Recently, I visited Sri Lanka and had a great time experimenting with Sri Lankan cuisine. Some of my favorites are Ceylon Tea, Egg hoppers, Kottu, Baby Jackfruit Curry, Pol Roti, and wood apple Shake. And here is my article on 7 Dishes That You Must Try In Sri Lanka.
You can read the unedited version here!!!
The simpler aspects of life have a greater impact and that is what appeals most about Sri Lanka. It is unpretentious. When I first started planning my Sri Lankan sojourn, I wondered if I could have enough to do for eight days. But now I know, I shouldn’t have worried. Our gorgeous neighbor country, famously known as the Pearl in the Indian Ocean surpassed all my expectations. It is small in size but it is a giant of experiences. From its never-ending beaches, wondrous waves, enchanting wildlife, aromatic tea leaves, indulging history, ever-smiling people, and enigmatic architecture to delish dishes, Sri Lanka is a charmer. And thus we know why it makes for a popular tourist attraction. Food is one of the things to rejoice.
While the world celebrates Sri Lanka for its tea, I will always adore it for its local delicacies. Food is my weakness and being a great foodie, I believe that one relishes a country through its spices and flavors. And it is never about the ingredients only but historical, cultural, neighboring influences, and many other factors that go into shaping the cuisine of a country. When I think of the capital city Colombo, the rows of small eateries that line the busy streets of Fort Area, Pettah, and Galle Face Green come to mind.
The rice curries, egg hoppers, kottu, pol roti, coconut sambol, wood apple shake, seafood, and its arsenal of spices defined deliciousness to me. While travelers from South India might find similarities but for me who has been born and brought up in North India, Sri Lankan cuisine was about interesting characteristics, verdant flavors of rice, fermented doughs, fresh coconut, and liberal use of spices.
Let me take you on a lip-smacking journey of my culinary journey in Sri Lanka. Here are some of the dishes that left me hungry and you must try them on your next visit.
Hoppers (Indi appa or idiyappam)
I can’t think of Sri Lanka without the hoppers. The string hoppers served with sambal or curry made for a great breakfast. The Egg hoppers were equally delighting for the taste buds. String hoppers are nothing but south Indian steamed noodles made of rice flour. Unlike string hoppers, appams (Hoppers) are made from fermented batter and can be topped with eggs, chicken, cheese, or more. The bowl-like shape makes it sturdy and crunchy enough to hold some curry, cheese, eg,g, and more. This incredibly simple yet delicious dish can be eaten at any time of the day.
Kottu (also, kottu roti)
Sri Lankan food discussion remains incomplete without talking about Kottu. Kottu means chopped bread in Sinhalese. It is virtually on every Sri Lankan menu that serves small and quick bites. A flaky flatbread or godhamba roti is roughly shredded and fried with vegetables, egg and/or meat, and spices. Kottu Roti is Sri Lanka’s favorite street food. I found it very interesting for it makes a mashup of many things. One can experiment with the ingredients and use different kinds of bread or roti (main ingredient). The end product is always delicious. If you look into its making, you will love the rhythmic tune that goes into making it. I loved it best with scrambled eggs.
Sri Lankan Dhal Curry (Parippu) Dhal curry
On my quest for stable food in the tea country, I learned that Dhal curry makes for the most loved choice in every house. The masoor dhal or red lentils are cooked with spices and coconut milk. They are preferred with both pieces of bread and steamed rice. I am sure this reminds you of Kerala in India. Sri Lanka has its own unique and tantalizing version.
Pol Sambol (coconut relish)
Pol sambol is something that will make you addicted. Finely grated coconut with onions, chili powder, lime juice, and some coconut milk makes a very refreshing treat for every palate. Coconuts are a very important and commonly used ingredient in Sri Lanka and thus this one is a spicy relish. It makes for a great side dish. It is one of the most versatile dishes for it can be eaten with anything and everything. I always looked for it as an accompaniment with rice and string hoppers. I had the best pol sambol at Upali’s by Nawaloka, a local restaurant that offers some of the best Sri Lankan flavors.
Sago drink (Tapioca)
Sri Lankans love to drink Sago in coconut milk, sweetened with palm jaggery or sugar. I had only eaten sago porridge but for the first time, I drank a warm glass of sago, a local health beverage, at a roadside stall in Colombo. It is a popular street drink in Sri Lanka. At first, I found it bizarre but later it came out to be different and delicious. It was filling and satisfying too. I liked its uniqueness and warmth of flavors.
No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without indulging in Wood Apple juice or shake. This was a real discovery for me until I traveled to Sri Lanka. I had no clue that there was a fruit called wood apple. My first encounter with it was in the form of a wood apple shake and I quite liked it. When I was told it is a wood apple, I went looking for it in the market. For the uninitiated, I must share that it is a fruit with a hard brown shell with a rough exterior. Once it ripens the pulp is used to make wood apple drinks and shakes. The fruit is known as the “devil” in Sinhala. It is available throughout the year.
Some of the best curries and seafood happened to me in Sri Lanka. One may find many variations depending on region and taste preferences but the fresh catch and Sri Lankan spices do the magic everywhere. Everywhere that I ate, the meat was ultra-juicy, accented by a marinade, and cooked savory. One cannot miss the famous restaurant ‘Ministry of Crab’ if seafood is your weakness.
Sri Lankan Achcharu (Pickle)
If you thought only Indians loved to perk their meals with pickles, Sri Lankans love it too. Sri Lankan pickle (Sinhala Achcharu) is prepared with a medley of vegetables and myriad spices. Polo achcharu (baby jackfruit) is a favorite. It is believed that Malay influence and their pickles led to this easy condiment preparation in Sri Lanka. The locals prepare it in varied varieties and love it with every meal. One can easily find them in local street food markets.
If you are a foodie, you will rejoice in the incredible variety of food and spices that Sri Lanka has to offer. Colombo is the capital city and it offers all world platters too. No international cuisine is unachievable here and especially for Indians, it is a haven of food.