Sri Lanka is a truly amazing island nation, with outstanding natural beauty, wonderful wildlife and an amazingly rich cultural heritage. In addition, the fruits, vegetables, spices and fish which are available to the island’s inhabitants have meant that a huge array of unique and distinctive meals have become synonymous with a trip to Sri Lanka. So that you make the most of your trip to the wonderful nation, known as the ‘Teardrop of India’, we’ve compiled a list of some unmissable traditional dishes for you to enjoy!
When Sri Lankans fancy a real treat and aren’t in the mood to cook, they are most likely to go for their nation’s fast food favourite, kottu. This dish is based on little pieces of crispy fried flatbread called godamba roti, which are mixed in with a variety of vegetables, spices, meat and egg to the customers’ liking. The meal is finished with a spicy curry sauce, which can either be piled over the kottu, or can be used as a dip for a less spicy treat. Kottu is so delicious that it is emerging as a street food around the world, with versions of the unique treat served up by Sri Lankans in New York, amongst other cities.
Fish Ambul Thiyal
Sri Lanka is an island covered in vast sandy beaches, and its people have a history of living off the sea. Due to this, a large amount of traditional Sri Lankan food is based around the wonderful flavours of the ocean. Fish Ambul Thiyal is a sour fish curry, and one of Sri Lanka’s most famous dishes. This unique and delicious curry is usually made with tuna or halibut, which is mixed with cinnamon, turmeric and a variety of other herbs, as well as the native Indonesian fruit of goraka, which gives the dish a distinctive sour flavour. Like most Sri Lankan dishes, Ambul Thiyal is often prepared with a lot of chilli and boiled down to a thick paste, which packs a real punch!
Hoppers are large, round pancakes made from rice flour, which are delicious alongside pretty much any Sri Lankan curry. Hoppers are also often eaten for breakfast, where they are either filled with fruit and yogurt or a fried egg. You may also find hoppers in the form of noodles, known as ‘string hoppers’; these noodles are served with a thin coconut curry gravy and are a delicious side-dish for any Sri Lankan meal.
Potato Curry (Ala Hodi)
Like a lot of Sri Lankan curries, this dish is based around coconut milk. Palm trees are numerous around the nation and the mild, tasty milk that is derived from them gives Sri Lankan curries a richness and depth of flavour, as well as providing the main form of fat in the Sri Lankan diet. For this popular dish, potatoes and onions are served in a creamy sauce which often contains fenugreek, pandan leaves and turmeric, as well as the standard addition of a few Sri Lankan chilli peppers! Ala Hodi is often offered as a side dish, as well as for a main, where it is served with rice or flatbreads.
Sri Lankan Dhal Curry (Parippu)
Dhal is the Indian word for lentils, which are eaten as a staple food in Sri Lanka, as well as forming the base of various delicious curries. A red lentil called Masoor Dhal is frequently used in Parippu, a curry dish where lentils are cooked slowly with a variety of spices including turmeric, pandan leaves, chilli peppers and curry leaves. The dish is then enriched with thick coconut milk and simmered to a thick paste. Parippu is generally served with flatbreads and rice, but also sometimes with godamba roti.
Gotu Kola Sambol
Gotu Kola Sambol is a non-typical Sri Lankan traditional food in that it is uncooked, and based on a green, leafy vegetable known as centella or gotu kola. The salads made with this common Sri Lankan leaf typically include shredded coconut, shallots, coconut milk and lime juice, as well as – you guessed it – chilli! Gotukola sambol has a fresh, kale-like flavour and is perfect when you are looking for a change from the traditional curry and rice dishes found in Sri Lanka.
Milk Rice (Kiribath)
This mild but tasty traditional Sri Lankan food is a perfect accompaniment to the spicy and rich flavours of Sri Lankan curries, as well as being delicious on its own. Kiribath is simple to make, just cook some rice, then add coconut milk, salt and cinnamon and boil down until thick and creamy.
Young Jackfruit Curry (Polos)
Jackfruit is a truly fascinating crop. It’s the world’s largest known tree-borne fruit and has an unusual smell, a bumpy skin and a gooey, sappy interior. Jackfruit is pest, disease and drought resistant, and has even been claimed to have the potential to save millions from hunger in the future! For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll talk about this most undervalued of fruits’ role as the base for a delicious, traditional Sri Lankan curry! Jackfruit curry is generally slow cooked with a large range of spices including garlic, chilli, mustard seeds and cardamom, as well as goraka and coconut milk. When cooked, jackfruit is similar in texture to chicken - with a flavour somewhere between banana and pineapple - making it an excellent base for a vegetarian curry.
A trip to Sri Lanka really wouldn’t be complete without experiencing some of the delicious traditional delicacies from the diverse, beautiful and friendly island. Whilst you enjoy Sri Lanka’s wonderful beaches, elephants, scenery and heritage sites, ensure that you check out these amazing traditional dishes for an authentic experience of this island paradise