Culinary Tour Of Sri Lanka – 6 Things You Must Try
Sri Lanka is a mishmash of colours, sounds, and tastes and nowhere is this more apparent than in the local cuisine. Although the island is home to a variety of different cultures and ethnic groups, they all come together on the plate. Whether you’re ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘-ing around the island or simply looking to taste some of the most popular dishes in the country, these are some of the must-try items!
A hallmark of Sri Lanka’s Dutch-Burgher community, lamprais is a dish that’s close to the hearts of all Sri Lankans. Although there’s very little that’s ‘Dutch’ about it, the Sri Lankan Dutch-Burgher community takes pride in coming up with this delicious dish. Lamprais consists of a flavourful rice, curried meat, battu moju (an aubergine pickle), a frikadel (deep-fried ball of minced fish and spices) and blachan (a shrimp sambol). All these components are cooked separately, portioned out, wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in the oven! There are plenty of restaurants that claim to make the best lamprais but the Dutch-Burgher Union in Colombo serves the most authentic, and definitely the most popular one.
Kiribath & Lunu Miris
Consumed for breakfast on special or auspicious occasions like the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, kiribath is a rich dish of rice cooked in coconut milk. Nowadays, kiribath has become a staple breakfast item and is usually accompanied with lunu miris; a sambol made of chillies, onions and lime juice. The origins of kiribath aren’t clear, but it’s said that it was offered to the Buddha when he was meditating under the Bodhi tree after attaining Enlightenment and thereby ending his six years of asceticism. While it can generally be found at most restaurants, the most authentic (and mouthwatering!) can be found in the villages. If you’re traversing through the Cultural Triangle, stop by a local restaurant in Anuradhapura or Sigiriya to try this dish.
Sri Lanka has some of the best and the freshest seafood in the world, especially crabs and prawns. Just last year the island exported about $25 million of crab! Crab curry is not eaten every day, although the meat is readily available, so consider it a rare delicacy if you get your claws on some! Jaffna, in particular is known for its scrumptious, crab curry. This dish is made with a delicious blend of spices unique to Jaffna, and is best enjoyed with a plate of white rice and dhal curry (and a glass of cold water, if you can’t handle your spice!).
Hoppers (Appa or Appam)
As Madhur Jaffrey put it, a hopper is the lovechild of a crepe and a crumpet. It’s shaped like an inverted dome and if you order an egg hopper, the egg is set in the centre of this crispy dome. Hoppers can be enjoyed for breakfast or dinner and are usually found at most restaurants and road side kades (the latter, in the evenings only). Hoppers are served with a traditional onion sambol known as lunu miris, but can also be enjoyed with chicken or fish curry. Look out for the sweet pani appa, a variation of the hopper, sweetened with thick kitul pani (a local treacle).
String Hoppers (Indiappa or Indiappam)
String Hoppers are rice flour noodles fashioned into a flat disc shape and served with a variety of curries. String hoppers have a long and rich history which dates back to the 1st century AD, but they have now become popular during both breakfast and dinner in most local households. These delicious string hoppers are generally served with pol sambol (grated coconut combined with chillies, shallots and lime juice), meat curry, and either dhal or potato curry. Arugam Bay and the east coast have their own version – String hoppers with coconut milk and sugar.
We saved the best for last! Kottu Roti or as it’s more affectionately known; kottu is the most popular of all Sri Lankan dishes. The best street food no matter where you are on the island, each vendor adds their own special touch to this dish. Kottu is made up of shredded godamba roti (crispy flatbread) which is stir-fried with diced vegetables and a meat curry. This mouthwatering dish is one of the top dishes to try on a night out. If there’s one experience you’ll cherish forever, it’s diving into a spicy kottu prepared in a local restaurant (preferably a roadside vendor!). Be sure to have a glass of cold water or iced milo nearby, in case you can’t handle the exotic spices.