and balance the flavours. A yummy raitha does just that. Made from cucumber, carrot and yogurt, this dish is very cooling and soothing to the palate. Although equally delicious on its own, it makes for a fantastic addition to meals like briyani or any curry dish.
15. Carrot Sambola
Made using freshly grown carrots, this sambola is quick and easy to make, and absolutely delicious to eat. Carrots are naturally sweet and crunchy which makes this dish not only healthy but also fresh and melodious on the tongue. Add to that the taste of onions, grated coconut, chilli and a drizzle of lime and this uniquely Sri Lankan dish is highly enjoyable.
16. Cabbage (Gowa) Mallum
Vegetables play an important role in Sri Lankan food culture and form the basis of many amazing dishes. Mallums are traditionally short-cooked veggie dishes that are often mixed with scraped coconut. There are many different versions of this meal however one of the most popular is the cabbage or Gowa Mallum. A blend of cabbage, coconut, onion, spices and curry leaves, this dish is incredibly easy to prepare and goes really well with many curries and rice. Gowa Mallum also as good for your health as it is for your taste buds making it a real treat for vegetarians and veggie lovers alike.
17. Cucumber salad
Another hugely popular salad dish in Sri Lanka is the cucumber salad. In fact, in many places you go in Sri Lanka, this is what you will get if you ask for a salad. Made primarily from cucumbers, pineapple, tomatoes and lime, this dish is wonderfully refreshing and light. The cool, watery taste of the cucumber pairs well with the sweetness of the pineapple and the zingyness of the lime. It is a great accompaniment of a hot curry or can even just be eaten on its own as a snack.
18. Mango chutney
If you are a fan of a good chutney then Sri Lankan style mango chutney should be at the top of your list to sample. Eaten with a delicious curry or any Sri Lankan dish, this chutney produces a fiesta of flavours that are simply delicious and decadent. Mango chutney is very sweet thanks to the ripe mangoes it is made from however it also has a spiciness to it which comes from the use of chilli and onion. This combination gives the gooey chutney a real depth of flavour that will create sparks on the plate.
19. Ambarella chutney
This tropical fruit, also known as the Jew plum, is yet another of Sri Lanka’s amazing earth offerings. Although it is eaten and cooked in many different ways, one of the best ways to enjoy this fruit is in a chutney. Made using the ambarella fruit, this chutney has the amazing flavours of mango and pineapple combined, with a slightly sour taste which is given by the hard and crunchy outer layer of the fruit. Thanks to the addition of Sri Lankan spices, the chutney also has a slightly heated taste.
20. Chilli paste
No two things go better together than sizzling chilli and pungent, strong garlic. Combine the two with a little ginger, sugar, prawns, oil and soy sauce and you have the most amazingly vibrant and flamingly delicious paste that is a perfect addition to just about any dish in Sri Lanka. This gorgeous chilli paste is an absolute must try for anyone who enjoys food with an abundance of strong and lively flavours. An added bonus is that if you eat enough of this stuff it will keep away the mosquitoes.
1. Curd and treacle
This dessert is a wonderful fusion of curd (plain yogurt) and sweet treacle. The curd, which is made from buffalo milk, is thick, rich and creamy while the treacle, made from the toddy palm, is similar in flavour to pure maple syrup. Together the duo complement each other perfectly and make for a mouth-watering decadent dish that is not too sweet on the palate. This dish is traditionally served in clay terracotta pots which also adds an slightly earthy flavour to the dish.
Sri Lankan aasmi is a famous sweet made from rice flour with hardened treacle on top. The other ingredients in this dish are coconut milk, cinnamon and food colouring which means that not only does aasmi look colourful and unusual but it also tastes incredible. Although a year-round favourite for Sri Lankans, it is especially popular during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year season. Aasmi is a unique, melt in your mouth treat that is a must try when visiting this beautiful country.
An original and unique Sri Lankan treat, Watalappam is a decadent and delicious coconut custard pudding. Made with condensed milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs and spices, this dessert is a lavish treat loved by many Sri Lankans. It is also very popular at weddings, religious festivals and other celebrations and once you try it, you will see why. It is rich, milky and sweet with nutty undertones – a flavour combination that is wholly satisfying on the tongue.
