7 Sri Lankan Delicacies That Should Not Be Missed

by | Oct 8, 2017

In addition to its rich culture, long history and stunning natural beauty, Sri Lanka is being added on travelers’ must visit places because of its excellent cuisine.

With just 18 miles separating Sri Lanka and India, the food here is highly influenced by our larger neighbors, particularly in terms of spices used. The long term ruling of Dutch and British colonies also play a role in the kind of local cuisine that Sri Lanka is known for.

While some may think fancy restaurants are the best place for the best food, tastier food is found at roadside cafes and family kitchens. Here are some specialties that you should not miss when in Sri Lanka…

1. Kottu Rotti

A mixture of rotti (flatbread) pieces tempered with chopped veggies and meat, seasoned with spices, ginger, garlic and soya sauce. The highlight here is that the dish is cooked on a flat iron skillet and metal cleavers are used to chop the rotti and mix the ingredients well.

When to eat?
Kottu Rotti is ideally eaten at dinner time and is equal to grabbing a quick bite.

Where will you find it?
Street corners are the best place to taste the authentic kottu roti.

2. Hoppers

A thin pancake batter poured into a bowl shaped wok to produce a bowl shaped pancake. The batter is made from rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water and sugar. At the center of your bowl shaped pancake, you have the option of adding a fried egg or some sweet milk, or you could simply eat it plain with side dishes such as coconut salad (pol sambol – greated coconut combined with chilli powder, salt, onion and lime) and dhal curry.

When to eat?
Hoppers will not be available at lunch time because it is a dish served during breakfast or dinner.

Where will you find it?
Almost any roadside hotel will serve hoppers in the morning and evening. The best tasting ones come from local guesthouses.

3. Stuffed Idiyappam (String Hoppers)

String hoppers are steamed vermicelli rice flour noodles entangled in circular shapes. The sweet version of this dish in known as lavariya, where the string hopper is stuffed with coconut, jaggery and sugar and rolled up as a snack.

When to eat?
Lavariya is a great snack for breakfast and tea time. The savory version of string hoppers are served during all three meals and can be eaten with dhal and pol sambol.

Where will you find it?
Authentic savory string hoppers are found in three wheelers or small vans on several streets within popular cities; particularly in Colombo. They usually begin serving after 5.00p.m.

If you happen to visit Ella, go to Namal’s Great View Guesthouse and ask for lavariya for breakfast – you will be amazed!

4. Parippu (Dhal Curry)

Everyone has probably heard of dhal curry before but an authentic Sri Lankan one is worth trying. Sri Lankans cook the healthy lentils with onion, garlic, turmeric, curry leaves, coconut milk and chili.

When to eat?
Any time of the day, Sri Lankan restaurants and cafes will serve dhal.

Where will you find it?
Pretty much anywhere!

5. Stuffed Paratha

Paratha is also something you must have heard of if you have been to India. This large wheat flatbread is folded into a triangle or square and stuffed with options of egg, vegetable, meat and cheese and then fried on an iron skillet.

When to eat?
Stuffed parathas often come as an accompaniment with most meals.

Where will you find it?
In Colombo, try the street food vendors at Galle Face Green who often show up after 5.00 p.m. Other street food joints also serve stuffed parathas, but the options are usually only limited to egg.

In Hikkaduwa, try the rotti shops on Galle road – amazing stuffing options such as chocolate, banana, avocado and more are available.

6. Coconut Rotti

This is a traditional Sri Lankan bread, and the dough is made with wheat flour, grated coconut, butter, onions, green chili and a tad bit of sugar.

When to eat?
Pol Rotti is great as a Snack or as a Breakfast/Dinner meal with side dishes such as Dhal, Pol Sambol or Chicken Curry.

Where will you find it?
Matey Hut in Ella has the best “extra cocnutty” rotti that you should try with their pumpkin curry.

Apart from that, pol rotti is available at most Sri Lankan restaurants, but not commonly seen at street food joints.

7. Polos (Jackfruit Curry)

In Sri Lanka, jackfruit is used in all its stages of ripeness to produce different dishes. For the authentic jackfruit curry the young jackfruit is best. A lot of spice is used in cooking the chunks of jackfruit and the finished dish has a yam-like consistency with a sweeter taste.

When to eat?
Polos is usually a vegetarian dish eaten at lunch and is served with rice and a few other curries.

Where will you find it?
If you are visiting Galle, walk down Pedlar Street and look out for Spoon’s Café and try their jackfruit curry.

Home based caterers also make some fantastic and authentic jackfruit curry.