If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, make sure that you take the time to appreciate its cuisine. The richly spiced dishes that explode with flavor will make your taste buds tingle and your nose twitch, no matter where you are on the island. Here is a selection of seven dishes that you must try during your visit.
Curry is one of the staples of Sri Lankan cuisine and is more of a category than one dish. It will be served with a heap of fluffy, flavorful rice and the curry placed on one side. Many restaurants will provide several curies for you to enjoy, so take your time and let the flavors melt in your mouth.
2. Aappa/Appam or Hoppers
These delicious snacks are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka and can be found in the streets as well as in the most illustrious of restaurants. They are a little round bread that looks something like a pancake and is made with coconut milk and rice flour. Many hoppers are served with sambol (a spicy chili paste), pol sambol ( a spicy chili and coconut garnish) or plain and dipped into dhal (a soup made of dried, split pulses — especially lentils). Often, hoppers will also have an egg cooked inside and are served for breakfast.
3. Street Food or ‘Short Eats’
One of the best culinary adventures you can enjoy in Sri Lanka involves the exceptional street food — or as it is locally known, short-eats — that abounds everywhere. Every street in every community on the island will have a vendor who will be stirring, frying or flipping something. While it may not be the healthiest food, you are on holiday, so enjoy what is on offer!
Short-eats refer to anything that can be held in hand and eaten on the go, so look out for triangle-shaped roti that will be filled with any one of hundreds of flavorful fillings. The most common would be curried meats and vegetables, fried vegetables and fish or egg mixes. Also try the egg rolls, various types of meat and vegetable patties, and delicious vadas (small doughnuts made from lentils). All these types of food are excellent to take on train and bus journeys.
4. Kottu Roti
Kottu Roti is considered Sri Lanka’s national dish. Roti is a type of flatbread, and Kottu Roti is essentially a bread stir fry. The chef will place a roti on the grill and chop it into small pieces. They will then add any number of meats, eggs, cheeses, vegetables and spices until a wonderful dish is achieved. Everyone has their favorite mixture, and since this dish is found everywhere, try as many as you can.
5. Pol Sambol
This is a traditional accompaniment to almost any dish found in Sri Lanka. Chiles, lime and coconut are chopped and mixed to make a wonderful, fresh, tangy condiment for any dish. It is very often served with curry and rice but works with many other dishes as well. This simple, fresh, easy-to-make garnish will compel you to make it at home!
6. Dhal or Parippu
One of Sri Lanka’s favorite dishes is dhal or a spicy lentil curry that is found all over the island. This soup can be found in many guises from the mildest and delicate, to soupy and creamy, to fiery and richly spiced. To many Sri Lankans, this is comfort food. The local people would recommend that it is best served for breakfast accompanied by lots of bread. Break off a piece of bread, dip it into the beautiful golden-yellow mixture and savor every bite. You will enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling that comfort food brings.
7. Jackfruit Curry or Polos
Jackfruit is a very versatile food and can be eaten either fresh or cooked. When cooked, the flesh has the same texture as braised meat, so it is a great meat replacement in many recipes. Jackfruit curry is often served as a side dish rather than the main dish.
While any number of Western-style restaurants and fast food outlets are available in Sri Lanka, take the time to enjoy the local cuisine. The wide variety of flavorful dishes can be tailored to your personal preference, and if you cannot eat hot food, merely let the vendor know. They will tone down the fire so you can also enjoy their treats.