Sri Lankan cuisine is diverse and versatile with rice, coconut and a variety of spices dominating most of the dishes. Being a neighbor of India, located at its southernmost tip, both the countries have many dishes in common like hoppers, string hoppers, kottu and puttu. Dutch, Portuguese and Indonesian influence is also observed. Let us take a look at a list of the popular dishes the country has to offer.
1. Hoppers – A Tasty and Famous Pancake of Sri Lanka
What is it: Also called appam in India, hoppers are a kind of pancake prepared by frying or steaming a batter of rice flour, coconut milk, and spices. There are different varieties of hoppers depending on the type of ingredient used in its preparation, with egg hoppers being one of the favorite kinds, where an egg is beaten into the pancake which is in the shape of a bowl.
What does it taste like: It may taste sweet or savory depending on the kind of ingredients that goes in its making. You can eat it plain if having it for breakfast or even combine it with vegetable stew, egg curry or a chicken dish as well as a spicy sambol (hot sauce) for lunch.
2. String Hoppers – A Healthy Noodle-like Delicacy of Sri Lanka
What is it: One of the many varieties of hoppers, string hoppers has a noodle-like appearance, also known as idiyappam and putu mayam. The dough of rice flour and water is placed inside a sieve or string hopper maker and pressed in a way to give it a string-like appearance. Mostly eaten during breakfast or dinner, it is combined with veg or non-veg curries or even a coconut dip. Besides Sri Lanka, this dish is also well known in India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
What does it taste like: Its soft texture would melt in your mouth at an instant, though the taste may vary from sweet to spicy depending upon what you are eating it with.
3 Lamprais – A Dutch-influenced Unique Curry Platter
What is it: Getting its name from lomprijst, a Dutch word that translates to a food packet in English, it is a unique dish comprising of meat (pork, lamb and beef) and vegetarian (aubergine and ash plantain) curries, frikkadels (Dutch-styled meatballs), sambal (hot sauce), belacan (shrimp sauce) and rice. The fusion is finally wrapped in banana leaves and then baked. The Dutch-Burgher community, an ethnic group of Sri Lanka, is said to be instrumental in creating this dish.
What does it taste like: Finger-licking and delicious, the woody fragrance of banana leaves combined with the aromatic taste of meat enhances its grandeur to the fullest.
4. Rice and Curry – Sri Lanka’s Typical Lunch Dish
What is it: One of Sri Lanka’s staple food, it is a simple dish mostly eaten for lunch comprising boiled or steamed rice coupled with curries of fish, mutton, chicken, vegetables, and lentils.
What does it taste like: The taste is brought about by the curries which could be sweet, sour or even spicy.
5. Kottu – An Authentic Street Snack of Sri Lanka
What is it: A spicy fried delicacy comprising of shredded roti (round flatbread) mixed with a host of vegetables like leek, cabbage, and onions, though cheese or non-veg items (eggs and meat) are optional. The presence of a variety of spices as well as tasty sauces makes it all the more delicious.
As per a legend, kottu emerged in Sri Lanka a long time back when a vendor had exhausted his means for the day only having a little vegetable, and chicken curry. Not wanting to deprive the hungry tourists he made a fusion of all that he had, leaving the travelers impressed. The rhythmic tune created by the clanking of spatulas by each of the vendors when they are at work is indeed a treat to hear.
What does it taste like: Salty and spicy, while the addition of hot sauces could make it a tangy affair too.
6. Kool – Special Seafood Broth of Jaffna
What is it: A delicious and healthy soup, having its roots in the Sri Lankan city, Jaffna, situated in the northernmost part of the country. It is indeed a perfect fusion of seafood since cuttlefish, prawns, crayfish, and crab are its main ingredients alongside a whole lot of vegetables like long beans, manioc, spinach, jak seeds, and tamarind, with palmyra flour added to give it a thick consistency.
What does it taste like: The sweetness of crab and prawn combined with the buttery flavor of beans intensifies its tastes.
7. Kiribath – Sri Lanka’s Traditional New Year Food
What is it: A rice cake or pudding as it is made by cooking rice and coconut milk together. A traditional dish in every Sinhalese household, it is mostly eaten for breakfast specifically on the 1st of every month. People even have it on auspicious occasions like marriage as well as the Sinhalese New Year when kiribath is first offered to god and then served as the prime dish in a full course meal, the other desserts being kevum and kokis (deep fried sweets made from rice flour). It is even the first food tasted by a baby when he or she is transitioning from breast milk to solid food.
What does it taste like: These diamond-shaped cakes (that’s how they are served) are smooth and salty mostly accompanied with lunu miris (spicy sauce made with red onions, chili pepper, Maldive fish, lime juice and black pepper) that makes it spicy. For a sweet sensation, you can also eat it with banana and jaggery that commonly come as accompaniments.
8. Puttu – A Healthy Breakfast Food
What is it: A cylindrical shaped steamed preparation having rice and coconut as its main ingredients, mostly eaten for breakfast, though many people have it for lunch and dinner as well. It is eaten either with bananas or even veg, fish or meat curries.
What does it taste like: Smooth and chewy, because of the addition of coconut, while the rest of it depends on your choice of side dishes.
9. Sri Lankan Dhal Curry – An Authentic Sinhalese Cuisine
What is it: Also known as parippu that translates to lentils in Tamil and Sinhalese, it is one of Sri Lanka’s staple main course dish, prepared by cooking red lentils with coconut milk and seasoning it with garlic, onion, fenugreek, mustard seeds, cumin, and saffron. You can eat it as a main dish or as an accompaniment along with rice and curry.
What does it taste like: The addition of coconut milk adds to its rich taste while cumin seeds, saffron, mustard, and garlic gives it an aromatic and sharp flavor.
10. Ambul Thiyal – Sri Lanka’s Special Fish Curry
What is it: Originating in Ambalangoda, a coastal town in Sri Lanka, it is a dried fish curry made by sautéing cubed fish with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, garlic and black pepper, as well as seasoning it with tamarind juice which is responsible for its unique taste, also acting as a preservative, helping it to last for a longer span. Traditionally, this is another dish served for New Year along with Kiribath.
What does it taste like: Rich, peppery, aromatic, with the presence of tamarind accounting for its sour and tart taste.
11. Watalappam – Sri Lanka’s Famous Dessert
What is it: A delicious pudding having coconut milk and jaggery as its main ingredients further seasoned with cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg, garnished with cashew nuts.
What does it taste like: Delicious, creamy, and sweet…a perfect choice for all those with a sweet tooth.
With a host of mouthwatering savories and dishes at hand, it is up to you to make a list of all that you would want to relish on the next time you visit this island country.