No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without experiencing the unique cuisine this country has to offer. Drawing influences from southern India, South East Asia and its Dutch and British colonial past, Sri Lanka has resulted in a fusion style of food, so unique that you are sure to try dishes you have never even heard of before. The staple dishes of Sri Lanka include a host of spicy curries, sweet caramelised onion and sour lime flavours. It’s certainly not food for the fussy palate. You can hardly walk 10 meters in Sri Lanka without being embraced by the smells of rich spices, so I have no doubt that visitors are given ample opportunity to sample true Sri Lankan cuisine. Yet the baffling array of dishes and the increasing number of fusion restaurants can leave travellers unsure of exactly what the ‘must try’ dishes are. I’ve covered Breakfast, dinner and everything in between to help you eat your way around Sri Lanka.
When I said you are likely to try dishes you’ve never heard of before, Egg hoppers are probably the first you’ll come across. A popular breakfast staple, the Hoppers are essentially an edible bowl made by swirling lacy batter into a rounded pan. The most popular type, has a fried egg at the base, always cooked over easy. The result is a rather plain batter bowl, ready to be filled with your favourite accompaniments. A spoon full of onion Sambal (a kind of spicy chutney) and a generous helping of creamy dahl make this the perfect breakfast and a great way to kick off your gastric journey around Sri Lanka.
You certainly cannot go far in Sri Lanka without spotting ‘rice and curry’ on a menu. The rice is ever-present in Sri Lankan food and is often mixed with fresh coconut making it a perfect partner to the punchy curries. Curries in Sri Lanka often have a fairly thin sauce making the meat the main event. The slow cooked mutton curries infused with Cardamom are a must try. Fish curries are also unsurprisingly popular, with the most famous being Fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry). The curry has similar ingredients to other meat curries with the addition of the goraka fruit to give it a sour taste. The fish of choice is usually a white and meaty fish. However, like most islands, Sri Lanka is blessed with a wonderful variety of seafood and their shell fish is not to be missed!
Roti and Kottu Roti
Roti is one of the most popular street food options available throughout the day as a quick snack. Vendors work on large hotplates, similar to how the French make crepes, and fill and fold the batter into convenient parcels. Roti’s can be sweet or savoury, with Pol Roti (coconut roti) being a firm favourite. It is also common to see them filled with curried veg or shredded meat. Kottu Roti, on the other hand, feels like a reinvention of a classic. The venders use cleavers to shred the roti bread along with vegetables and meat. They work incredibly fast to produce a stir fry like you will never have experienced before. The rhythmic clink of their cleavers against the hot metal plate can be heard late into the night. This is certainly one to try after a few Lion Beers and the combination is so satisfying you’ll be left wondering why you’ve never used bread in a stir-fry!
If all this talk of food is making you thirsty then look no further. As well as the local ‘Lion’ Beer, Sri Lanka has another popular beverage. Wood apples which can be identified by their hard shell and distinctive (slightly cheesy) smell. They are commonly found blended into a fruit shake with a hint of sugar. Fruit shakes are widely available in the markets but if you want to try something new, opt for a wood apple. The fruit itself is delicious and similar to sticky tamarind. As well as tasting good it is said to benefit digestion, which might be useful if you are struggling with all the spicy dishes.
Sri Lanka is full of flavour! From the moment you wake up, you’ll be able to sample fresh produce cooked in some creative ways. The spices will remind you of India, while the style of cooking resembles Indonesia. Sri Lanka is a fusion, but through that fusion, Sri Lankan cuisine has become unique in its own right.
The article is contributed by SriLanka-Villa.com.