4. Pani walalu
Sickly sweet but so moorish, these typical Sri Lankan treats are a staple throughout the country. Pani walalu is a dish of deep fried coils made from a dal and rice flour mixture. Once fried the coils are then marinated in a pool of sweet treacle. As they soak the coils absorb the sugar and, once removed from the syrup, become a seriously rich and decadent treat that is orange to dark brown in colour. Eaten with your fingers, Pani Walalu is gooey and messy – the golden brown coils dripping with syrup – but so worth trying. In Sri Lanka you will find this dish being served as a side to breakfast, lunch and dinner so it is incredibly easy to get your hands on a plate.
5. Weli Thalapa
Weli thalapa is another wonderfully sweet and decadent Sri Lankan dessert popular among the Sri Lankan people. Like imbul kiribath, it is also a common ceremonial food made during festivals and ceremonies. Weli thalapa is a mixture of rice flour, scraped coconut, coconut treacle and spices and a dark brown appearance and a crumbly toffee like texture. As for the taste, weli thalapa can be described like a crème caramel with an exotic tropical touch. Like most Sri Lankan sweets, it is very sweet but so worth trying.
6. Milk Toffee
Many Sri Lankans will reminisce of milk toffee, otherwise known as Kiri toffee, as being one of the most cherished sweets of their childhood. This is because Sri Lankan milk toffee has long played an important role in the cuisine and has been served in homes throughout the country for generations. Milk toffee is an indulgent milky, nutty, sweet pleasure and it is not hard to see why it inspires such good memories. Although relatively straight forward, this dish is truly Sri Lankan and one to try if you really want to experience the cuisine.
7. Mung Kevum
Mung kevum is a special Sri Lankan dish unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Traditionally a New Years delicacy, this dish is made from mung bean flour, rice flour, sugar and water kneaded into a dough. The dough is then split into balls and moulded into triangles, battered and deep fried. The result is a dish with a crispy skin on the outside, a moist and doughy inside and a rich syrup taste that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
8. Athirasa Kevum
This sweet treat is synonymous with the Sinhala and Tamil new year which is celebrated in Sri Lanka in April each year. Made from rice flour, sugar, jaggery and thala seeds, athirasa kevum is a dish of very sweet fried oil cakes that are golden brown in appearance. While they may not sound overly good for the waist line, they taste delicious and are definitely worth sampling when in Sri Lanka especially if you are there over the new year period.
9. Konda Kevum
Just like athirasa kevum, this dish is an sweet oil cake commonly served during the new year period. Unlike its sister dish however, konda kevum possesses an odd shape with a bun like lump in its centre. It is from its shape that this dish it derives the name konda (hair) – think hair bun on the top of your head but on a round oil cake. Smothered in treacle and sugar and then fried, konda kevum is a special treat that is incredibly rich and is perfect for eating after a hot curry or any other savoury dish.
Sri Lankan kokis is another famous recipe made and served during new year celebrations in Sri Lanka as well as other important celebrations such as weddings and Christmas celebrations. Originally introduced to the tropical island nation by the Netherlanders, this wonderful dish is made from a combination of rice flour, coconut milk, egg, sugar, salt and oil which is poured into a unique flower shaped mould and fried until golden brown. Once cooked, they have the appearance of mini waffles and taste and smell every bit as good.
11. Pol Toffee
Pol toffee or coconut toffee, is another variety of toffee famous is Sri Lanka. Made from condense milk, grated fresh coconut sugar and cashew nuts, pol toffee is wickedly sweet and incredibly decadent. In keeping with the Sri Lankan love affair with all things coconut, the dominant flavours here are of course the milky nutty flavour of the coconut combined with the sweetness of the condense milk. Eaten in small amounts it makes a perfect sweet treat to be enjoyed after a meal or along with a hot cup of milk tea as an afternoon snack.
12. Thala guli (sesame balls)
Sri Lankan sesame balls or thala guli, is one of the few sweet treats that are actually somewhat healthy. Made with only three ingredients; sesame seeds, crushed jaggery and desiccated coconut, which is then rolled into small balls, thala guli is a humble yet incredibly delicious dish and did I mention one that is good for you. These moorish little balls are perfect for a little sugar kick when you need an energy boost and best of all they are almost completely guilt free.
