How to eat well in Sri Lanka

I do not like kottu roti (the Sri Lankan/Tamilian street food made with flatbread, chicken, vegetables. Everything is fried on a tawa together and served in a big heap with a curry poured over it)

Now that we’re through with it let me talk about what I actually loved about Sri Lankan food. To be honest I absolutely disliked my first two meals there – string hoppers with fish curry and kottu roti. These were also some of the recommendation I got on social media. But the best ones were from my friend and teacher Kurush Dalal. He really knows Sri Lankan food well. This is a list of everything that I tried and loved in Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese meal in Colombo

Sambol

It’s everywhere, eaten as a part of full meal, with hoppers and even breads. Sambol is made with coocnut and chillies and is usually quite spicy, at least that’s what I thought till I had the sambol made by my host in Colombo where I had a Sinhalese spread. It was a sambol made with coocnut and gotukola (local greens) and was an absolute delight. I also bought a seeni sambol made with onions and Maldives fish.

Gotukola Sambol, Sri Lanka

Yogurt with Kitul Treacle

While walking around in the market in Galle early in the morning, I spotted these stacks of earthen pots selling freshly made yogurt. I didn’t buy it cause I thought you have to buy the entire pot. Later I learnt that it’s a favourite morning snack. The yogurt is served topped with kitul treacle, a sweetner extracted from the sap of kitul palm.

Yogurt with KItul Treacle

Malu Paan and other short eats

Short eats is the term used in Sri Lanka for anything you eat between your major meals so breads or paan with a variety of stuffings, baked pastry (shaped like samosa or like a crescent) with fish filling, all fall under the category. Early mornings, you’ll find tuktuks doing the rounds selling fresh breads, vadais etc. These guys are known as Choon Paan men. If you hear the tune of Beethoven’s Fur Elise in the morning, make a dash for these carts for your breakfast fix.

Short eats in Sri Lanka

Hoppers with dal or sambol

Find the most basic roadside stall, one that makes only hoppers and you’ll have the most satisfying meal. While in Anuradhapura I ate my dinner at this stall near my homestay. Their sambol was super spicy but hoppers smooth and fluffy.

Lamprais

Lamprais, a Dutch Bergher influenced dish which literally means packet of rice. The dish has rice cooked with spices, a beef/pork/lamb/chicken curry, frikkadels (beef cutlets; mine had fish cutlets), sambol, ash plantain and egg plants. It’s all packed in a banana leaf and steamed. A few restaurants also add a boiled egg to the dish which was a part of the original recipe. This was my lunch in Kandy. The portion was huge and I could only finish half of it. It’s quite a mix of flavours and the best idea is to mix everything with rice and eat.

Lamprais in Kandy

Prawn and dal vadais

The train rides in Sri Lanka are the quite exciting with vendors who keep you busy with the most interesting snacks. The most loved ones are the dal vadais with a stuffing of prawn. You also get these near almost every wine shop; make for perfect grub with some arrack. (Also Read: Anuradhapura: The ancient capital of Sri Lanka)

Dal vadais, Sri Lanka

Pickled Ceylon olives

Known locally as veralu, these olives are probably the most favourite snack in Sri Lanka. Walk around Galle Face in Colombo and you’ll find plenty of carts selling these pickled olives. I personally didn;t enjoy them as much (they made my mouth dry) but difinitely something you don’t want to miss.

Pickled Ceylon olives, Sri Lanka

Rice curry meal

Walk in a small mom and pop shop if you want the best rice curry meal. There are plenty of such shops all across especially on the south-west coast. The meal is rustic – heap of rice with chicken or fish curry, one vegetable, sambol and papad. Get yourself the famous Elephant House Ginger Beer with it. (Also Read: Exploring Sri Lanka’s south west coast)

Rice and curry meal, Sri Lanka

Sinhalese meal

And last but not the least, get yourself invited for a Sinhalese meal. And if you don’t have any local friends then book a meal and cooking session with Duneeshya Bogoda who runs Dunee’s Kitchen in Colombo. My meal with her was the best experience I had in Sri Lanka and the best finale to my 10 day trip. She cooked me a mega spread of chicken curry, fish curry, jackfruit curry, wambatu or brinjal curry, dry fish preparation where the wish was marinated in goraka powder before being steamed, dal, two types of sambol and watalappam.

 

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