Sri Lankan food is, in general, spicy but packed with flavour. The national (and staple) dish is rice and curry. The variety of curries in Sri Lanka are endless. No two curries are the same. Every cook seasons their curries differently, especially between regions. Spices used heavily in Sri Lankan cooking are chilli, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, curry leaves, tamarind, and mustard. There are very few curries that have not had coconut milk whacked into it, so if you are allergic to coconut in this county- good luck!

Sri Lankan cooking is very waste-conscious. Very little is thrown away during the cooking process. E.g. the full chicken is used in cooking. Even the neck, innards etc. With vegetables, the leaves are used to make raw salad dishes and relishes.

Superfoods are abundant in Sri Lanka. E.g. moringa, jackfruit and gotukola are plentiful so no excuses to have in your diet.  Ayurvedically, it is really interesting how the use all the various foods in dishes.  What produces heat in the body or will cool it down.

T&T TIP: when emptying a whole chicken there will be a plastic bag with the innards in, either use to flavor a stock or give to domestic staff, it will be welcomed. 

There’s lots and lots to eat in Colombo for all kinds of palates. T&T has done a comprehensive round up of our picks in our Food & Drink section. A few staples about Sri Lankan cuisine to note though are:

    • Hoppers- Hoppers are crispy bowl shaped pancakes made of rice flour and coconut milk cooked in special cup-shaped pans. The result is cup shaped dish with crispy sides and soft mound-like central base.
    • Coconut rotis- These are flatbreads with coconut mixed into the dough. They are delicious and surprisingly heavy.
    • Godamba Roti- this is a flatbread similar to Indian paratas, except they’re soft and a little stretchy instead of flaky and eaten with curries and sambols.
    • Kottu- Kottu is essentially a stir-fry of strips of godamba roti mixed with spices, curry, chopped vegetables and a meat of your choice (or egg, or just veg). They’re cooked on a large hot plate where the ingredients are mixed and chopped rhythmically with a pair of square metal choppers. It is a wonderful post drinking dish and are a perfect way to end a night on the town, people love Pilawoos.
    • Pol Sambal- this is a mixture of fresh grated coconut with red chilli flakes, salt, onion and often lime juice although many have their own additions and slight variations.
    • Lamprais- this is a meal wrapped tightly in a banana leaf, that dates back to Dutch settlement in the 1600s. It consists of short-grained rice cooked in stock, lamprais curry – which can be beef, chicken (but most places have a veggie option) and numerous additions like seeni sambol (made with caramelised onions) and batu pahi (a type of pickled eggplant) all steamed or baked together in the banana leaf.
    • Green Chilli- This is the native chilli to Sri Lanka and its distinct flavour is present in many dishes.
    • Kiribath- translating to ‘milk rice’ it is a dish of rice cooked in coconut milk and set so that it can be sliced almost like a cake. It is a festive food that is eaten on many special occasions.
    • Vadai- these are fried South Indian street food eats, argh so good.
    • The “short-eat”. Short eats are staple snacks in Colombo. Essentially, they are finger-food items or slightly larger snack items. The most plentiful short-eat is the “Chinese roll” (spoiler alert, it’s not Chinese in the slightest), which is essentially cylindrical stuffed crepe dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Another favourite short-eat is the cutlet, a ball of either meat or fish mixed with spices dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. There is a plethora of short eats which will be your friend or foe. Short-eats are typically eaten in the mornings and at tea-time but are available throughout the day.

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