13. Imbul Kiribath
From kings to commoners, this very old, traditional Sri Lankan food, has been a sweet treat loved by all throughout the ages and to this day is as popular as ever. Originally served as a special food in auspicious ceremonies, today imbul kiribath is widely enjoyed as a breakfast meal. The dish is essentially a roll or mound of coconut milk rice with a beautifully sweet and decadent coconut filling hidden inside. The smooth texture of the rice and crunchiness of the filling compliment each other perfectly as does the milky taste of the rice with the sweet, treacle flavour of the filling.
Traditionally made from rice flour or potatoes, treacle, cashew nuts and cardamom, aluwa is a sweet treat served in a flat cookie like form. It is essentially Sri Lanka’s answer to the cookie and delicious at that. There are many different versions of this amazing dish such as rulan aluwa, made by adding coconut and vanilla essence to the base dish, kaju aluwa, which includes cashew nuts, and sesame aluwa which of course included sesame seeds. As with many Sri Lankan sweets it is also a favourite during the new year and on many other special occasions.
Lavariya is a popular tea time snack in Sri Lanka loved and eaten throughout the country. It is sometimes also served during breakfast as many just can’t get enough of the sweet goodness of this dish. Lavariya is essentially a plate of sweet dumplings made using string hoppers, jaggery, coconut, sugar and cardamom powder. The outside of the dumpling is a net of steamed, crispy hoppers while the inside of the dumpling is a wonderfully sweet coconut mixture that is an absolute pleasure to bite into.
16. Wellawahum (Pancakes)
Where ever you are in the world you no doubt will have, at some stage, tried a variation of a pancake. But have you tried the Sri Lankan take on the traditional pancake? Also known as wellawahum, the Sri Lankan style pancake is a doughy pastry rolled into a cylinder and filled with a pani pol filling that is unique to the small nation. Pani pol is a delicious combination of freshly grated coconut, jaggery and cinnamon, among other ingredients and is has the perfect amount of sweetness. Wellawahum is unique in that the pancake itself has an incredibly soft but rough, bubbly texture as oppose to the smooth texture of pancakes and crepes served in other parts of the world. They are truly delicious particularly alongside a hot cup of tea.
Halapa is a traditional Sri Lankan delicacy that is completely unique in its rich flavours and texture. Made from a combination of kurakkan flour, grated coconut, treacle, sugar and cardamom, these desserts are steamed inside large kenda leaves which gives them their complex flavour. The taste of one of these treats is a union of the earthy kurakkan, the richness of the Pani Pol with a subtle fragrance of cardamom laced over top. Then there is the leafy flavour of the kenda leaves which brings all these varied ingredients together into a dish that is unexpectedly delightful.
Aggala or sweet and spicy rice balls are handfuls of round, delicious, sweet heaven. Completely unique to Sri Lanka, this dish makes a perfect afternoon snack with a hot cup of milk tea. The little balls which are brown in colour, are made from a fusion of rice, fresh coconut, treacle and flavoured with traditional spices. This unusual combination gives the dish its distinctively sweet yet spicy characteristics which are so popular among the people of Sri Lanka.
19. Puhul Dosi
When you think of candy, you probably don’t think of fruit right? Well Sri Lankan puhul dosi might just change that. This yummy treat is almost entirely out of ash pumpkin, also known as wintermelon, and is essentially small chunks of sugar coated juicy melon. These chunks are cooked until hard and glassy in texture which allows them to develop a sugary toffee like flavour. Puhul dosi can be eaten on its own or included as an ingredient in other desserts. In Sri Lanka, it is typically added to a well known dessert called the Love Cake.
20. Wandu Aappa
If there is one thing Sri Lankans love outside of curry, it is hoppers and anything made from hoppers. Wandu aappa is a sweet version of this delicious Sri Lankan delicacy and just as popular as its savoury counterpart. Although they are made very similarly however, the dishes look completely different. Traditional hoppers are essentially a hollow bowl shaped pancake. Wandu aappa on the other hand looks almost like an oddly shaped muffin with a kenda kola leaf in place of the baking paper. Freshly cooked, these treats smell heavenly, like warm bread with a sugary scent, and taste just as good.
