Food exploding with flavour
No holiday in Sri Lanka is complete without savouring its authentic local dishes. All local dishes showcase the influence of different culinary traditions. Take your taste buds on an adventure as you savour mouthwatering street food in Sri Lanka. Here are some top spots you should not miss.
If you spend some time with a local family in Sri Lanka, you’ll understand that string hoppers make is one of the important dishes in Sri Lanka. These pan-cake-like bites are prepared from steamed rice noodles. The dish is generally served with pol sambol, dhal curry (‘parippu’), or similar curry. Although trying out this with spicy curries will be a novel experience, you will find no better way to start your day than savouring a string hopper dish with a cup of black tea. You will come across plenty of restaurants along Galle Road serving local culinary treats such as string hoppers. If you are holidaying in Tangalle, many restaurants and Tangalle hotels the likes of Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort will offer you delectable Sri Lankan dishes.
Among the diverse array of Sri Lankan dishes, hoppers, locally known as appa, stand out as a unique and delicious culinary delight. These bowl-shaped pancakes are a popular breakfast option, but they can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Hoppers showcase the essence of Sri Lankan cuisine through their distinct flavours and textures. Made from a fermented rice batter combined with coconut milk and a pinch of sugar, hoppers are cooked in a special hemispherical-shaped pan. The pan is heated, and the batter is poured into it, creating a thin layer that coats the edges and forms a soft, spongy centre. The result is a delightful combination of crispy and fluffy textures that make hoppers a delight to bite into. Hoppers can be enjoyed in various ways. Plain hoppers, with their mild flavour, can be savoured with a side of sweetened coconut milk or accompanied by a spicy sambol made from grated coconut, chilli, and onion. Egg hoppers are another popular variant where an egg is cracked into the centre of the hopper during the cooking process, allowing it to set and create a luscious, creamy filling.
Fish Ambul Thiyal
Fish Ambul Thiyal is traditionally made with chunks of fish, most commonly tuna, marinated in a blend of spices that includes goraka, a souring agent, as well as black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and other aromatic ingredients. The fish is then simmered in a clay pot, allowing the flavours to meld and intensify while the sauce reduces to a thick and rich consistency. What sets Fish Ambul Thiyal apart is its distinct tanginess. The use of goraka gives the curry a sour note that balances the spiciness and adds a unique flavour profile to the dish. The combination of spices, tanginess, and the natural freshness of the fish creates a harmonious blend that is truly unforgettable. Beyond its remarkable taste, Fish Ambul Thiyal holds cultural significance in Sri Lanka. It is a dish that has been passed down through generations, prepared with love and care in coastal households. As a testament to its popularity, Fish Ambul Thiyal has become a signature dish that is often served at celebratory feasts and special occasions, as well as being a favourite choice among locals and tourists alike.
Gotu kola sambol
Gotu Kola Sambol is a traditional Sri Lankan dish that showcases the island’s love for fresh and flavourful ingredients. This vibrant and refreshing salad-like condiment is made from gotu kola leaves, a herbaceous plant known for its medicinal properties and nutritional benefits. Gotu Kola Sambol is prepared by finely chopping or shredding gotu kola leaves and mixing them with grated coconut, lime juice, red onions, chilli, and spices. The result is a colourful and aromatic mixture that is both visually appealing and bursting with flavour. This dish offers a delightful combination of textures and tastes. The tender gotu kola leaves provide a refreshing and slightly bitter note, which is balanced by the sweetness of grated coconut and the tanginess of lime juice. The spiciness of chilli adds a kick, while the red onions contribute a subtle pungency.
Polos (green jackfruit curry)
This hearty and flavoursome curry showcases the island’s creativity in utilizing ingredients to create delicious plant-based dishes. Green jackfruit, with its meaty texture and ability to absorb flavours, serves as the star ingredient in Polos curry. The unripe jackfruit is simmered in a fragrant blend of spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves. The result is a tender and succulent curry with a delightful combination of savoury and aromatic flavours. Polos Curry offers a unique culinary experience. The jackfruit absorbs the spices, giving it a meat-like quality, making it a popular choice as a vegetarian alternative to meat curries. The rich and thick gravy coats the tender jackfruit pieces, creating a satisfying and flavourful dish. Polos curry is often enjoyed with rice or roti, providing a wholesome and fulfilling meal. It is a staple dish during festive occasions and family gatherings, highlighting the cultural significance and appreciation for plant-based cuisine in Sri Lanka.
Lamprais is a delectable dish that reflects the multicultural influences in Sri Lankan cuisine. At its core, lamprais consists of fragrant rice cooked in a meat broth and seasoned with aromatic spices such as cloves and cardamom. The rice is accompanied by an assortment of side dishes, including meat curry (often beef or chicken), brinjal moju (pickled eggplant), seeni sambol (sweet, caramelized onions), and blachan (shrimp paste). All these elements are carefully wrapped in a banana leaf and baked, allowing the flavours to meld together and infuse into the rice. The beauty of lamprais lies in the diversity of flavours that come together in each bite. The tender meat curry, tangy brinjal moju, sweet onions, and savoury shrimp paste complement the fragrant rice, creating a symphony of tastes that is both satisfying and memorable.