Before traveling to Sri Lanka I had no idea what type of foods would be available. I naively assumed that it would be the exact same as Indian food. Although curry, rotti and poppadums are readily available, similar to India, there are so many other foods you must eat in Sri Lanka. For me, one of the best parts about traveling is sampling the local cuisine in order to get a sense of the native culture and way of life. Not to mention, the food is often amazing!
If you are planning on going to Sri Lanka, make sure you give these 8 types of food (and drinks) a try and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Foods You Must Eat in Sri Lanka
When I first heard of Kottu, it was fondly referred to as the burger of Sri Lankan cuisine – delicious, fast food, and not particularly healthy. This dish is made from chopped up roti and mixed with veggies, such as carrots, cabbage and onion, and can come with your choice of meats, cheese, and egg. Personally, I would label it the Sri Lankan fried rice instead. More than anything, the dish is known for its signature sound of the knives hitting the griddle to mix and chop the kottu. Watching the process and rhythm of chopping a kottu is an experience in itself.
2. Egg Hoppers
This delicious staple in the Sri Lankan diet is often served for breakfast. In layman’s terms, it is similar to a crepe cooked into a bowl-shape with an egg fried at the base. It is best when topped with delicious curry and sambol.
*If you go to Unawatuna, make sure you hit up Skinny Tom’s for their modern twist on egg hoppers such as the eggs benedict or shakshuka.
3. Milk Rice
While in Sigiriya, a local pointed us in the direction of milk rice, or kiribath, and said we had to try it. Although not exactly the rice pudding I envisioned from his description, it wasn’t far off. The rice is cooked with coconut milk and formed into more solid shapes and served with chili paste, curries and sambol.
4. Short Eats
These became one of our go-to, budget friendly lunch options. Essentially short eats are small snacks available from many roadside stalls and restaurants. These fried and stuffed bites come in different varieties such as vegetable roti, samosas, fried fish and vegetable balls, or vegetable fritters. They shouldn’t set you back more than 50 LKR ($0.30 USD) for each one, and make for the perfect meal on the go.
5. Buffalo Curd
Made from buffalo milk, locals typically sell curd in beautiful clay pots on the side of the road. Similar texture and flavor to greek yogurt, it is best eaten with honey or treacle (palm syrup). Throw in some fruit and you have an incredible dessert!
6. King Coconut
Nothing says vacation quite like sipping on a delicious coconut while at the beach. The king coconut is a smaller variety of coconut and is common throughout Sri Lanka. It often comes in a bright orange shade and is slightly sweeter than your average coconut. You should be able to pick one up from a local vendor for as little as 50LKR ($0.30 USD).
7. String Hoppers
Locally known as Idiyappam, string hoppers are a dish commonly served for breakfast. Made from steamed rice noodles and loosely formed into flat rounds. When we had it, it was served with dhal curry and sambol.
8. Rice and Curry
I agree, this is an obvious one. And if you aren’t eating rice and curry while in Sri Lanka, you are doing something wrong! Regardless, I’ve included it here as it was different than I expected. Unlike curries in restaurants back home where you choose the flavours and types, most restaurants in Sri Lanka you simply need to order “rice and curry” and you get a variety of 3-6 curries prepared in whichever manner the restaurants choose that day.
We found local hole-in-the-wall places to be the best as they had plenty of flavour, huge portions and cheap prices. Don’t pay more than 400 LKR ($2.86 USD) for a vegetarian rice and curry and see if you can beat our lowest price of 110 LKR ($0.63 USD). Making rice an curry a staple of your diet is key to travelling around Sri Lanka on a tight budget.
There are so many other foods to try while you’re in Sri Lanka. A great place to try some local dishes at very reasonable prices is at the food collective, Hela Bojun. These markets with their authentic food are available in numerous locations throughout the island of Sri Lanka. They were created with the commendable purpose of providing self-employment opportunities to local woman in the hopes of boosting their economic well-being.
No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without trying the local cuisine. This list of 8 foods you must eat in Sri Lanka is a compilation of my favourite foods while exploring the beautiful paradise island of Sri Lanka.
*Please note, prices are based on our experiences during our time of travel, March 2019, and will fluctuate.