Behold one of the most beloved fruits of tropical Sri Lanka – the sweet, juicy mango. This special fruit, which grows rampant in the small nation due to the warm humid climate, features prominently in Sri Lankan cooking. In fact, part of what makes Sri Lankan dishes so unique is the inclusion of this wonderful fruit. A mango almost tastes like a mix between a peach and a pineapple. They are incredibly sweet and juicy with a slight tart tang to them depending on how ripe they are when you eat them. An unripe mango is green in colour while a perfectly ripe mango has a yellow orange colour. Both types are used in all sorts of Sri Lankan dishes from curries to sweet deserts.
2. Waraka (Ripe Jackfruit)
The jackfruit, both ripe and unripe, has long been included in many Sri Lankan dishes due to its tropical flavour. The unripe fruit tends to be boiled and used as a meat substitution thanks to its pork like texture. The ripe fruit however, also known as waraka, is very sweet with notes of pear, pineapple and papaya. Outwardly the jackfruit looks very similar to a durian as it is covered by blunt spikes and has a similar large oval shape. Inside the husk however, there are numerous yellow fleshy bulbs which are the edible part of the fruit. In common with other tropical fruits such as durian and banana, the jackfruit is also rich in energy, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will no doubt have tried a pineapple fruit or a pineapple flavoured something. This wonderfully sweet, slightly bitter, pulpy fruit is a favourite tropical delight in Sri Lanka as well as in many parts of the world. In Sri Lanka, the pineapple is hugely influential within the cuisine and used as an additive to many meals or even curried into a meal of its own; the glorious pineapple curry. This fruit is refreshing and so very tasty.
The rambutan is a fruity delight which you likely will never have encountered if you come from a country with a colder climate. These fruits are native to the Malay-Indonesian region and grow like wild fire in Sri Lanka. They look like little red balls with soft spikes which are white and fleshy on the inside with a hard pip in the middle. Although odd in appearance, these little fruits are like the candy of the trees. Rambutan is sweet but at the same time not too sweet with an almost lychee like flavour. Once you start eating them you will find it hard to stop.
The papaya is another fruit unique to tropical nations like Sri Lanka. Round and soft with an orange yellow skin, the papaya is often considered an acquired taste due to its unusual taste. The fruit yields a peppery flavour with a slight crunch yet it has a very creamy feel to it when it is in your mouth. The mild flavour of the papaya is often compared to that of a melon but substantially less sweet. It is one of those fruits that you have to try for yourself to decipher its exact flavours and whether it is to your tastes. In Sri Lanka it is often served as a breakfast fruit.
Also referred to as “queen of the fruits” or “fruit of the gods”, the mangostin is a wonderful South East Asian fruit that is hugely popular in Sri Lanka thanks to its medicinal properties and delicious taste. It plays a major role in almost every aspect of traditional medicine and is first and foremost known for its antioxidant properties which help to boost the bodies immune system as well as reduce harmful free radicals. Mangostin also contains high levels of magnesium which is vital for overall health. It is also known to prevent inflammation and improve digestion among countless other benefits. Did I mention that it also tastes amazing? The mangostin has a round ball shape and goes a deep reddish purple colour when ripe. The inside of this fruit by contrast is white and fleshy with individual slices that taste very sweet, akin to the rambutan.
If you have ever smelled a dooriyan, even once, you will probably remember it. If you haven’t come into contact with this noxious fruit then imagine a combination of turpentine and onions, garnished with a sweaty gym sock. Even with its husk intact, this notorious Asian fruit has such a potent smell that it is banned in many airports and public places. But, that said, the dooriyan actually tastes delicious and surprisingly sweet when ripe. It is one of those fruits people either love or hate. Dooriyan is sometimes eaten raw or cooked and is used to flavour a number of traditional Sri Lankan dishes and candies.
