Sri Lanka might not seem like the top destination on a foodie bucket list, but the country has so much glorious food to offer its visitors. Street food and food markets are a way of life in Sri Lanka, so you can expect to find plenty of affordable and delicious places to eat during your time in Sri Lanka.
We asked Prateeque, our Sri Lanka local expert, what his food highlights are in Sri Lanka including where and what he would eat if he were visiting for the first time.
Rice and curry
A staple dish in Sri Lanka, it’s hard to visit the country without sampling some variation of this classic combination. The curry comes inspired from India, because Sri Lanka shares a lot of the same core ingredients and food practises as its neighbouring country. If you wanted to, you could probably sample a different kind of curry each day during your visit, without ever having the same flavours twice.
Prateeque tells us about the rice and curry in a little more detail…
“The go to is rice and curry and this is kind of the staple in Sri Lanka. Basically it is rice and different kinds of curry… It can be a chicken curry, fish curry, with two or three different kinds of vegetables. You can have the more authentic, traditional fruit which is baby jackfruit, tapioca, aubergine, beans and then also coconut sambo, which is basically grated coconut, mixed with chilli and lime. So you have your rice dhal curry with veggies and sambol”
The flavours are diverse and rich, and if you’re lucky enough you will sample home-cooking during your time in Sri Lanka (we offer some tours that offer a home cooked meal as part of the tour). A great option for this is our Hasalaka tour, which includes a home-cooked meal after the hiking.
The next food that Prateeque recommends to try during your time in Sri Lanka, is Kothu. Kothu is a traditional Sri Lankan food, made up of delicious Indian breads and mixed with flavours and spices.
“Rice and curry is more what you have for lunch in Sri Lanka. For dinner we have a lot of street food called Kothu, which is chopped up indian breads e.g. naan with veggies, and meat. It has a very distinct sound when the chefs are preparing it. They have two large metal sticks they use to chop everything up on a girdle”
For many visitors, Kothu is the best Sri Lankan food experience and it’s what many visitors leave the country missing the most. It has everything you expect from delicious authentic cuisine. Big flavours, comfort, carbohydrates and novelty too!
It’s not just the flavour of Kothu that makes it so special, it’s the experience of ordering it. The big metal machetes are used loudly to chop up the bread in a theatrical style, and it’s definitely an entertaining experience to witness!
Another fantastic food choice to try whilst you’re in Sri Lanka, is Hoppers. Hoppers are a light meal, a little like pancakes, and can be served as an accompaniment to almost any meal or curry. For Prateeque they’re one of his absolutely favourites…
“I like hoppers which are sort of like pancakes, they’re made like pancakes. They’re made in a deep frying bowl and put in a batter and it’s really thick in the centre and fluffy and crisp on the outside and I like to eat them with potato curry”
But where can you find all this delicious food?
Food markets and food stalls
If you’re joining us on a food tour of one of Sri Lanka’s cities, you’ll get to try out the best food there is on offer whilst exploring and purchasing your items at one of the country’s many food stalls and food markets. And there are many to choose from. One such tour is our “Cook like a local in Galle” tour. You’ll visit food markets, learn which ingredients to pick, and then be tasting true authentic Sri Lankan flavours in no time, whilst even learning a few new techniques too!
Sri Lanka is a country teaming with food vendors, street food and food stands, and you’ll want to make sure you take in these amazing culinary experiences during your time in the country.
Prateeque elaborates on some of his favourite options for us…
“There’s the Colombo market area which has loads of street vendors, selling Sri Lankan mixtures the popular savory evening snack, it consists of fried lentils and things like that. In the fort area there’s also a street called Hulfsdorf Street and here you can get pretty unique, authentic muslim cuisines, so you can get things like goat brain, calamari eggs, Ghee Paratas. You should also look for places around the country that are called Hela Bhojun, which are like food stalls and are run by local women’s cooperative. What they do is really authentic Sri Lankan food. The breakfasts there are incredible, they usually open around 7.30 and they make everything fresh right in front of you, all the ingredients come from the women’s cooperative network, it’s also really cheap as well. I know there’s one in Sigiryia, one in Jaffna – mainly near the main tourist sites”
Let the locals teach you about food and culture
Prateeque also elaborates on some of the fantastic tours available to visitors. There are several tours out there which offer authentic food experiences, truly out of the guidebooks. Such as the Farm to Table tour, which shows you the journey of ingredients from being picked, all the way to being cooked.
“This experience takes you to one of the few remaining organic farms about half an hour out from Columbo in the area of Hokandara where you can meet local farmers and see authentic Sri Lankan farm life”.
You can find out more about this tour by clicking here.