While ‘Teardrop of India’ and ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ are some common nicknames for Sri Lanka, one should also consider ‘The Island of Rice and Curry’ to add to the list! Fortunate enough to be blessed with local fruit such as Coconut and Jackfruit, a wide range of Seafood, and a variety of Spices – everything combined together to produce incredibly tasty ‘Rice and Curry’ meals. Rather than talking about the food itself, let’s talk about where you can find the best traditional Lankan meals during your tour across the island.
- Green Cabin
Conveniently located on the popular Galle Road, Colombo 03, Green Cabin is a must try joint for Sri Lankan cuisine. Try their Sunday special lunch buffet (Rs. 350-400) that offers two types of rice (white and red), four vegetable curries – options include tempered beans, jackfruit curry, breadfruit curry (also known as dhel), dhal (lentils), beetroot curry, snakegourd, and so on, gotukola sambol, pol (coconut) sambol, one type of chutney, dried fish sautéed with oil and onions, and of course, papadam (no rice and curry meal is complete without a crunch of papadam on your plate)! If you like to have some meat to give your meal a push, Green Cabin offers fish, chicken and pork curries at an additional cost.
On their dessert menu is the favorite kiri pani (curd and treacle) which tastes perfect with the right amount of treacle for your curd, and then there’s the rich and creamy caramel pudding which turns out just right at Green Cabin.
- Curry Pot
A hub for most of the office crowd and college students, Curry Pot is a well maintained and spacious rice-and-curry spot on Marine Drive, Colpetty. A feast for your eyes is the sight of about 20 pots of curries displayed as you enter the restaurant and can’t decide which veggies, sambols and meats to try out. The set menu offers four vegetable curries of your choice and one meat option. If you want a wider variety on your plate, you can have it at a slightly higher price. Their price range is extremely reasonable so even for about Rs. 250, you can fill your plate up with about six different items.
The portions are very generously sized and the food tastes absolutely authentic and homemade. A nourishing meal with value for money is what curry pot offers with their healthy red rice and veg options prepared with minimal oil and not being overcooked at all. The efficient staff manage the long queues well by plating up curries quite fast and in a neat manner.
For a family-friendly fine dining experience with traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry, Upali’s is the place to go to. Conveniently located in Town Hall, Colombo 07 – the posh hub for eateries in Colombo, the price tag is certainly more than the above two options but it is a high end restaurant with good service and great food.
The menu offers strictly Sri Lankan varieties for all three meals, whether you are looking at sambols, rottis, soups, curries or dedicated veg options. Pick your choice of rice and curries and order it separately from the menu; most portions are sufficient for two people. Their black mutton curry is a big hit and must try along with the spicy chicken and gotukola sambol. Although it is just local cuisine that you are eating, chefs at Upali’s prepares it brilliantly and makes it seem absolutely unpretentious.
Along with the a-la-carte menu, they also have the rice set menu with incredibly fresh and moist rice just off the stove, complimented with a portion of papadam, fried and dried chilli, dry fish and a choice of three vegetable curries from the options available for that day – which is a pretty good deal for the price paid.
If you are out on a hot day, try the ‘Chandra’s Thirst Quencher’ here – a combination of king coconut, passion fruit and honey – just ideal to beat the heat. While at Upali’s don’t forget to wrap up your meal with their incredibly tasty curd (which is delicious on its own – without the need of sweeteners), and a touch of treacle syrup.
- Sharon Inn
As one of Kandy’s long established hotels, Sharon Inn is particularly known for its excellent hilltop views, clean rooms, welcoming staff and plenty of information on travels and tours. The dinner buffet on the starlit rooftop restaurant is an amazing dining experience that will make you fall in love with Sri Lankan cuisine. It is indeed a true feast of vegetable curries such as brinjal, jackfruit, beetroot, cabbage, pumpkin and more. With the curries, they serve some fluffy rice, roti, papadam and dhal. Overall, it is a deliciously home cooked Sri Lankan meal.
- Helga’s Folly
This intriguing hotel is a dream-like haze of color and decoration. The hotel is decorated with paintings, sculptures, deer heads and Indonesian shadow puppets. The restaurant at this hotel is open to in-house and outside guests offering set menus that include starters, soup, bread, salad, main meal and desserts. The vibrantly red chicken curry is a popular on the Sri Lankan menu, while most of the other curry choices vary depending on the day of the week. Another typically Sri Lankan dish on the menu that is loved by many is the fish of the day poached in tea.
- Kandy House
Once belonging to an aristocratic Sri Lankan family, the Kandy House is a charming hotel decorated with antiques, old photograph and colorful silks. The hotel’s restaurant focuses on special Sri Lankan curries for dinner – ideal for those who want an authentic taste of Lankan rice and curry.
- Rockview Restaurant
This is a simple and laid back restaurant offering stunning views of the green hills, forests and tea plantations. Whilst admiring the view from an open air deck, guests are encouraged to try traditional Sri Lankan cuisine at its best. Some of their special curries include raw banana, jackfruit and devilled chicken curry, served with a healthy portion of red rice and papadam. Conclude your meal here with a cup of strong Ceylon Tea served in earthen pots.
Nuwara Eliya & Ella
- Tea Factory Hotel Restaurant
Set amidst a historical building in Nuwara Eliya, this restaurant offers diners a lovely ambience, great service and delicious food. A la carte items are available or you can go for one of the five course set menus. The Sri Lankan dishes on the menu are slightly on the spicy side so do request for your meal to be made less spicy if you cannot take up an overdose of chili.
- Hill Club Restaurant
Diners at hill club restaurant – Nuwara Eliya are expected to dress up formal and expect nothing less than a fancy dining experience in a colonial style setting. The bar offers drinks before you indulge into the scrumptious Sri Lankan fare at the dining area.
- Rawana Holiday Resort Restaurant
Curry lovers in Ella will be more than glad to dive into the spicy curry feast at this restaurant. Along with Rawana’s signature garlic curry, they also serve up some appetizing sweet and sour brinjal curry and spicy potato curry.
- Mama’s Galle Fort Café
For decades, this team of mother and daughters have been cooking for travelers from across the globe. Their simple, yet much loved curries still hit the winning spot for many. They also provide cooking classes for those eager to learn the art of traditional Sri Lankan food.
- Spoon’s Café
A small diner run by one of the oldest Lankan families of the Galle Fort – offers some genuine Galle style rice and curry that you must try. Don’t forget to try their ‘silk route toffee’ for dessert – simply delicious!
- Dewmini Roti Shop
A small, yet very popular roadside restaurant in Mirissa for some of the best Sri Lankan meals – including tempting curries such as pumpkin, devilled chicken and dhal.