It is difficult to describe the taste of a banana as it is one of those fruits that tends to be used as the basis upon which other fruits are described. That said, the humble banana has a rather subdued flavour since it is not a citrus, and a texture similar to that of a mango. When eaten ripe, the banana is sweet and only gets sweeter the more ripe it gets. Looks-wise it looks, well, like a banana or a yellow smile depending on which way you hold it. Aside from being eaten by itself, there are many uses for the banana in Sri Lankan cuisine, from curries to desserts and snacks. The banana leaf is also commonly used as a serving plate for food or as an outer layer for steaming food.
The creamy, delicious flavour of an avocado is one sought after throughout the world. Luckily for the people of Sri Lanka, it is a fruit that flourishes in hot and humid climates like one of this island nation. As a result, avocados here are abundant and tend to be bigger and somehow creamier than in other parts of the world. The soft green insides are almost like a natural butter and delicious on toast or with literally any meal. That said, the avocado is a notoriously difficult fruit. There tends to be a small window of opportunity within which an avocado is ripe and perfect to eat. The rest of the time avos are either too hard to be eaten or rotten. The taste is so good however, that waiting for the right moment to eat is so worth while and thanks to the multitude of them grown in Sri Lanka, chances are you may never have to wait at all.
At first glance this fruit looks almost inedible. It has a hard dark green skin that is covered in what looks like small spikes. Inside however, is a decadent treat of white fleshy bulbs that taste like sugary sweet custard with an ever so slight sour twang. The exact flavour of the fruit is often described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple with citrus notes. Not only does it taste amazing but soursop is loaded with health benefits as it is high in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and iron and is also low in calories. The seeds of this fruit are also used to treat vomiting, used to treat skin disorders and even applied directly to wounds to help speed up healing.
11. Cashew apple
Unbeknown to most, the humble, creamy cashew nut that is popular worldwide is actually grown on the cashew tree beneath the cashew apple. Although most of us know the cashew nut, few know the cashew apple or give it the time of day that it deserves. Unfortunately, this fruit is very often discarded or left to rot on the trees until it can be separated from the nut. Those who are familiar with the cashew apple however, use it to sweeten up curries or make it into juices or jams. It is also the main component in an alcohol known as the cashew feni – a very strong and unique liquor popular throughout Southeast Asia.
These sweet little heart shaped treats are a worldwide favourite fruit. Bursting with flavour and juice when ripe, strawberries are akin to candy but the natural kind – they are very sweet, slightly acidic, zingy and incredibly delicious. Bright red in colour, strawberries have an outer layer characterised by tiny seeds while on the inside is a red fleshy body soaked in red juice. Not only are they grown in countless parts of the world, strawberries are also used in just about everything from desserts to milkshakes, candies and jams.
Depending on the variety and degree of ripeness, the seeds of the pomegranate can vary in taste from only a little sour to fairly sharp. Ripe pomegranate have a similar flavour to that of ripe cherries – sweet and juicy. The fruit is the size of a large orange with six rounded sides and a leathery skin that ranges in colour from yellow through to brown and red. Inside there are several chambers filled with think transparent veins and red juicy pulp that surround small black seeds. The brilliant thing about a pomegranate is the way it is literally bursting with flavour when you bite into one of the pods. This is what makes it a fantastic flavour boost in a salad or dessert.
14. Passion fruit
The passion fruit is a very sweet and exotic fruit with a delicious, slightly tart flavour. Round with a slightly wrinkled, deep purple hard skin, the passion fruit has a yellow pulp with black, edible seeds. Each individual seed is wrapped in a slimy yellow jelly which is where all the sweet deliciousness of this fruit comes from and also the slightly tart flavour and distinct smell. The passion fruit is known for its perfumed scent that can only be described as passionfruit. This wonderfully tropical fruit makes a fantastic addition to many desserts and juices. It is also delicious stirred through yogurt or just eaten straight from the skin.
Otherwise known as the rose apple or Java apple, jambu is a delicious fruit common throughout South East Asia. In Sri Lanka, these little fruits tend to be the reddest and sweetest variety due to the climate and are often used in desserts and salads. This fruit has a pear like shape with a waxy skin and crusty flesh. In truth, it really just looks like an oddly shaped apple and actually tastes very similar to an regular apple with subtle notes of honey. Jambu is said to have a particularly cooling effect on the body making it the perfect fruit to enjoy on a hot day.
