Food In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a melting pot of delicacies and heartwarming dishes. Sri Lankan cuisine is not popular globally unlike other cuisines in the world and you wouldn’t find many restaurants serving authentic Sri Lankan food outside Sri Lanka. This is why we would like to encourage you to try as many Sri Lankan dishes as you can while you’re here.

Rice is the staple food of Sri Lanka. As you travel you will realize the prominence of rice in the local diet. Some Sri Lankans eat rice for all three meals. Rice is often accompanied with curries usually vegetarian dishes and occasionally fish. Lentils, stir fried potatoes and bean curry with pol sambol (spicy coconut mixture) are among the most popular dishes. In the Urban areas consumption of meat is more prominent, people mostly consume chicken, seafood and mutton whilst beef and pork is also consumed in moderation.

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A Royal Meal

In the ancient times it is often said that the royal family would enjoy rice along with 32 other dishes. The 32 dishes were mainly vegetarian dishes prepared in unique ways. There are many restaurants that you could head out to during your trip to enjoy a scrumptious Sri Lankan meal. Even though these places won’t serve you 32 side dishes they will no doubt give you the opportunity to experience authentic Sri Lankan Cuisine. If you’re budget is on the higher side you can try the Governor's Restaurant, Upali’s, Kaema Sutra, Curry Leaf, Raja Bojun last but not least Palmyrah offers signature dishes comprising of a traditional Jaffna flair. All these restaurants are located in and around Colombo.

Sri Lankan food is unique in taste due to the use of a wide range of spices and coconut milk in the preparation process. Being an island nation and due to an abundance of coconut trees Sri Lankans have used coconut in various forms in their food.

International influence on Sri Lankan Food

Sri Lankan food has been heavily influenced by its proximity to Southern India and by the fact that the country was a colony for over 4 centuries, first under the Portugese, then the Dutch and finally the British. All of this adds to the uniqueness and variety of Sri Lankan cuisine, which makes it a must try.

Sri Lankan food would be closest to Kerala food in South India. There are many parallels to both the cuisines. The generous use of spices and addition of coconut milk during preparation. Some of our top recommendations include Hoppers, String Hoppers and Pittu which go very well on its own or with a pol sambol or onion sambol. This food is equally popular in South India.

Lamprais which is a popular meal especially in Colombo was introduced by the Dutch. Lamprais is prepared in a way that the food can be preserved. Lamprais is derived from the Dutch word lomprijst, which loosely translated means a packet of food. Specific dishes and flavourful rice comes wrapped in a banana leaf.

Lingus which is a pork sausage found in Sri Lanka was something passed on by the portugese.

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Street Food in Sri Lanka

By far the most popular street food in Sri Lanka is the Kottu. Kottu is a mix of chopped up roti, vegetables mainly leeks and carrot. You could opt for eggs, chicken or beef based on your preference, you could also mention the level of spicyness. Today the traditional Kottu has come a long way and most places serve Cheese Kottu as well. Our top recommendation to try Kottu, would be Hotel De Pilawoos in Colombo. Kottu is often served in “Saiwars” which are simple street food shops where the locals eat. If you are looking for a more established restaurant Kottu Labs in Nawala would be an interesting place to visit.

The next best place to try street food in Colombo is at the Galle face green. Isso Vadai (The best way to describe an isso vadai is a Savoury Berliner with prawn and onion topping). There are many cart vendors who would deep fry Isso Vadai. It goes well with the unique savory onion sauce that accompanies the vadai.

Besides the famous Isso Vadai the Galle face green has a wide array of food served including Bar-Be-Qued Sea food, Chicken, Satays along with fried rice or even kottu. Whilst some of these are not exactly Sri Lankan food they are definitely worth trying as they have a unique Sri Lankan twist to them due to the use of spices and local condiments.

Another popular must try is “Ice Milo” it’s a chocolate drink that is served cold in many saiwars. This is a signature beverage at Hotel De Pilawoos and compliments a cheese Kottu.

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Seafood at its best

Being an island, Sri Lanka is blessed with an abundance of fresh sea food. Whilst delicious Sea food dishes are very popular in the coastal areas seafood is not equally consumed in every part of the island. A must try is the Jaffna crab curry. This dish is made with unique Jaffna spices and lagoon crabs or sea crabs from the region. Crab gravy goes well with “Roast Paan” (Extra roasted Sri Lankan bread). Besides this, prawn curry and traditional Sri Lankan fish curry are among the other sea food dishes that need to be tried.


Watalappan is a famous dessert in Sri Lanka introduced by the Malays and is very popular during Muslim festivals. It’s made using jaggery and coconut milk. It’s very rich in taste due to the ground spices added during preparation as well as the raisins and cashew that is added for garnishing.

We encourage you to try joining some cooking lessons to learn how to cook some heartwarming Sri Lankan dishes. You will be able to create a special connection with local cuisine and take some great memories back home.