Sri Lanka – the delightful little spice island located southeast of India – is renowned for its pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, rich history and intriguing culture.
Above all, however, it’s the food that really has us licking our lips at the thought of exploring the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.
Though similar, Sinhalese cuisine is not to be confused with Indian food. This tropical oasis holds a strong sense of individual culture, especially in the kitchen. Sri Lankan food is unapologetically full of flavour and spice – a dazzling jumpstart to almost every sense.
Here’s our tips for making the most of this tantalising South Asian island paradise.
Nothing like a home cooked meal
Keep your eyes peeled for the small, home-looking “restaurants” that dot every neighbourhood. These gems are usually run by a welcoming family, generally out of the front of their house. It’s here where you will find the most delicious and well-cooked traditional food in Sri Lanka.
Unlike other Asian countries, it is uncommon for Sri Lankan people to eat out. So to treat your tastebuds in-house is the most authentic and realistic experience of local life you can find. While food in such a setting can take some time, do not be deterred by the wait – it’s well worth it!
Sides not to be side-lined
Generally speaking, the main event of every Sri Lankan meal is rice and curry, either meat or vegetarian. This is complemented by a variety of other accompanying dishes, which often pack just as much punch as the curry itself. Sides in Sri Lankan cuisine complete the overall experience. They range from sweet fruity chutneys to full-bodied sambals and delicate salads.
The combination of all dishes – generally four to nine at a time – is impeccable and there’s a very high chance you will be having the rice and curry banquet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Follow That Sound
Let the clanging and banging of metal on metal be the soundtrack of your next taste sensation – the Kottu Roti. This dish is a crowd pleaser and Sinhalese favourite, as well as a perfect gateway food into the delicious world of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine.
Kottu Roti is essentially a roti (a thin flat bread made of flour and coconut), which is shredded, mixed with your choice of meat, veg and a combination of spices and stir fried with stainless steel paddles (the clanging) on a hotplate. You’ll find Kottu Roti stalls almost everywhere, so be sure to keep an eye out as you explore.