1. Malu Paan (Fish bun)
The Sri Lankan Malu Paan is a semi-triangular bun full of steaming hot, succulent fish, traditional Sri Lankan spices and potato encased in a layer of soft bread. In other words it is a mouth full of delicious flavour. The bread taste of the bun is beautifully complimented by the zingy, slightly salty flavour of the filling. Malu paan also has a heavenly smell of fresh, warm bread and fish combined. This decadent short eat is an absolute must try when in Sri Lanka.
2. Chinese fish rolls
The famed Chinese fish roll forms an essential part of the very Sri Lankan “short eats” mafia. These thin, round rolls coated with bread crumbs, stuffed with a delicious fish filling and deep fried to perfection are a favourite among the young and the old alike. So much so that this dish features in almost every occasion from birthdays, anniversaries and get togethers with friends to weddings and funerals. As for the rolls origins, nobody really knows where this treat came from and although it is referred to a the Chinese roll, there is really nothing Chinese about it. Rather, it is Sri Lankan in every way and a dish that nearly every child will have grown up eating.
3. Elawalu roti (vegetable roti)
Elawalu roti, or vegetable roti, is an all time favourite short eat in Sri Lanka. Made from delicious godamba roti stuffed with potato, onions, vegetables and spices, this snack goes down a treat with a zingy sauce. Elawalu roti is an integral part of Sri Lankan food culture. No matter where you go in the country, you will find different variations of these savoury snacks. They are like the Sri Lankan version of tapas.
4. Mutton rolls
A popular short eat among the locals is the mutton roll. Made from tender pieces of mutton mixed with potato, seasoned with spices and wrapped in a pastry exterior, this dish is quite similar to the Chinese fish roll in that it is also smothered in bread crumbs and deep fried until crisp. The end result is a mouth watering, steaming hot roll of savoury goodness which tastes like a roast lamb in a crisp shell. Eaten with a spicy dipping sauce, mutton rolls are perfect for those peckish times of the day.
5. Ulundu Wade
It may resemble the shape of a doughnut but this delicious Sri Lankan short eat is anything but. Rather, ulundu wade is a wonderful savoury dish made from a combination of dhal, onion, chilli, curry leaves and seasoning which is then deep fried. Ulundu wade is both doughy and soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They are particularly tasty when eaten with a coconut chutney and ketchup as the sauces perfectly compliment the savoury flavours and spices of the dish.
When visiting Sri Lanka it is absolutely essential to try cutlets. As far as short eats go, this delicious treat is a champion of flavour. Although there are many different varieties of this particular short eat, the fish version is by far the favourite among the Sri Lankan people. Round and disk like in shape, fish cutlets are made with tuna, potatoes, onion, garlic and the usual plethora of aromatic Sri Lankan spices, rolled into a batter of bread crumbs and deep fried. Not only are they filling but also very comforting.
7. Dhal Wade
Dhal wade is by all means a quintessential street food of south India and Sri Lanka. Much like ulundu wade, dhal wade is made from dhal, onion, chilli, curry leaves and seasoning however the difference lies in its appearance. While ulundu wade resembles a doughnut in shape, dhal wade on the other hand looks very much like an oatmeal cookie. The outside of this treat is rough and round in shape while the inside it tender, moist and warm. Dhal wade is Sri Lankan short eats at its best.
Rated as one of the best and most popular Sri Lankan short eats, samosas can be found cooking on the stove tops of just about every street vendor across the country. These delicious triangles shaped treats are deep fried stuffed pastries filled with a wide variety of fillings depending on your tastes. Hard and crunchy on the outside, a good samosa will be soft and stuffed with the savoury flavours of potatoes, meat and of course a whole lots of spices. Try them with a good chutney and you are guaranteed to be left wanting more.
9. Ala Bonda
Ala bonda, otherwise known as potato bonda, is another amazing Sri Lankan short eat made primarily from spiced potatoes battered in gram flour and deep fried. This dish is a traditional short eat embodying the classic tastes of Sri Lanka; full flavoured spice with a deep fried crunch. Eaten with a chutney or other salsa, this round balls make for an absolutely delicious afternoon treat.
