Food in Sri Lanka – 8 flavors and dishes you shouldn't miss!

Having just returned from colorful Sri Lanka, there is one thing I miss more than anything else. The food. This colorful mix of spices, vegetables and a pinch of history has created an explosion of exciting dishes, where one of the main ingredients is coconut. Coconut is used for most things – everything from curries to desserts to breading. It is not wise how much you can use coconut for - and it tastes good everywhere. Although I myself loved the local food, it was perhaps not as popular with the youngest member of the family, as everything was experienced very strongly. Fortunately, there is usually rice and some type of bread/papadums with the food which can dampen the strength.

Are you a vegetarian? Then you have come to paradise. I myself ate almost exclusively vegetarian during the entire time we were there, as the vast majority of curries and dhals are vegetarian. However, some side dishes may contain dried fish, so be a little vigilant if you are a strict vegetarian.

1. Curries

There is nothing simple about a plate of rice and curry. During the time we were in Sri Lanka, I ate new and exciting curries every day - none were the same. Beetroot curry, cashew nut curry, fish curry, crab curry, carrot curry, eggplant curry – you name it and there is a curry. Curries can vary in heat, but often they have a slight sting that makes you reach for the glass of water. The curry is served with chutneys, pickled salty limes and sambol. Pol Sambol is the most common, which consists of grated coconut, chilli, lemon, salt and dried fish. Most often, the curry is served with white basmati rice, but red rice is also popular.

2. Hoppers

Something you often find for breakfast is hoppers. Hoppers come in two varieties – a “pancake variety” that is fried in a domed frying pan to form a bowl, and “string hoppers” that are made from steamed rice noodles. Often the common hopper has an egg cracked at the bottom of the bowl. Both variants are served with a relatively strong chili paste.

3. Dhal

Dhal means lentils, so this is a lentil stew that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cooked in coconut milk and very flavorful, served in the same way as a curry.

4. Roti

In Sri Lanka, roti is made from grated coconut and flour, which is fried as a thick tortilla like a flatbread. Used for dipping and dipping into all good curries. Good and moderate side dish that helps when the food sometimes gets a little too strong.

5. Kottu

As a Swede, I would probably say that this is a Sri Lankan stew. Thin bread and vegetables are chopped into smaller pieces and fried together with spices. Real comfort food.

6. Elephant apple (wood apple)

Very popular in Sri Lanka! Pressed into a brown juice that doesn't look particularly appetizing, that tastes like slightly sweet and sour tamarind. Maybe not the taste I will miss most from Sri Lanka, but I guess this is a taste you learn to like.

7. Gotukola Sambol

It is not very often that you eat "salad" with food in Sri Lanka, but a green dish is served with almost all dishes - Gotukola Sambol, The herb Gotu Kola is chopped into small pieces and mixed with lime, coconut and onion. Very fresh and tasty!

8. Papadum's

One of the best snacks you can find if you ask me! Crispy and hard chips made from chickpeas/lentils that are served with mango chutney or some similar strong bite. Available in different variants also in India. Hard to stop eating!

What is your favorite Sri Lankan cuisine?


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Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 60 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel site Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

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