Market stall selling local produce


Sri Lankan Cuisine

Full of spice and bursting with flavour, Sri Lankan cuisine covers everything

If you like your curry, holidays in Sri Lanka are probably calling you already. Sri Lankan flavours are dominated by spices, coconut and chillies, with the island's dishes considered among the worlds hottest. While standard foods are spicy, many restaurants tone the chilli content down for tourists. Being an island, Sri Lanka has plenty of seafood to tempt you, with spicy barbecued fish and coconut shrimp curry just two of the options on the menu.

In Sri Lanka, mealtimes usually consist of a main meat or fish curry and several other curries made with vegetables, lentils and even fruit. Distinctive flavours include coconut milk, onion, chilli, cumin, coriander and aromatic spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and saffron.

Rice and side dishes
All that curry needs something to help take the heat, and most curry dishes are served with boiled or steamed rice. Other more flavoursome side dishes include chutneys, pickles and sambal, a spicy chilli-based paste. The most popular, coconut sambal, is made of ground coconut, chillies, dried fish and lime juice. Also served on the side is mallung, a blend of chopped leaves, grated coconut and red onion.

A bit like Sri Lankan créme caramel, this steamed custard dessert uses some of the island's best ingredients. Aromatic and sweet, wattalapam is made from coconut milk, eggs, jaggery (fudge made from the sap of the kitul palm) and cashew nuts, softly spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Budgets for holidays in Sri Lanka cross a spectrum; from back-packing to five-star luxury. On average, a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant will cost around 2,200 Sri Lankan Rupees, with a bottled beer costing about 500 Sri Lanka Rupees.

Street Food

From beachfront shacks and little stalls on the roadside, to market sellers and food carts attached to bicycles, authentic Sri Lankan street food is easy to find. Line up with the locals to sample island snacks and spicy favourites. Be careful to only order food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh and cooked right in front of you. Street food favourites include:

These wafer-thin bowl-shaped pancakes are cooked in small rounded pans to give them a crispy outside and a soft, spongy centre. A blend of rice flour, coconut milk and toddy (palm wine), this iconic Sri Lankan snack is popular at breakfast time, especially with a baked egg on top.

Kothu Roti
This tasty street dish has become a popular midnight snack for partygoers in Sri Lanka. Shredded pieces of paratha bread are stir-fried with a blend of spices like ginger and curry powder, as well as other ingredients like garlic, leeks, onions, chillies, cheese and meat, all served with curry sauce.

Shaped like a small doughnut, this savoury snack is made from chickpea flour, mashed or diced potatoes and/or dhal lentils. Vadas are seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions, chillies, ginger and black peppers, then shaped and deep-fried. Eat them dipped in tangy chutney while they are still hot and crunchy.

Top Tips from our Experts

"A freshly grilled and salted corn on the cob is a great snack to pick up from the many food stalls on your journey around Sri Lanka".