10. Stuffed chillies
As chillies are a key ingredient in almost all Sri Lankan dishes it is only logical that they also form a dish of their own. Introducing stuffed chillies which, as the name gives away, are basically traditional Sri Lankan banana chillies stuffed with potatoes, beef, onions, tomatoes and other spices and then battered and deep fried. The result is a dish that not only packs a punch in the spice stakes but also has classic flavours of meat and potato in it. Stuffed chillies are absolute must try for spice lovers visiting Sri Lanka.
Like many other Sri Lankan foods, patties were originally brought to the island during the colonial period. Originally a British food, Sri Lankans have long since claimed patties as their own and have added their own twist. These delicious half moon shaped short eats are filled pastries which are then baked or deep fried. Wonderfully versatile, they can be filled with fish, beef, chicken or vegetables and of course essential Sri Lankan spices. There are very few limitations on what will taste good in a patty so feel free to get creative. Try them with a delicious chutney for extra flavour.
If there is one thing Sri Lankans know how to do in the kitchen it is transform puff pastry into beautiful gastronomic treats. The variety of snacks and short eat pastries are never ending, each one as delicious and decadent as the next. Pastries come in both sweet and savoury form and are crafted with ingredients such as coconut or spices. Among the most popular varieties are salty fish filled pastries and the egg and bacon filled pastries. Whatever they are filled with, pastries are guaranteed to make your taste buds tingle.
13. Isso (prawn) Wade
Isso wade is one Sri Lankan deep fried specialty not to miss. Often described as one of Sri Lanka’s top street foods, this short eat is a countrywide favourite snack. Oval in shape, red in colour and made from a mixture of gram flour, chilli, spices and of course prawns, this island specialty is packed with flavour. The cakes are generally round, flat and have two or three long prawns pressed into them – with the heads still intact. The dish is accompanied by a combination of carrot, onions, green chillies, lime and a zesty chilli sauce which help bring the plate to life. Biting into one of these treats will fill your mouth with the tart chilli sauce, the lime and onion infusion and the crispy salty prawns – a real taste experience.
Murukku is yet another delicious Sri Lankan short eat enjoyed throughout the country. These odd looking fried chickpea and rice flour wheels, which are deep fried and coated in sugar, are absolute culinary heaven. Cooked to perfection, they are crispy on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside with a similar flavour and texture to the Dutch churro. There are many variations on the standard murukku including a savoury version which swaps the sugar for salt and chilli. Sweet or salty, these snacks are delicious.
The humble sandwich makes a regular appearance in the Sri Lankan cookbook – with a Sri Lankan twist of course. You will find an enormous variety on the streets of the small nation filled with anything from meat, fish and chicken to simply veggies. The typical sandwich tends to be a rainbow of colour due to the variety of veggies used. Due to their popularity, you will no doubt at some stage encounter a Sri Lankan style sandwich during your travels in the country.
1. Milk Tea
While most Sri Lankans prefer their tea black, there are those who prefer tradition milk tea for its smoother flavour. Sri Lankan milk tea is typically made by adding steaming hot milk to brewed Ceylon black tea along with a heaped spoon of sugar. The end result is a fantastic cup of sweet tea that goes perfectly alongside a sweet treat or pastry. Although you can find tea with milk in pretty much any part of the world, this tea tends to have a much bolder flavour due to the Ceylon leaves. It is a particular favourite among foreigners visiting Sri Lanka who tend to enjoy a more creamy beverage.
2. Tea (Balck tea)
As the fourth largest producer of tea in the world, it is only to be expected that Sri Lankan’s make a fantastic cup of tea. Tea has been a primary industry in the nation since 1824 when the British brought a plant from China to Ceylon (as Sri Lankan was known at the time). Primarily grown in the country’s several central highlands where the climate is humid and cool, Sri Lankan tea is known worldwide for it high quality, unique taste and aroma. In fact, each district of the seven districts where tea is grown yields leaves with their own distinct character due to slight variations in climate. The industry remains to this day as a primary source of income for the small island nation so when visiting Sri Lanka, prepare to drink a lot of tea.
