Any of us would love to enjoy a delectable dish. It would indeed be more special if it comes from another country. Might be you are a traveler, might be you are not. Whatever it is, this love that we have for food can never be underrated. Indeed, food has that much of a bond with our lives. However, let us take a step ahead. Let us be more specific! What kind of experience do you have with Sri Lankan Food? By chance, if you have visited this splendid island, there is no secret that you know about its delicacy. Of course, some of them do have a simple touch of South Indian flavors. Still, Sri Lankan Food is unique. They are authentic. Hence, they remain an important facet that delights any of the visitors who arrive on this island.
As you might already know, Sri Lanka is a multicultural country. Its population is a mix of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, and Burghers. All these communities have traditions and cultures of their own. So, they have traditional food items as well. Moreover, Sri Lanka is a country that was colonized for several years. Thus, it is with the impact of all these shades, that Sri Lankan food culture comes to the fore. Apart from that, Sri Lanka is a significant tourist attraction. The digitized world has made Sri Lanka open to global trends. Sri Lankans have more connections with overseas communities in the present. So, it is never a secret that Sri Lanka is now a country with a significant influence from foreign food cultures as well.
Yet, the exclusivity of the real Sri Lankan food remains the same. Hence, exploring Sri Lankan Food is a must.
So, why not? Let us together discover its supremacy.
A Detailed Outline on Food on this island!
As we always say, the island of Sri Lanka is simply a land like no other. It has got something to offer for anyone who arrives on this island. It has that much of a wide collection catering to all interests of individuals.
This scenario is indeed applicable for Sri Lankan food as well. It has got that many variations. And they are surely capable of delighting you with their flavors. Moreover, there are a wide range of restaurants, small boutiques, street stalls as well as luxurious hotels for you to enjoy these meals. Almost all the registered food stalls in Sri Lanka are inspected by the Food Control Administration Unit of Sri Lanka. Hence, it fulfills all your requirements in that aspect as well.
However, in the journey of discovering the flavors and savors of Sri Lankan Food, we identified a few significant highlights. They are as follows.
- General Sri Lankan Food Items
- Street Food in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka National Food
- Seafood in Sri Lanka
- Food Culture Variations with Geographic Differences on the island
Of course, any of them cannot be missed. All of them are significant in their own ways. It is the harmonious entanglement of all these facets that make the Sri Lankan food culture second to none. Therefore, we thought that it would be best to witness their delight one after another. So, without further discussions, let us now start unwrapping the ecstasy of each of these highlights in the Sri Lankan food culture.
1. General Food Items in Sri Lanka
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Sri Lankan Food is simply out of the ordinary. Yet, if you are a planning to visit Sri Lanka for the first time, you will certainly have some doubts! Nothing to worry, we are ready to help you solve them out!
Is Sri Lankan food spicy?
Almost all the general food items in Sri Lanka are comparatively spicy. To be specific, the mainstream food items on this island come out with heavy flavors of local spices. This is a factor that makes Sri Lankan food more similar to the other South Asian food cultures. Another significant fact is that Sri Lankans are more used to enjoying hot and spicy food. However, whether you travel to Arugambay, to Colombo, or wherever it is, make sure that you request the chef if you prefer less spicy food. That way, you would experience the Sri Lankan flavors in your style!
Is Sri Lankan Food healthy?
Yes, they are! Adding spices is a practice that comes from generation to generation. Most of these spices are herbs. Cinnamon, cardamom, coriander seeds, ginger, and cloves happen to be frequently used spices. The ancient Sri Lankans believe that these spices have the power of adding a good taste while acting as a good aseptic. So, the general food items in Sri Lanka came with a good stack of local spices from the ancient days, which make them healthy.
Simply, in terms of food, there is nothing wrong with introducing Sri Lanka as the land of ‘rice and curry’ even. Sri Lankans have that much of a bond with this plate. Moreover, it is a portion of nourishment. With rice and the portions of the colorful curries around, it gives an individual a balanced-diet. So, wherever you travel in Sri Lanka, this is the meal that you can find anywhere and everywhere. Therefore, let us get to know about rice and curry a bit more!
Traditional Plate of Rice & Curry
As for the Sri Lankan style, the rice might be white or red. They are well steamed and boiled, and some even add salt and some spices just to pack it with more taste. Yet, that is not that of a common practice. Next, let us draw your attention towards the curries on the side!
Sri Lankan curries are a set of mouthwatering accompaniments. They normally come with a few vegetable curries, a gravy such as a dhal curry or a potato curry, and a meat/egg/fish portion. Almost all these curries are prepared with coconut milk or coconut oil, or either they come as fresh vegetable salads. However, if you are choosing a restaurant with a buffet, of course, you might get the opportunity of picking out the curries as per your choice. If you are picking up a rice packet from a restaurant, then you do not have the chance of selecting the vegetable curries in it. Still, you have the chance of choosing whether you prefer a fish curry, meat curry, or an egg portion in it.
Sri Lankan Food Menu
When considering the general food items in Sri Lanka, the main plate that anyone would remember is rice and curry. You can find below some of the popular curries that would come with a plate of rice and curry.
- Fish Ambul Thiyal
- Dhal Curry
- Gotukola Sambol
- Brinjals Pickle
- Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
- Polos Curry
- Pol Sambol
However, for a better understanding let us now have a look at the most popular unique Sri Lankan curries.
Fish Ambul Thiyal
As you might already know, Sri Lanka is an island that never lacks seafood. Thus, seafood played a major role in the meals of Sri Lankans from the ancient days. Fish Ambula Thiyal, ‘Malu Ambul Thiyal’ as Sri Lankans call it, is a curry with cubes of fish. At first, they are sauteed in a blend of spices and then simmered. Finally, it comes out as dry fish curry, with a spicy coat around each cube.
A dhal curry, ‘parippu’ as Sri Lankan call it, is one of the most popular gravies in Sri Lankan food culture. It consists of Masoor dhal (split red lentils). Sri Lankans boil it first, together with onions, curry leaves, and other spicy powders. Later, with the addition of coconut milk or oil, they turn it into the delicious yellowish gravy. It couples well with rice, string hoppers, noodles, or anything of that sort.
The term ‘sambol’ means a kind of fresh salad. Further, a green leaves portion is most likely there on a plate of rice and curry. And among the green leaves, the gotukola sambol is the most popular. Sri Lankans cut these leaves into tiny bits, mix it with freshly grated coconut, add onions, chilies, and lime. Finally, it comes to your plate as an appealing greenish portion with a unique sense of taste.
This is popular as ‘batu moju’ in Sri Lanka. Further, it is one of the most flavorful dishes in Sri Lankan food culture. Sri Lankans first chop the brinjals into small pieces, and then deep fry them. Next, they cook it with sugar, vinegar, onions, chilies, and a blend of Sri Lankan spices. Finally, it comes to you as a perfect match for a plate of rice and curry.
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry
Sri Lankan chicken curry has a taste of its own. What Sri Lankans do is that they temper a number of spices, at first. Then together with the other spice powders, they stew the chicken chunks for about an hour. Owing to this fact, the flavors of the spices are well infused into the chicken chunks. Finally, it comes out as spicy red curry, which is suitable for a plate of rice, noodles, thosei, roti, milk rice, string hoppers, hoppers, or even bread.
This is the Sri Lankan curry of young jackfruit. At first, the chunks of the ‘polos’ are boiled. Next, it is well cooked with spices and spicy powders. Finally, with the addition of the coconut milk, the polos curry gets ready to be served. As similar to the chicken curry, polos curry also pairs well with a number of main courses.
Pol Sambol is a simple mixture of freshly grated coconut, onions, chilies, other spices, and lime. All these additions, leave Pol Sambol as one of the spicy and attractive dishes in Sri Lanka. Further, it is most appropriate with a plate of rice, string hoppers, or even bread.
After all, these are some of the main curries in Sri Lanka, that would most probably fit for a traditional plate of Sri Lankan rice and curry. Apart from these, there are a number of other vegetable curries. Mostly, Sri Lankans prepare them by boiling them first with the spices and then adding coconut milk or coconut oil. Moreover, they also fry some vegetables and make salads out of them. Fresh vegetable salads are also common in a plate of rice and curry. In addition, in some restaurants, you might also be able to find some international cuisines with rice. It depends on the place where you have your meal. However, let us assure you that a traditional plate of rice and curry is just simply amazing, and they surely have the ability to keep your taste buds soothing.
It is true that Sri Lankans aim for a plate of rice and curry, at least for one meal of the day. It is simply their go-to-comfort food. Besides, there are many other food items that are common around Sri Lanka. Some of them belong to street food and cultural food. So, for the moment, let us have a look at the main general food items, in each of these categories.
2. Street Food in Sri Lanka
Some of the street Sri Lankan Food is simply snacks. Yet, some of them fit perfectly for the main meal. Through this read, we are ready to share with you the street food that turns out to be easy-go-options for the main meal as well.
- String Hoppers
Street food along the bustling streets of this island indeed holds a significant place in the Sri Lankan food culture. They have an exceptional ability in offering visitors an exotic delightful experience. So, why not? Let us get to know a bit more about them!
String Hoppers, popular as ‘Indi appa’ among Sri Lankans. At a glance, they might look a bit like noodles. However, they are steamed rice molded into flat spirals in a way that forms a circle. They are widely available throughout Sri Lanka in street stalls, small boutiques, as well as in restaurants, and hotels. String Hoppers are ideal for breakfast or dinner. So, after all, string hoppers with a gravy curry and a pol sambol would offer you a delicious start or an end for your day.
Hoppers are a fine crispy food item, formed with a batter of flour, coconut milk, and palm wine. It comes in different variations. Plain hoppers simply come up with the normal batter. In addition to that, Sri Lankans also prepare egg hoppers by tossing the egg into the batter while its being fried. Apart from that, sweet hoppers come with a sweet mixture within the hopper. Yet, sweet hoppers are a bit hard to find in the typical street stalls. Same as string hoppers, hoppers are also available across the street stalls, as well as in other hotels and restaurants. Hoppers pair best with a chilly gravy or a spicy curry. Nevertheless, its crispy edges and the softcore would amaze you with its delight.
Kottu is a favorite of many, as it comes into the fore as a perfect blend of various flavors. It is spicy from its nature. The vegetable mixture with kottu is the base of it. Going ahead, you can choose your kottu plate, with a chicken, seafood, or an egg mixture. Not only the street stalls, the luxurious restaurants even offer a stupendous plate of kottu with their magics. It is more convenient for dinner. Yet, you can fit it into a meal of you as per your preference. Nevertheless, a plate of kottu in Sri Lanka should never be missed. It holds that much of a fascination to reward your taste buds.
What we highlighted here are just the mains among Sri Lankan street food. Indeed, there are many other snacks and food items that reveal to you the supremacy of street Sri Lankan Food. So, why not? Check our article on Street Food in Sri Lanka, for a better amusement with regard!
3. Sri Lanka National Food
Some of these food items in Sri Lanka are mainly available during certain festivals. Yet, some of them are frequently made and widely available across the island. So, what we are highlighting through this section are the most popular and widely available cultural and traditional food items in Sri Lanka.
- Milk Rice with Lunu Miris
You might be in any corner of the world. Wherever you are, you might have certainly heard about the grandeur of the Sri Lakan culture and traditions. Going beyond, the traditional and cultural food items in Sri Lanka happens to be a vital facet with regard.
Milk Rice with Lunu Miris
Milk rice is simply an indispensable plate in Sri Lankan culture. Sri Lankans consider it as a sign of prosperity, and purity, in terms of food. Hence, Sri Lankans, mainly the Sinhalese, prepare a plate of milk rice whenever a special occasion takes place. Apart from that, it also makes an important part in Sri Lankan breakfasts. It comes into the plate as a combination of boiled rice and coconut milk. Further, milk rice is the best with a spicy curry or a lunu miris (a kind of a chili paste with chopped onions). After all, the Traditional Sri Lankan plate of Milk rice has the superpower of pleasing anyone with the blend of its creamy and spicy flavors.
Thosei have a strong bond with the Tamil culture. Moreover, Sri Lanka has inherited this food item from South Indian culture. Besides, now it remains a favorite of Tamils, as well as among other communities as well. Thosei is made out of a batter-like mixture, and the spices, onions, and curry leave added to it further enhance its taste. The ‘sambaru’ curry is more popular with Thosei. Yet, many choose to enjoy a thosei with a typical spicy curry and a ‘sambol’.
Halapa is a traditional Sri Lankan sweet that pairs ideally with a plain-tea. It is full vegan, and is a steamed mixture of ‘kurakkan flour’, and treacle, covered with a leaf. It is a perfect match for sweet lovers.
In brief, lavariya is a sweet Sri Lankan dumpling. At a glance, it is like a string hopper that covers a caramelized coconut mixture. However, it has an amazing ability to soothe the taste buds of anyone with its sweet delicacy. Some Sri Lankans choose it as a part of their breakfast. Meanwhile, some choose it as a snack at tea time. However, lavariya couples the best with a banana and tea.
The cultural and traditional food items in Sri Lanka does not limit to these few highlights. There are many other significant textures with regard. Simply, check our article on Traditional and Cultural Sri Lankan Food for a better overview.
4. Seafood in Sri Lanka
There is no secret that the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, Sri Lanka is rich with seafood. Most of the Sri Lankans, at least add a fish curry to one of their main meals of the day. Apart from that seafood is undoubtedly a wonderful addition to many of the Sri Lankan cuisines. You can find below some of the main sea food dishes in Sri Lanka
Seafood in Sri Lanka simply leaves one wanting more. There are several seafood dishes on this island. Each of them is authentic, and they simply delight any of the seafood lovers. However, what we are highlighting in this section are some of the most popular among them.
The Sri Lankan crab curry comes in two main variations. If you love gravies, of course, you can choose crab curry that is a bit creamy. If not, you can simply go ahead with the dry curry which has a good coat of flavors around the crabs. Unlike in certain other countries. Sri Lankan crab curries never happen to be dull and plain. The spices and the blends of the Sri Lankan traditions leave the seafood lovers astonished through their magics. So, if you are a seafood lover, enjoying the crab curry is surely a must for you.
Loving shrimps? If so, the Sri Lankan shrimp dishes would further enhance your love for it. Sri Lankan shrimp dishes are that wonderful. Some prefer to enjoy the deep-fried shrimp, with a garlic sauce, and fresh vegetable salads. Some prefer to have them mixed in their rice, noodles, or Kottu. Meanwhile, some love the devilled shrimp, with heavy spices, chilies, onions, and capsicums. Also, some even choose the juicy Shrimp curry among all. Whatever it is, all these dishes are simply amazing. So, it’s up to you to choose what suits you the most!
These are just a few of the most popular seafood in Sri Lanka. Of course, there is a lot more that you should get to know. Our article on ‘The Fascination of the Seafood dishes in Sri Lanka’, would help you with it.
5. Food Culture Variances among Different Geographic Locations in Sri Lanka
By now, you clearly know that Sri Lanka is home to several ethnicities. Moreover, it is a clear fact that each of these community groups has a culture of their own. This simply means that there are variations among the food items popular among these communities as well. However, when considering this island, there are certain areas that house a high density of a specific community. In that case, there is no wonder that food culture variations can take place among different geographic locations in Sri Lanka. So, by chance, if you are planning to backpack on this island, it is indeed important that you know about these variances. Hence, we thought of briefing about them as well. Continue reading and some of them might shock you with amazement for sure!
In brief, the Northern province is just like the capital of Hindu culture. It would be extremely rare to spot a Sinhalese permanent resident out there. Hence, the food culture of the Northern province is strongly shaded with Hindu cultural food aspects. This also reveals the fact that the food culture in Northern Province is much similar to the Indian culture as well. However, you can find below some of the main dishes popular in Nothern Province.
- Crab Curry
With their traditional ways of cooking, they bring out a hidden delicacy of each of these dishes.
As you might already know, the western province is the most urbanized region in Sri Lanka. Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka is its heart. Moreover, it is in Colombo that the majority of the top-class hotels, restaurants, and apartments are located. Owing to these reasons, Western Province happens to be the region in Sri Lanka that offers the best international cuisines. Further, along with the hustles and bustles of the streets, it is not that hard to spot street stalls, as well as small scale restaurants and hotels in these areas. Apart from that, the western province is the best location for anyone to experience the delicacy of food cultures. There are many spots dedicated to specific food cultures.
So, considering all these facts, there is nothing wrong in mentioning that Western provinces offer you the twist of all food cultures in Sri Lanka, as well as in the world.
Southern Province houses miles of golden stretches of this splendid island. Thus, it is not a wonder that they have a strong bond with seafood. To be specific, the ‘Fish Ambul Thiyal’ that we mentioned in an earlier section, emerged through this region. Moreover, the generations of this area have a unique style of cooking. They bring unique flavors with the types and amounts of spices that they use. However, apart from that, street food and other general food items can also be found easily in the Southern province as well.
The Eastern Province also houses a considerable amount of Tamils and Muslims. Hence, the food culture of the Eastern province has slight touches of Indian and Arabic food cultures. Yet, they are not that much stronger as in the Northern province. Furthermore, the delicacy of the seafood dishes of Eastern Province is the most significant.
The food culture of the central province is kind of a blend. The Kandy, and Nuwara Eliya areas of this province are locations that allure millions of tourists every year. Hence, most of the restaurants, hotels, and food courts in these areas are modernized and offer a wide collection of dishes covering Sri Lankan cuisines as well as international cuisines. Nevertheless, the small scale restaurants and street food are also widely spread in the central province. Most areas in Nuwara-Eliya houses a good number of Tamils. Hence the touches of Tamil culture are common in this region as well. The cooking styles of the residents of Central Province are not that special when compared. Yet, they prefer to add more spices. After all, the central province is also an ideal location for you to experience the delightful mix of the food cultures in Sri Lanka.
In addition, the rest of the provinces in Sri Lanka do not hold that significant features in terms of the food culture. Still, they too preserve the exclusivity of the Sri Lankan Food in their own style.
The Bottom Line
The hot spices, creamy gravies, and the fascinating flavors of Sri Lankan Food are competent in offering you a rewarding amusement. They make you want more. This is the simple reason behind Sri Lankan food gaining global popularity as well. So, what we have highlighted during this reading, are not the only wonders of the Sri Lankan food culture. Thus, by chance, if you visit this island, never leave Sri Lanka without exploring the amazement of its food. Indeed, the way they fulfill the desires of your taste buds is worth exploring!