Sri Lanka, the significant tourist attraction, is a tropical island settled amidst the blue waves of the Indian Ocean. Thus, its long-lived culture and traditions have more or less been shaped by the influences of the Indian culture. Indeed, it was as a result of that, this island was blessed with Buddhism. Duly, the Sri Lankan way of life evolved around the Buddhist values for two hundred decades. Moreover, it’s not a secret that this land was a colony for a good number of years. Hence, the delightful Sri Lankan culture is a good reflection of all these divergent cultures. Besides, the Sri Lankan flood culture also holds a significant place with regard. Let it be street food, seafood, or any other food item on this island. All of them have noteworthy shades of all these cultural impacts. Yet, this especially reminds us of the cultural food in Sri Lanka.
As you might already know, Sri Lanka is home to a number of ethnicities. Accordingly, Sinhalese Buddhists, Sinhalese Christians and Catholics, Tamil Hindus, Tamil Christians, Muslims, and Burghers, all live in harmony on this beautiful island. Yet, they celebrate a number of fabulous festivals in a way that exhibits their unique cultural values. Moreover, the exclusivity of these festivals gets simply magnified, owing to the set of wonderful food items, that each of these ethnic groups brings to the table. Simply, almost all the dishes that they prepare, offer a blend of flavors, brought out with their authentic culinary styles. Of course, they hold with them the magic that not only fascinates Sri Lankans but also overseas visitors. Thus, they remain as Sri Lankan food items that should never be missed on this island. Hence, we thought of sharing with you their delight.
Cultural food in Sri Lanka
Above all, let us have a quick glance over the most popular cultural food items in Sri Lanka.
- Milk rice (Kiribath)
- Mun Keum
- Undu Wal (Pani walalu)
- Saw dodol
- Pongal (Pongal Rice)
- Aval Upma (Flattened Rice)
- Gulab Jamun
- Daging Chukka (Beef Chukka)
- Sookun Goring (Fried Breadfruit)
- Christmas Cake
- Boiled Eggs
- Hot Cross Buns
- Roast Lamb
Indeed, it is simply snackers and crackers that come into our minds when we hear about certain festivals. So, it is not a secret that most of these food items are closely related to some of the festivals celebrated by various ethnic groups. They have that much of a remarkable bond with cultural food. So, for a better overview, let us get to know about these delicate food items, along with the cultural festivals that they are related to.
Sinhalese Cultural Food Items in Sri Lanka
Sinhalese culinary styles are indeed impressive. Moreover, the passion Sinhalese have for preparing various kinds of amazing food items is never any less. Thus, the Sinhalese culture offers a wonderful collection of food items. With time, owing to the bustling lifestyles, the instances where Sinhalese prepare these foods at home are limited. Yet, the seasons of Sinhala and Tamil New Year each year create ample opportunities for Sinhalese all around the world to celebrate the delight of the Sinhalese cultural food. Hence, we can never forget the ‘Avurudu Food Table’, when exploring the delicacy of the Sinhalese cultural food in Sri Lanka. So, why not? Let us get to know about them with the help of the avurudu food table.
Avurudu Food Table
The Avurudu food table is rich with a bunch of sweetmeats. The number of sweet dishes and the types may vary from house to house. Yet, milk rice would be inevitable, and indispensable.
1. Milk rice
Milk rice, or ‘kiribath’ as Sri Lankans call it, is the main dish at the Avurudu table. It is a fine mixture of coconut milk and rice and is indeed a celebratory dish. It pairs well with jaggery, chili paste, or a spiced curry. Still, it is the ‘lunu miris’ that is the most popular accompaniment for it. Besides, milk rice is a sign of property, luck, and happiness. Hence, it simply happens to be indispensable in any of the other special occasions of Sri Lankans, especially Sinhalese. Moreover, milk rice is a popular traditional breakfast dish in the day to day lives of Sri Lankans as well.
2. Konda Keum
Keum is simply a crowd-pleaser in the Sinhalese food culture. Generally, it is widely available during the Avurudu seasons, and happens to be an indispensable sweet on many other special occasions as well. It is a dark brown round sweet which is a deep-fried blend of flour, treacle, and many other additions. Of course, it is a bit oily. Still, it is a fine soft sweet that fascinates anyone with just a single bite. Also, ‘Athiraha’ and ‘Naran Keum’ are the two main variants of this Keum family.