3. Iced tea
As the name suggests, this beverage is a combination of organic Ceylon black tea with ice. On days when it is too humid to drink a hot tea, this Sri Lankan drink is the perfect solution. It is fresh, cold and a great way to cool down. For those who enjoy a sweeter taste, ice tea can be brewed with the addition of fruit and then chilled. This adds a subtle fruity taste which perfectly compliments the dark, slightly bitter flavour of the Ceylon tea. Most popular fruity addition is lemon however other flavours are just as delicious.
4. King Coconut (Thambili)
There is nothing more refreshing and cooling on a hot summers day in Sri Lanka than a big, juicy king coconut, or Thambili, filled to the brim with natural coconut water. Sipping on one of these bad boys is actually one of the best things about travelling around this beautiful country. While in other countries, coconut water can only be bought in a pricy can or bottle, here in Sri Lanka, locals and visitors alike can buy fresh, whole coconuts for a pittance from street vendors across the country. King coconuts are unusual in their colouration – yellow orange – and are very important for the Sri Lankan people, who refer to it as a “living pharmacy” due to its numerous health benefits. They tend to be much sweeter than their smaller, green coconut counterparts.
5. Divul Kiri (wood apple with coconut cream)
Divul kiri, also known as wood apple juice, is a delightful drink made from the combination of wood apple and coconut cream. It tends to be sweet and thick with subtle coconut flavours. Native to the Indian sub-continent, the wood apple is a unique ball sized fruit that embodies a sweet and acidic flavour. On the outside these unusual fruits look like mouldy coconuts and smell rather funky – like a combination of blue cheese and raisins. On the inside, they look equally as unappealing, brown and mushy but boy do wood apples taste delicious, similar to that of a sweet tamarind fruit. Combined with coconut cream, wood apple juice is a divine treat.
6. Fresh fruit juices
Once you have tried a freshly squeezed juice, you will never want to drink it any other way. A fresh juice is a pleasure with each mouthful and wonderfully refreshing. On the streets of Sri Lanka, you will see many a vendors expertly extract and combine different fruits to create tasty concoctions. Among the most popular choices for juices are mango, banana, apple and orange however any and all fruits in Sri Lanka can be found squeezed into a juice. The combination options are also endless. Not only are they ridiculously tasty but also nutritious and a great way to get your five-plus a day.
Unique to India and Sri Lanka, a lassi is a delicious smoothie like drink made from natural plain yogurt, water and spices. Lassie comes in two distinct flavours; sweet and savoury. The sweet version is typically made using mango and is think, rich and creamy. The savoury version on the other hand is often flavoured with ground or roasted cumin. Both versions are thick and packed with flavour. A lassi is generally enjoyed as a hot weather refreshment and, thanks to its creamy taste, it is also the perfect way to cool your mouth after eating a fiery Sri Lankan curry.
8. Masala tea
Masala tea is a uniquely sweet and spicy beverage brewed in Sri Lanka that is widely consumed throughout the country and the world. The scent of this tea is a combination of fragrant cinnamon, chai and other Sri Lankan spices while the taste is sweet and creamy. Blended with milk this tea tends to be quite rich, full bodied and so very tasty. The balance of sweet and spicy can be varied to your tastes however you will generally find this beverage more on the sweet side. Typically served hot, this masala tea is best enjoyed in the early morning or at night after dinner.
Faluda is a sweet, rich and decadent Sri Lankan beverage enjoyed by children and adults alike. Although it is classified as a beverage, this sweet treat is really a cold dessert traditionally made from rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet basil seeds and pieces of jelly with milk. It is then often topped off with a scoop of ice cream. The drink typically has a strong strawberry taste that goes really well with the chewy jelly pieces and unsweetened vermicelli noodles. The addition of ice cream makes it a creamy, heavenly treat perfect for enjoying in Sri Lanka’s hot climate.
10. Elephant Ginger Beer
Elephant Ginger Beer is a hugely popular carbonated soft drink served countrywide. Ice cold, it is wonderfully refreshing, smooth and arguably one of the best ginger beers you will find in the world. EGB is made with natural Ayurvedic ginger grown from local farmers in the hill-country and is said to have certain medicinal properties. Whatever the case may be, Elephant Ginger Beer is well worth trying on your travels in Sri Lanka.