By now you have heard a lot about Sri Lanka from me. New Year Destinations to the steps to get a visa, it is almost like the Sri Lankan government pays me to promote their country(they DON’T). The reason why I promote the emerald isle so much is because I am totally in love with it. So much so that sometimes I think I probably lived there in my last birth. I must have eaten a lot of Sri Lankan food back then.
But my delusion aside. there are some real reasons why Sri Lanka is such an addictive place. One of the BIG reasons is Sri Lankan food. Their Curries, Sambols and Hoppers can make you yearn for them long after you have left the island. Here, I introduce you to seven dishes that are bound to leave a lingering taste in your mouth. They are in no particular order, nor do they necessarily represent most dishes from their cuisine. The cuisine is surprisingly vast for a small country, and the best way to know about the country’s food is to actually go there and try it.
String Hoppers, the king of breakfasts:
String hoppers are famous as Idiyappams in India, most Sri Lankans call them by their anglicised name. The name not withstanding, this is a lovely way to start your day. These circlets are made from hot water dough of rice or wheat. What gives them character are the curries and sambols which are served as condiments to the light and neutral tasting hoppers.
These can be found throughout the country, and you will find it difficult to miss them on Sri Lankan food tables through your travels. But if your food tastes are similar to mine, you will only find them a welcome sight.
Rice and Curry, fiery and satisfying lunch:
You may hear a couple of travelers crib sometimes, ‘Man, all you get for lunch in Sri Lanka is Rice and Curry!’. Now, before you think that Sri Lankan food must be boring, wait! The name ‘Rice and Curry’ does not do justice to the range of dishes that you get to taste on a daily basis. There is Rice and Dhal curry(yellow lentils stew) are common, but then you get served veggies, meat or fish, depending on what you want. The dishes differ from one restaurant to another and from one day to the other. If you enjoy the nuances of food, then lunch is a meal you will look forward to in Sri Lanka. Every day.
A recommended place is Praneetha, a hole in the wall Rice and Curry place in Kolpitty, Colombo. They serve the meal with dishes ranging from vegetables, to chicken , eggs, prawns, pork and beef. And don’t say I never warned you that you’d be breathing fire after lunch at Praneetha.
Pittu and Jaffna Crab Curry, you’ve got to be brave for this one!
Jaffna, the capital of the northern province of Sri Lanka has a distinct food culture. Authentic Jaffna dishes aren’t available anywhere else. What stands out in Jaffna cuisine is the spice, and I mean super hot spiciness. But once you are able to make it past the heat shock in the food, you can actually feel the difference in flavours. One such dish is Jaffna Crab Curry, made with small crabs from the Palk Strait.
I had this coupled with Pittu, which is a steamed cylinder of rice batter and coconut. The combination was heavenly. Now, it isn’t easy to find authentic Jaffna Crab Curry, and Hotel Lux Etoiles is your best bet. It is run by a chef who is passionate about Jaffna’s cuisine.
Devilled Crabs, another Sri Lankan food marvel:
Meat cooked in devilled sauce(caramelised sweet and spicy sauce) is famous all across the island, and why not? It is tasty. But the best Crabs we had were claimed to be cooked in this preparation in an unknown restaurant in Batticoloa. On the eastern coast, this town is flanked with lagoons. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then head over to Hotel Hajiyar for a mean plate of Crabs.
Short eats, evening time!
Snacks or Short Eats are available almost all the time. But the perfect time to have them is in the evening, with hot cups of sweet Ceylon tea. If you enter a restaurant during tea time, the waiter will leave a tray full of goodies in front of you. You now have to pick and eat whatever you like, worry about the bill later.
Short eats include snacks like Vadais, Fish Rotti, Fish and Chicken Rolls, Samosa and more. I have had instances when I have over-eaten thanks to the tempting tray, hope you have better control. If not, work on it.
Halapa, snack mummy makes:
Halapa is a tasty, vegetarian snack which I had the chance to try at my friend Sidath Sameera’s house in Kurunegala. It uses leaves to steam, and is really tasty, that’s all I can say. I will let Peckish me explain what this exactly is to you. Bonus is, she also has the recipe along with beautiful pictures.
Ginger cookies, home tea time favourites:
My friend Gihan Fernando, once invited me home for tea. Little did I know that there would be a spread that would put Brit hi-tea to shame. Of all the lovely things that Gihan made me taste, the coconut and ginger flavoured biscuits(as cookies are known on the Indian sub-continent) went on to become my favourites. They aren’t too sweet, and the ginger lends some spice making it a great combination.
Like I said before, these are just samples of what you can expect in Sri Lanka. Of course, there is lots more. I hope this blog post only motivates you to visit the pearl island, even if it is only for food. Peace out buds.