3. Mun Keum
In brief, Mun keum is a golden brown diamond-shaped sweet that amuses anyone with its crunches and wonderful blends. It is believed that Mun Keum emerged in Sri Lanka, with the impacts of the Indian civilization. However, even though Hindus also add a quite similar sweet to their festival plates, Mun Keum is unique in nature and Sri Lankan favors are never any less in it.
Kokis is a significant sweat for New Year, as well as for other auspicious events. There is a belief that Kokis emerged in Sri Lanka, owing to the influences of the Dutch civilizations. However, Kokis is now a favorite among many in Sri Lanka. Indeed, its yellowish crispy textures are one of the main reasons behind this love. Further, it comes out in decorative shapes, as a combination of rice flour, and coconut milk, magnifying its looks, as well as its tastes. So, for a long time, Kokis remains as one of the ‘musts’ in an ‘avurudu table’.
Aasmi is yet another sweetmeat of Sinhalese culture, that amuses locals, as well as tourists. It is made out of a batter of rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar, in a way that its strings overlap forming a half-circle. At a glance, it looks like a pack of string hoppers. Yet, it is significantly different, owing to its sweet flavors, and crunchy textures. It is the drizzles of sugar syrup on it that make it much sweeter and alluring.
Aluwa is one of the less spiced, diamond-shaped sweetmeats of Sinhalese, which is simply a must-have in any of the festive tables. How Sri Lankans prepare it might vary from province to province. Yet, the basic batter of Aluwa is made with rice flour and sugar. According to the preferences, and practices followed, many enhance its flavor with fine additions such as cashew nuts and treacle. Whatever the additions are, all of them make this sweet treat a pack of delighting flavors, that fascinates the taste buds of any.
7. Undu Wal
Craving to satisfy your sweet tooth with something special? If so, the undu wal, also popular as Pani walalu, is the perfect choice for you! In brief, it is a deep-fried golden-brown sweet coil, soaked in treacle. Once you taste it, you will be fascinated by its sweet flavors. Moreover, undu wal is a fine piece of art. Also, preparing them indeed needs perfect culinary skills.
8. Sau dodol
In brief, sau dodol is a honeyed brownish piece of sweet, which is also ideal as a dessert. It is mellow in nature and is a sweet that comes out of caramels and steams. It ranks top in the list of favorites among Sri Lankans, owing to the sugary flavors that it unveils by the sugar tooth of yours. After all, sau dodol is a significant element in the list of Sinhalese sweetmeats, that leaves you craving for more!
Looking for a healthy vegan snack for tea time? If so, Halapa is one of the best traditional delicacies. It comes out as a steamed combination of Kurakkan, rice flour, and carmelized treacle. Moreover, it takes the shape of a half-circle, and is delicately wrapped with a ‘Kanda leaf’. While it is being steamed, it makes anyone fascinated with its mouth-watering smells. Later on, its tastes might further magnify the fascination. Owing to these wonderful factors, it not only remains an ‘awurudu sweet’, but also a day-to-day snack as well.
Tamil Cultural Food Items in Sri Lanka
Of course, as with the Sinhalese, Tamil festivals also maintain a remarkable bond with cultural food. They celebrate a number of vibrant festivals with togetherness, and cultural food plays a special role with regard. Among them, it is during the Thaipongal, Diwali, and the Sinhala and Tamil New Year that they prepare the most number of traditional dishes. Simply, Tamil cultural food in Sri Lanka takes its societal values to the next level, with their awe-inspiring tastes and authenticity. Hence, it is essential that we find about them, in the journey of exploring the exclusivity of the cultural culinary traditions. Thus, we thought of sharing with you a few noteworthy Tamil cultural dishes in Sri Lanka.
10. Pongal (Pongal Rice)
Pongal, also known as Pongal rice, is one of the most popular dishes among the Tamil community. As its name says ‘rice’, many might guess that it is the main meal, since Sri Lanka is more like a land of ‘rice and curry’. Still, Pongal is a traditional sweet dish of rice pudding, mainly served as a dessert. Similarly, to the ‘milk rice’ of Sinhalese, Tamils consider Pongal rice as a symbol of luck, happiness, and prosperity. Hence, they not only prepare it for Thaipongal, but also during the special occasions of their lives as well. However, with its unique flavors of Tamil culinary traditions, it happens to be a favorite of Tamils, as well as of non-Tamils.
