What to eat in Sri Lanka: the top 10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try

When it comes to Sri Lankan cooking, there’s no end to the variety of ingredients, colours and spices you might expect to discover in native dishes. From iconic egg hoppers to mutton rolls, Karan Gokani – director of London’s Hoppers restaurants – has recommended the top foods you really do need to try if you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka. Make sure you pay close attention to our favourite, number 5 and whatever you do, leave room for dessert…

What to eat in Sri Lanka: the top 10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try
Embarking on a trip to the beautiful country of Sri Lanka? You’re not alone! A surge in popularity over the years has made beach-laden Sri Lanka a tourist hotspot for backpackers, honeymooners and foodies alike. If your tastebuds are just as excited as you are to touchdown on the island, treat them to a little pre-trip research…

 

1. Egg hoppers

These are bowl-shaped fermented pancakes made with a batter that consists of fermented rice and cooked coconut and normally come with a steamed egg in the centre – most Sri Lankans tend to start their day with one or two of these alongside a bowl of seeni or pol sambol. Beats our bowl of Bran Flakes any day…

egg hoppers


2. Pol sambol
This typical Sri Lankan relish is made using freshly ground coconut, Maldive fish, lime, shallots and dried red chilli. Normally, you’d expect it to be served alongside rice, hoppers or string hoppers.

POL SAMBOL

3. Polos (green jackfruit) curry 
Due to the fact it grows in abundance on the island, tender green jackfruit (known as polos) is used a lot in Sri Lankan cooking. In a traditional polos curry, you’ll find jackfruit that has been cooked with aromatic spiced, curry leaves and coconut milk – it’s a great meat-free alternative.

4. Mutton rolls 
Say (hello) to Sri Lanka’s version of croquettes! These breadcrumb rolls are made of spicy minced meat and potato and you might expect them to be served alongside a dipping sauce – such as a spicy hot sauce.
Mutton rolls


5. Black pork curry
A classic dry pork curry originating in Negombo, but commonly found in Colombo and in the south, where chunks of pork are slow cooked with goraka (a native dried sour fruit) and roasted curry powder in a traditional earthen pot. This curry derives its name from the deep roasted curry powder its cooked with, and has nothing to do with the colour of the pig!


6. Crab curry
Sri Lankans are obsessed with Crab Curry – depending on where you are on the island, you will find different crabs being used in the preparation. Negombo is famed for its chunkier, sweeter lagoon crabs; while sea crabs or blue swimmers are more popular in the north. The actual curry varies from home to home but is almost always eaten alongside the popular ‘paan’ bread, sourced from street side bakeries, where it’s baked freshly every morning and evening.
 
Crab curry


7. Kothu roti
Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for this really popular street food dish, which consists of finely chopped roti (flatbread) cooked with vegetables, eggs, curry sauce, meat or seafood. The ingredients are all chopped and tossed with metal paddles on a hot griddle, creating a distinct sound that draws folk in from miles away. This is probably the best late night, post-night-out food you will ever eat!

Kothu roti


8. Devilled dishes
Nothing like devilled eggs! These are a category of popular fiery, stir fried dishes that were influenced by Chinese cooking. Expect loads of chilli, tomatoes, spring onions, garlic and curry leaves tossed with a variety of seafood or meats. Very popular alongside a chilled Lion lager.

9. Lamprais
This traditional baked rice parcel is wrapped in banana leaf and often comes with meat and accompanying relishes, having originated from the Dutch Burgher community in Sri Lanka. The banana leaf gives a really distinctive flavour to the rice once baked.


10. Watalappam 
You didn’t think we’d let you travel all that way without prepping you with dessert inspiration, did you?! Picture Sri Lanka’s response to a crème caramel, made with rich coconut milk, malty jaggery, topped with toasted cashew nuts, and there you’ll have the island’s favourite Watalappam pudding (you’re very welcome).

 

If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, make sure to check out our Foodie Postcard from Sri Lanka, to discover the best foodie locations to check out whilst you’re there. 

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