Sri Lankan cuisine is indeed different. The components carry influences from the colossal Indian subcontinents as well as traces of Dutch origins, and its preparation is ceaselessly being moulded by the different cultures it comes in contact with. When observed closely, you will discover that the staples of Sri Lankan cuisine are coconut milk, rice and spices, while the most important Sri Lanka spices are Ceylon cinnamon (better known as real cinnamon), black pepper, cardamom, clove, nutmeg and turmeric.

Planning a visit to the famed island nation in the Indian Ocean? Be sure to indulge your palate with the most popular Sri Lankan dishes. Here is everything you need to know about traditional Sri Lankan food!

Read also: Sri Lanka & My First Time in South Asia!

    popular sri lanka food
    13 Must-Try Food in Sri Lanka


    13 Must-Try Food in Sri Lanka

    Egg Hopper

    Hopper or Appam is a type of pancake made from fermented rice flour and yeast. It has a distinct, almost paper-thin thickness and is shaped like a bowl as it is cooked in a appachatti. Neutral in taste with the smallest hint of sourness, they are served with condiments and curries.
    The preparation of egg hopper is similar to plain hopper, except an egg is broken into the centre as it cooks.

    egg hopper sri lanka appam
    Egg Hopper in Sri Lanka


    Watalappan

    Have a sweet tooth? You’ll love watalappan! Prepared using condensed coconut milk, jaggery, egg, cashew nuts and spices such as vanilla pods, nutmeg, clove and cardamom, this coconut custard pudding is a favourite during social celebrations and religion festivals.

    Watalappan Sri Lanka
    Watalappan in Sri Lanka


    Lunumiris

    A popular wet and hot sambal condiment in Sri Lanka, Lunumiris is made by grinding black pepper, salt, chili pepper, red onions, lime juice and umbalakada (or Maldive fish - the Sri Lankan equivalent of Southeast Asia’s dried shrimp) in a grindstone. A vegetarian version is also possible, simply by removing Maldive fish from the recipe.

    Lunumiris Sri Lanka
    Lunumiris in Sri Lanka


    Curd & Treacle

    Everything in Asia has two versions: street side and gourmet, and curd and treacle - a popular dessert in the southern part of Sri Lanka, is one such dish. The palm treacle is extracted by tapping the sap of the kithul palm inflorescences in a process known as Kitul Peni tapping - a 2,000 year-old affair in the country. Mee Kiri, on the other hand, is a traditional curd made using buffalo milk.

    Curd & Treacle Sri Lanka
    Curd & Treacle in Sri Lanka


    Pol Roti

    A rustic flat bread prepared using grated coconut, flour, green chilies and onions, this signature Sri Lankan roti taste fantastic when eaten with curry and sambol.

    Pol Roti Sri Lanka
    Pol Roti in Sri Lanka


    Kiribath

    This traditional rice cake dish is prepared by cooking white short grain rice in thick, fragrant coconut milk, salt and water. It is most commonly eaten during breakfast (especially during the first day of every new month) and also during auspicious events throughout the year.

    Kiribath Sri Lanka
    Kiribath in Sri Lanka


    Nadu & Samba Rice

    Basmati may be popular in India, but in Sri Lanka, it is the Nadu and Samba rice that reign. According to studies conducted, parboiled rice (nadu) has the lowest GI, followed by samba and basmati. The locals are also huge fans of red rice, which comes with a more starchy and corny flavour.

    Rice & Curry Sri Lanka
    Rice & Curry in Sri Lanka


    Masala Vadai

    Snacks are loved by all here. They are bought by the dozen (or more) and devoured anytime of the day, whether at tea shacks or during commute. Masala vadai remains the local favourite, often eaten while they are still hot, crunchy and fresh out of the wok. Delicious on its own but even tastier when dipped in chutney or sambar, this oval-shaped lentil patties is a must-try on this island.

    Masala Vadai Sri Lanka
    Masala Vadai in Sri Lanka


    Kottu Roti

    Known as “chopped bread” when translated literally, this everyday food item hailing from Batticaloa is prepared by stir-frying shredded godamba roti (Sri Lanka’s version of paratha), eggs, vegetables, and spices. Meat and cheese are optional but highly encouraged.

    Kottu Roti in Sri Lanka
    Kottu Roti in Sri Lanka


    Malu Mirisata

    A prefered fish dish by the locals, this spicy fish curry takes on a hotter flavor as it is cooked without any coconut milk - a very unusual method in Sri Lanka. It is always accompanied by freshly steamed rice or Idiyappam (refer below), but also yummy when dipped with crusty garlic bread.

    Malu Mirisata in Sri Lanka
    Malu Mirisata in Sri Lanka


    Thembili or King Coconut

    King Coconut is a variety of coconut native to Sri Lanka, where it is fondly known as Thembili. The tree is relatively shorter as compared to regular coconut trees, whereas its water is slightly sweeter. This exquisite natural drink plays an important role in Ayurveda, where it has been used for healing and nourishing purposes for centuries.

    King Coconut Sri Lanka
    King Coconut in Sri Lanka


    Idiyappam

    String hopper or Idiyappam is a rice noodle dish which originated from the Indian subcontinent. It is simply ragi flour (finger millet flour) shaped into long strings and steamed until a whitish translucency is achieved. This dish is usually served as the main course alongside curry and chutney.

    Idiyappam in Sri Lanka
    Idiyappam in Sri Lanka


    Sri Lankan Curry

    Curries prepared in Sri Lanka differs from the Indian variation: Although both having similar cooking styles, the execution is highly dissimilar. The primary dissemblance lies in the addition of coconut milk in Sri Lankan curries, which duly give it a thicker consistency, milder flavour and a creamier texture.

    sri lankan curry
    Curry in Sri Lanka


    It is important to note that eating beef is highly discouraged in Sri Lanka as it is predominantly a Buddhist country, while mutton dishes are generally pricier and harder to find.

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