Badusha is a mouth-watering pastry like deep-fried sweet, which is later dunked in a rose flavored syrup. There is no wonder if you have heard about this earlier since Badusha is highly popular in the South Indian region. Indeed, it is from the South Indian influence that this sweet emerged in Sri Lanka. However, it is now a popular food item among the Sri Lankan Tamil society, especially in the Diwali season.
The vibrant festivity of Diwali hardly lacks a bunch of snackers. Besides, murukku would never fail to glam up the celebrations in a way like no other. It is a crunchy snack, which would amaze anyone with its delicious flavors. Moreover, its golden brown looks and the appealing smells would make anyone taste it at least a bit. It comes in circular twists, which has given it the name ‘Murukku’, which means ‘twists’ in Tamil. Originated in India, it is now one of the popular snacks among Tamils as well as other communities in Sri Lanka.
13. Aval Upma (Flattened Rice)
Some might consider it a breakfast dish, while some consider it a snack. However you chose to have it, Aval Upma is one of the best! It is a delicious dish with rice that can be prepared very easily. Moreover, it is mainly prepared for prayer ceremonies and blessed offerings of Tamils. Aval Upma is always a pack of nutrients. Still, you can further magnify its health benefits, by simply adding more veggies as per your wish. It is popular as ‘Flattened Rice, and ‘Sweetened Flattened Rice’ as well.
14. Gulab Jamun
Craving for something creamy and sweet? If so, Gulab Jamun is the perfect choice for you! Sometimes, you might have heard about it, since it is popular in countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the Maldives. However, Gulab Jamun is a favorite among many of the Sri Lankans as well. It is a fine round sweet, which is strictly based on solid milk variants. They are kneaded into a dough, shaped, deep-fried, and then soaked in a sugary syrup. Finally, it will come to your hands as an amazing sweet that would fascinate you with its delighting flavors.
Muslim Cultural Food Items in Sri Lanka
Of course, Islamic festivals bring out the emotional excitement of the Islam religion at its best. While some of their festivals are strictly related to religious activities, some bring out celebrations that cheer up the festive seasons. Among them, the Ramadan festival has a significant bond with food. Hence, when exploring the authentic Muslim culinary styles, it is important that we pay special attention to the Ramadan festival.
Ramadan Food in Sri Lanka
As you might already know, the Ramadan celebration marks the end of a fasting period, which continues for more than a month. Hence, Islams never hesitate to prepare special dishes, get together, and enjoy with much pleasure. You can find below some of the most popular cultural food items that they prepare for Ramadan in Sri Lanka.
Biryani happens to be the main cultural food that is indispensable during the seasons of Ramadan in Sri Lanka. Besides, the delicious dish of Biriyani is not something new for you. It is a mixed rice dish, flavored with cashew nuts, meat, and veggies. There is a belief that it originated among the Muslims in India. Yet, the Biryani dish that the Sri Lankan Islams make, with the use of authentic Sri Lankan spices, and the unique culinary styles, make it special, and exclusive. Hence, not only Muslims long to enjoy this magical Biriyani dish, but also the non-Muslims in Sri Lanka. Simply, it is that fantastic and it leaves one wanting for more.
Yet another stupendous dish of Muslims, still loved by many! As you might already know, Watalappan is a coconut custard pudding, having milk, jaggery, eggs, and various spices as ingredients. Its creamy texture coupled with the sweetened flavors and warming spices, make it a dessert that is second to none. Further, many add a topping with cashew nuts, to further enhance its delicacy and amusement. All these together, make any who tastes watalappan, crave for more and more.
17. Daging Chukka (Beef Chukka)
Beef Chukka is a fantastic meat dish that pairs best with the Ramadan Biriyani. This dish is perfectly assorted with fried onions, tomatoes, chillies, and crushed ginger and garlic. Thus, it brings out a series of amusing flavours along with the hot and spicy touches of the Sri Lankan spices.
18. Sookun Goring (Fried Breadfruit)
Sweet and spicy sookun goring, which means fried breadfruit, is one of the most loved snacks among the Muslim cultural food in Sri Lanka. They are sliced, deep-fried, and seasoned, preserving their bunch of tastes for a longer period. Moreover, their crispy textures, paired with the amazing flavors and savors, makes it hard to find anyone who dislikes this wonderful dish.
Food Culture of Christian Celebrations
Christians’ and Catholics’ ways of living are shaped in a way that is more or less the same as Sinhalese. Hence, there are not that many significant differences in the food items that they especially prepare for their festive seasons. Generally, Christians and Catholics also prepare a dish of milk rice at their celebrations and special occasions. Apart from that, it is Easter, and Christmas that exhibit their food culture up to a certain extent. Hence, for the moment, let us highlight the most noteworthy dishes and sweets that they prepare with regard.
19. Christmas Cake
The traditional Christmas cake happens to be a fruit cake, in which some make the use of excess wine fruits. Yet, with the methodical evolution of the culinary styles and techniques, Christmas cake is not bound to this typical fruit cake. Many Christians and Catholics, tend to prepare an icing cake in the way they love, bringing out their creativity with vibrant shades and amusing flavors.
Easter Food in Sri Lanka
It is indeed rare to find families that follow the Easter food culture in Sri Lanka. Still, the up-scale hotels around major cities on this island, offer a good collection of Easter food. For your information, we have highlighted some of the most popular Easter food items below.
20. Boiled Eggs
Of course, eggs and Easter maintain a remarkable connection owing to the ‘Easter Eggs’ culture. As you might already know, eggs signify ‘new life’. Hence, there is a custom of having boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter weekend.
21. Hot Cross Buns
There is a belief that the cross on the top of this bun symbolizes crucifixion. Hence, the custom is to have Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.
22. Roast Lamb
Lamb is related to Easter owing to the fact that Jesus is referred to as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Duly, many up-scale hotels that arrange Easter celebration never forget to add roast lamb to their menus, especially on Easter Sunday.
By now, we have covered a good number of cultural food items on this island of Sri Lanka. Of course, due to the bustling lifestyles, slight changes are taking place, with regard to the cultural values linked with each of these communities. Duly, the cultural food items, have faced the threat of disappearing. Yet, thanks to these grand-scale festivity seasons, the cultural food items in Sri Lanka are still alive.
Besides, after getting to know all about these amazing dishes, you might be surely wondering where to buy them. Nothing to worry! We are ready to help you clear out that doubt as well. Continue reading, and you will find everything that you need to know with regard.
Where to buy cultural food in Sri Lanka?
During the festivity season, there is nothing to worry about! You can always find them enough and more, throughout the island. Yet, by chance, if you are backpacking in Sri Lanka during another time period, the following places might help you fulfill your cravings.
- Hela Bojun Food Court
- Bombay Sweet House
Go through the following briefs to get to know them better.
Hela Bojun Food Court
Hela Bojun food courts can be found in almost all the major cities in Sri Lanka. They are located in a spacious surrounding, with open kitchens, serving an extensive range of Sri Lankan cultural food. Further, the Ministry of Agriculture funds them. Hence, there is nothing for you to think twice of their quality. They would offer you what you want and assure us, the bill won’t be heavy for your pocket!
Bombay Sweet House
Simply, just a visit to Bombay Sweet House would even be deliciously sweet! It is that much of a paradise of sweets. Thus, you can easily find many of the Sinhalese and Tamil cultural food items, or rather sweetmeats, on the shelves of this sweet palace.
Obviously, it is the sweets that would be a bit hard for you to find, if it is not the festive season. So, the above two spots take that burden away. Apart from that, the food items that we have mentioned with regard to the Muslim communities, can be easily found at any of the Muslim restaurants, as well as in other restaurants during any of the time of the year. By chance, if you are aiming for the Easter season, many of the upscale hotels and restaurants would offer Easter packages. Either your travel guide or simple research on the internet would help you get to know about them when Easter is approaching.
The Bottom Line
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the cultural food in Sri Lanka is simply amazing. They take to the world the fascination of the exclusive culinary styles of this splendid island. Also, even though we divided these food items as to their cultures, it is the harmonious entanglement of these cultures that make the Sri Lankan heritage shine brighter. Moreover, it is not only one specific ethnic group that celebrates these festival seasons, but all Sri Lankans together. All of them share their sweetmeats, with each other, and spread love and joy throughout the island during these celebrations. Hence, witnessing these cultural values, as well as enjoying these delicate food items, should never be missed. So, never regret later ignoring the opportunities of exploring this delight. Have a nice time in Sri Lanka!