Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Sea just south of India, is not just a country famed for its beaches and tea. It is also a country of exquisite South Asian cuisine with a wide variety of aromatic curries and rice dishes.
Popular Sri Lankan Dishes
Sri Lankan cuisine usually revolves around different varieties of rice and coconut, which feature heavily in many dishes. Traditional Sri Lankan foods are well known for their distinctive combinations of spices, herbs, fish, rice, fruits and vegetables.
Sri Lankan dishes are also heavily influenced by neighbouring countries such as India and Indonesia, as well as the Netherlands owing to their historical presence in the country. So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try dishes of Sri Lanka.
Kottu is one of the national dishes of Sri Lanka which has all of the crucial elements typical of Sri Lankan cuisine: flatbread, crispy vegetables, aromatic spices, roti and tasty meat.
Kottu resembles fried rice and is usually eaten for breakfast that is made with godamba roti, a flat and crispy bread. It is then served with a spicy curry sauce that you can either pour over your entire plate or just have it as a dip.
The name Lamprais comes from the two Dutch words “lump” and “rice”. It is a combination of steamed meat, sambal chili sauce and rice, which are wrapped into a banana leaf packet.
Usually, the rice is cooked with a combination of pork, lamb or beef stock, and is infused with cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. This dish is a Burgher contribution to Sri Lankan cuisine where the sweet spices are prepared to recreate the flavor that is preferred by the Dutch Burgher community.
Fish Ambul Thiyal
Fish Ambul Thiyal or sour fish curry is one of the most sought-after varieties of fish curries in Sri Lanka. In this dish, the fish is usually a large fish, such as tuna, cut into cube pieces.
The fish is sauteed with different spices such as cinnamon, garlic, black pepper, turmeric, curry and pandan leaves. It is then simmered, a little water added in and served.
Kukul Mas Curry
Kukul Mas Curry or chicken curry is a favorite dish throughout Sri Lankan households. It is super easy to make and has a lot of variations depending on preferences.
Spices such as cardamom, fennel seeds and cinnamon sticks are tempered in hot oil before being combined with chicken legs and other spices and flavorings.
Coconut milk plays a huge role in this recipe as it contributes to the rich taste of the curry. Kukul mas curry is best served with hot rice and roti.
Hoppers (appa or appam)
Hoppers are Sri Lanka’s version of pancakes. Its batter is made with a fermented concoction of rice flour, coconut water, coconut milk and a little bit of sugar then, in a small wok, the batter is swirled around to even it out.
The favorite variety among locals in Sri Lanka is egg hoppers, though there are also sweet and savory versions. Unlike the usual runny batter, string hoppers are made from a much thicker mixture which are also used to create noodles.
Parippu, or dhal curry, is a staple dish in most Sri Lankan household and is one of the most common curries in the country.
In a separate pan, saute the onions, green chilies and tomatoes then mix it with spices like turmeric, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves and fenugreek. All of the ingredients are typically combined and thickened with fresh coconut milk that creates a creamy texture.
Wambatu Moju, or eggplant pickle, is very flavorful and is usually served with rice and curries. This dish is made with long and slender purple-skinned eggplant, which are cut into bite-sized wedges.
It is then caramelized with sugar, vinegar, mustard, green chillies, red onions, turmeric powder, and chilli powder just until the colour turns black. Its texture becomes soft and juicy which melts in your mouth with a burst of sweet, sour and salty flavors.
Polos (Jackfruit Curry)
Polos, or green jackfruit curry, is a standard Sri Lankan dish that is primarily made with young jackfruit. The jackfruit is cut into bite-sized pieces and boiled for a couple of minutes until it becomes soft.
After that, it is then cooked with garlic, onion, ginger and different spices such as turmeric, mustard seeds, chilli powder, curry leaf sprigs, pandan leaves and roasted curry powder. Then for the last step, coconut milk is added and simmered to reduce some of the liquid.
Gotu Kola Sambol
Gotu Kola Sambol is a pennywort salad and is one of the readily available green vegetable dishes in Sri Lanka. It has a kale-like flavour, which makes it extremely fresh and crispy.
The vegetable is shredded and combined with tomatoes, shallots, chilli and freshly grated coconut. It is then seasoned with salt, pepper and squeezed lemon juice.
Kiribath with Lunu Miris
Kiribath is a type of rice that is often served during special occasions like the Sinhalese New Year. This dish can be prepared in many ways but the most common way is to start preparing it by boiling a pot of rice.
Then the coconut milk is added as well as a pinch of salt before the rice finishes cooking. The coconut milk makes it particularly creamy and helps form a sticky consistency.
Kiribath is usually cut into wedges and served like a cake. It is such a versatile dish that it can be eaten as a side with other Sri Lankan dishes. In the picture above it is served with Lunu Miris, a very popular combination.