Eating sugar is synonymous with jaggery

Eating in Sri Lanka - food guide for curry, kottu, roti & Co.

It has a fascinating legacy Food in Sri Lanka. The culinary highlights on the island are the result of a unique amalgamation of local products with recipes and spices that have been brought to the island over centuries and since it is always important to think outside the box in addition to the classic Sri Lankan tips, I have the kitchen after my trip summarized for you.

In Sri Lanka the cuisine from India is mixed with the cuisine of Arabs, Malay, Portuguese, Dutch and English. This is how the Ceylonese or Sinhalese cuisine was born.

The main course here is Rice and Curry, prepared with coconut milk, chili peppers, curry leaves, cinnamon, garlic and “Maldives fish”. Other specialties are - hoppers, string hoppers, red rice, kottu and pittu - as well as a wide variety of seafood.

Eating in Sri Lanka - the difference to Indian cuisine

While there are some elements in common of Sri Lankan dishes with those of Indian cuisine. But the “rice and curry” dishes that round off Sinhalese cuisine are different from those of neighboring India. Sri Lankan cuisine offers one vibrant range of flavor combinations: sweet caramelized onion, bitter melon, spicy-hot coconut, and sweaty curry. All this paired with mild rice and desserts sweetened with palm sugar, samosas and dhal curry.

These slightly thinner curries, in Sri Lanka, are usually more spicy than many Indian variants, and the cuisine is dominated by rather non-local ingredients brought to the island by international trade.

Eating in Sri Lanka - the basics

Sri Lanka's meals and the food in Sri Lanka are not suitable for the shy eater: the Curries are fiery and the desserts sticky. While most visitors to the island - or those who eat at Sri Lankan restaurants outside the country - may find watered down versions, most Sri Lankan cuisine and dishes are very aggressive and, above all, very spicy.

Rice is an ubiquitous antidote to the spicy Sinhalese cuisine that has great flavors. A dish in Sri Lanka is called "Rice and Curry”, A term that is almost synonymous with food in general. So there is rice and usually a curry with a thin coconut base and large pieces of meat (usually beef, pork, fish or goat meat) and a selection of side dishes.

For a quicker bite there is "Short Eats“, A Sri Lankan term that essentially refers to snacks, often a coconut roti with hot sauce, fried spiced chickpeas or maybe a samosa.

As with many island nations, many traders arrived on the island bringing spices, dishes, and whole kinds of food (many with Dutch influence) to the island.

75% of Sri Lankans are Sinhala (mostly Buddhist) and the food commonly described as Sri Lankan is the diet of this population group.Tamils (mainly Hindus), especially those in the north, use slightly different spices and other ingredients in their curries, but in general these two eating habits are very similar and combine to form Sinhala cuisine.

Muslimswho live mainly on the east coast of the island, have dishes known from other parts of the world Dutch and Portuguese influence brought in the form of sweets and desserts.

Food in Sri Lanka - Ingredients of Sri Lankan cuisine

The building blocks of Sri Lankan cuisine are rice, coconut and native tropical fruits and vegetables. About grow on the island 15 different types of rice some of which for different types of rice flour pancakes (Hoppers) and rice noodles (String hoppers) be used.

Each Rice and Curry will with Pol sambalserved with a hot coconut spice. The sharpness varies depending on the cook. Coconut is a main component of the diet and also plays a large role in the preparation of sweets in Sri Lanka

When you stroll through the markets, there is one thing in particular that stuns you - the wonderful smell of fresh spices. Here you will find cardamom and curry leaves, turmeric and fennel seeds in ceramic pots. All of these spices are waiting to be turned into tasty curry mixes.

A wide variety of spices form the basis for the many curries, sambals (sauces), sundals (salads) and mallums (vegetarian dishes).Black pepper is native to the island and was the strongest spice in Sri Lanka until the chilli pepper arrived in the country. So if you are looking for an original Sri Lankan taste, then you should definitely try how the curries with black pepper taste.

As soon as theChili peppers a new kind of sharpness was born. Today over 60 different species are grown on the island. Chilies are now used fresh, dried or fried and are a main component of Sinhalese cuisine. Here, too, caution is advised, because the degrees of spiciness range from a light tickle to a burning fire.

Sinhala cuisine - typical curry spices

For a classic curry spice, herbs, cardamom, cumin, fennel seeds, cloves and coriander are ground. Garlic, ginger and turmeric, as well as fresh curry and pandan leaves are added. Without that Ceylon cinnamongrown in Sri Lanka, this list would be incomplete. The Ceylon cinnamon gave the island its name. It is spicier and more flowery than the most popular cassia cinnamon.

Cardamom from Sri Lanka is expensive for a reason. The fact that the spice obtained from the seeds of the cardamom pods is one of the most expensive spices in the world, along with vanilla and saffron, can be read on Vom Achterhof. Since each cardamom capsule is selected by hand, the laborious harvest is the reason why cardamom is one of the 3 most expensive spices in the world.

There is another important component to many dishes: Maldives fish. This is bonito tuna that is cooked, dried in the intense sun and then shredded at the end. In terms of taste, it is not as “hard” as fermented fish. However, the fish is often used as a kind of flavor enhancer, so that some curries taste a bit “fishy” even without fish.

Food in Sri Lanka - curries in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan curries consist of one thin liquid in the mostly large pieces of meat swim. So the protein-rich curry is always the main curry. