Formally known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is a gorgeous little island just off the southern part of India. Nicknamed as either the Pearl of the Indian Ocean or the Teardrop of India, Sri Lanka is a country full of rich culture, history and food. This little gem is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll come across in your travels. Proving to be an ever popular destination, there are multiple reasons why Sri Lanka should be on your travel list. One of the main reasons? Food!
Sri Lankan food can easily be overlooked. With the hype of Indian cuisine, it’s very common for people to put Sri Lankan dishes under the same name. Having very similar staples, Sri Lanka has adapted its own foodie culture through the influence of surrounding Asian countries. Being it’s own little island, they’ve been able to turn dishes into exotic, flavourful meals that will leave you salivating for more.
Here are some of the best Sri Lankan dishes to try when you’re traveling the country, or feel like whipping some up at home.
Fish Ambul Thiyal
The tropical climate of Sri Lanka provides the country with some of the most delicious seafood you can get your hands on. Walking through the streets, you can find a fully open seafood barbeque that’s been freshly caught the morning of. Everything from shrimps, crab meat to lobster feasts. The real seafood speciality in Sri Lanka are their fish dishes though.
Fish markets run through all of Sri Lanka. You can pick the perfect catch and watch it be prepared right in front of your eyes. A popular cuisine is the fish Ambul Thiyal. A signature dish in Sri Lanka, the fish ambul thiyal was originally created to preserve fish in the south.
Also known as a sour fish curry, the ambul thiyal uses a dense fish such as tuna along with a dried fruit called goraka, which gives it a sour taste. The curry is dry meaning there is no soup This dish is a classic and must have when traveling through Sri Lanka.
Dhal Curry (Parippu)
Rice and dhal curry is another common staple in Sri Lanka. Whether you’re in a home or a restaurant, you’re bound to see Parippu on any menu.
The red lentils, which are usually masoor dhal, are slowly cooked in a blend of delicious spices and with a few spoonfuls of coconut milk. The texture is rather thick like a stew, rather than a soup, and can be served as a side dish or a main with roti or rice! Yum!
A staple ingredient in Sri Lankan dishes is coconut. You can literally find it in everything and anything. From their curries to their rices, their juices to a simple garnish, coconut is the almighty hero in many meals.
A popular coconut dish that travelers fall in love with is the Pol Sambol. Easy to whip up in your own home, the pol sambol is a simple mix of shredded coconut, chillis, lime and onions. It goes beautifully with rice, rotis and any other base that you can find!
One of the most popular street dishes in Sri Lanka is Kottu. You can be walking home after a night out or just craving the tastes of something greasy the next morning and a kottu will satisfy all your needs.
Due to it’s popularity, the kottu is known as the Sri Lankan equivalent of a hamburger but it’s texture is somewhat like a fried rice. Kottu is a mix of roti (bread), vegetables and/or meat that are all stir fried up together to create a little plate of heaven. You can hear the kottu makers clanking their utensils down the street and that’s enough to get your taste buds exploding!
Sri Lankans love devilled dishes. Devilled fish, devilled eggs, devilled potatoes – the list goes on! One of their most popular is the devilled chicken which can be found anywhere. This sweet and spicy meal is super simple to prepare. It’s basically fried chicken with a delicious red sauce, mix of onions and some vegetables. Another very easy meal to put together when you’re craving those Lankan flavours!
Sounds odd, but beetroot curry is a beautiful dish that has been popular in Sri Lanka for years. The vibrant pink colour makes for a great addition to any meal, whether it’s a side or a main dish. Cooked with a lot of spices and onions,the beetroot keeps its sweet flavour leaving you very satisfied.
Sri lankans have been eating kale before it became the cool thing to do. A simple dish, the kale mallung is a mixture of kale, other greens and coconut. The texture is like a salad, where it can be eaten at any temperature. Everything in a kale mallung is cooked in a skillet where the coconut is used as an oil to mix the greens together. This dish is great is you’re after something fresh and light on your palette. It’s delicious to eat on it’s own, with rice or wrapped up in some freshly cooked roti!
Known as the Sri Lankan version of a crepe or pancake, the hopper is an ever popular dish that’s making a name for itself around the world. Created from a fermented batter of rice flour and coconut milk, the hopper has delicious crispy edges and a soft middle making it the best of both worlds. It’s usually topped or filled with some mouthwatering curry or Sri Lankan relish that’ll have you lining up for more!
Sri Lankan food is full of wild flavours that will excite your palette. Even if you can’t get to Sri Lanka, a lot of the dishes are very simple to make so it’s worth trying out in your own home. Everything from a lunchtime dahl curry to a hungover kottu, Sri Lankan food has some amazing dishes that’ll take your tastebuds on a spicy, delicious ride!