Sri Lanka is a small island off the coast of India, tucked between the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. With beaches that seem to go on forever, stunning temples, and a friendly culture, it’s a hidden gem that many people miss. Unmatched however, are the flavorful dishes that await you in Sri Lanka. From seafood, to curry, to everything in between, there are countless meals to try that will fill you up but leave you wanting more! Without further ado, here is some of the best food in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan seafood
It’s no surprise that an island would want to take advantage of its surroundings. With a surplus of different fish, the Sri Lankans have managed to create an array of dishes to entice the eyes (and stomach!). First on the menu is fish ambul thiyal, or sour fish curry. This dish is made with a large species of fish, usually tuna. It is sautéed with a blend of spices, including cinnamon, black pepper, garlic, turmeric, pandan leaves, and curry leaves. The unique “sour” taste however, comes from dried goraka, a small fruit that grows on the island. You can find this dish at many restaurants all over the country, and is usually served with rice.
There is also a chili fish curry, a similar dish, but prepared with a much stronger spice blend. This is also best served with rice in order to cut down on the heat level.
Another well-known seafood dish among these islanders is karawala baduma, or salted fish stir fry. These are usually smaller fish that have been dried ahead of time. They are then salted and fried (as the name hints), to create a crunchy texture on the outside, but a flavorful and well-cooked piece of fish on the inside. It’s recommended to have this along with a side of vegetable curry, as the flavors pair well and balance out the saltiness of the fish. You’ll definitely be getting your seafood fix in Sri Lanka!
Fruits and veggies galore
As a vegetarian, I’m always nervous when I’m traveling that there won’t be a lot of options for me when I go out to eat. But fortunately, for those of us out there who don’t eat meat, or perhaps for those who just really love their greens, Sri Lanka has got you covered! There are dozens of meatless dishes in this country that pack just as much flavor!
At the top of this list is polos, or green jackfruit curry. While jackfruit in North America is mostly used as a rare meat-substitute, the jackfruit is a staple in Sri Lanka. For this dish, the jackfruit is used when it’s not as ripe, and has more of a “starchy” texture to it. It’s cooked with many different spices and powders, a few of which include ginger, turmeric, mustard seeds, chili powder, and roasted curry powder. After it’s fully cooked, coconut milk is added and simmered down so the jackfruit can absorb all of the flavors.
An equally popular dish is gotu kola sambol, or the pennywort salad. Sliced gota kola (Asiatic pennywort) is mixed with tomatoes, shallots, shredded coconut, chili spices, and a simple dressing usually made with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. You can get this refreshing salad at almost any restaurant.
And of course, there are plenty of other dishes within the different regions that you will find and not be able to resist!
Other must-try food in Sri Lanka
By now, you’re probably starting to get full, but there are still a few more Sri Lankan dishes you’ve got to try! A Sri Lankan trip wouldn’t be complete without trying wood apple. The wood apple grows in Southeast Asia, coming inside a hard shell, with a very strong smell that’s been compared to blue cheese. Despite the confusing smell, this fruit actually has a sweet and sour taste to it. Wood apple can be eaten either straight out of the shell, or blended into a drink.
Coconut is also a very important staple in the Sri Lankan diet, and one of their favorite ways to prepare it is by serving pol sambol, or coconut relish. The term sambol in Sri Lankan cooking means to combine and eat raw. In order to prepare this dish, grated coconut is mixed with red onions, dried whole chilies, chili powder, salt, and lime juice, and is served with some kind of fresh fish.
One final Sri Lankan dish that you must try is kottu roti. This meal resembles fried rice, and it’s served with spicy curry sauce. When dining at a restaurant, the chef will cook the roti for you and add different ingredients that you can choose from. Not only will you be getting a great meal, but you’ll also have an amazing experience that will bring you closer to the culture of Sri Lanka!
When traveling, eating local dishes is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to immerse yourself in the culture. And in Sri Lanka, there are so many options to try. From fresh seafood, to vegetable curries, to everything in between, you’ll have the opportunity to taste all the different flavors and influences on this island country. If you ever decide to travel to Sri Lanka, trying some of the staple dishes of the locals should be at the top of your bucket list.
To discover the flavors of Sri Lanka for yourself, join us on an expedition to this beautiful island country. Our trip includes stops in Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Elle, and it has an optional four-day extension to Galle and Colombo.
Post written by Demitria Rounis