The island nation of Sri Lanka is best known as the Island of Rice and Curry. The main feature of the country’s cuisine is steamed or boiled rice served with other dishes such as vegetables, chicken, fish, or mutton curry. Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped over the years by several cultural and historical factors among other factors. Contact with foreigners has also helped in the shaping of the country's cuisines. However, rice, spices, and coconut remain Sri Lanka’s staples. The country’s cooking delivers some of the unique and incredible dishes. Below are some of the most celebrated Sri Lankan foods.
Fruits such as coconut and jackfruit are an important part of Sri Lankan foods. Jackfruit is particularly consumed in several different forms and stages of ripeness. The fruit can either be consumed when it is very ripe and sweet or when it is still green and starchy. Polo is a type of Sri Lankan curry that is prepared from green jackfruit. The fruits are first sliced into smaller pieces and then boiled until they become soft. Once boiled fruit is then cooked with ginger, garlic, onion, and other spices such as turmeric, mustard seeds, curry leaf sprigs, pandan leaves, and roasted curry powder. The final stage of cooking polo involves adding coconut milk and simmering to reduce the liquid. Polo is readily available in most restaurants across the country.
Kottu is considered Sri Lanka’s hamburger; it is everybody’s favorite fast food, especially when craving something greasy and tasty. The dish resembles fried rice except that it is made of a spicy roti bread known as godamba roti. The roti is usually fried in the morning and piled into stacks. When an order is placed, the chefs chop and fry the roti with selected ingredients such as cheese, meat, or eggs. Kottu is often served with spiced curry sauce which can either be used as a dip or pour over the entire plate.
Pancakes are a popular food in most parts of the world. Sri Lanka has a special type of pancake known as hoppers or appam made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk, and sometimes sugar. The rice batter is fried in a small wok and swirled to make it round and even. Hoppers can either be savored or sweet depending on the ingredients. The most popular pancake in Sri Lanka is the egg hoppers. The egg is cracked in a bowl-shaped pancake and garnished with other ingredients such as lemon juice, chilies, and onions. Another popular hopper in the country is the string hopper which is made from thicker dough that has been squeezed string hopper maker to form thin strands of noodles.
Rice is a staple food in Sri Lanka and can be cooked in various forms and with other ingredients. One of the special rice dished is the kiribath. This special type of rice is cooked with thick salted coconut milk and is mainly served during special events such as the Sinhalese New Year. There are different types of kiribath but the first step in preparing the dish is boiling the rice. Salted coconut milk is then added to the rice before it finishes cooking. Coconut oil causes the rice to become sticky and creamy. Once it is fully cooked, the rice is cut into wedges and served as sliced cakes.
6. Kukul mas Mirisata
Kukul mas mirisata is simply a spicy chicken curry and a common household dish in the country. There are several variations of the dish depending on taste preference and regions. To prepare the spicy chicken curry, spices such as cardamom, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves are first fried in hot oil before they are mixed with the chicken and some other spices such as curry powder, chili powder, and turmeric. Coconut milk can also be added to the chicken to make the soup thicker. The chicken is then stewed for about an hour. This dish can be served with roti or rice.
5. Wambatu Moju
Wambatu moju is a flavored candied eggplant pickle that is commonly served with rice and curry. The eggplant is long, slender, and usually the purpled-skinned fruit variety. The fruits are first cut into pieces and deep fried to give them a crispy texture and a soft silky exterior. The eggplant is then caramelized with vinegar, sugar, green chilies, red onions, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, and chili powder until it turns black. The result is a soft and juicy dish loved by many across the country.
Sri Lankan cuisine has been influenced by culture including the Dutch Burgher community. Lamprais is a Dutch word combining two other Dutch words for “lump” and “rice.” The dish is a combination of several ingredients including rice, meat, and sambol chili, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The meat is usually a mixture of different meats like pork, beef, or lamb infused with cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. The spices are used to recreate the flavor preferred by the Dutch Burgher community.
3. Dhal curry
Dhal curry, also known as lentil curry, is one of the many Sri Lankan curries and also the most common and basic curry. The dish is prepared using tomato paste, lentils, and cumin among other spices. Coconut milk is used to thicken the ingredient and make a creamy base and give it a rich flavor. Dhal curry can be served with almost everything but it is often considered a perfect dipping gravy for roti.
2. Ambul thiyal
Being an island country in the Indian Ocean, fish is an important part of the Sri Lankan food. Sour fish curry, locally known as fish ambul thiyal is a popular variety of the fish curries. To prepare the fish curry, the fish is first cut into smaller pieces then mixed with spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, pandan leaves, curry leaves, and garlic. Dried goraka (small fruit) is used to give the fish curry a sour taste. All the ingredients are simmered with water and cooked until dry. Ambul thiyal is mostly served with rice.
1. Godumba rolls
Roti is a popular flatbread in Sri Lanka and the neighboring country. There are many types of roti but the most popular in the country is the kottu roti and the godamba roti. The godamba roti rolls are made of shredded coconut mixed into the dough. The roti is cut into smaller pieces and eaten with curry. They can also be wrapped around a savory filling.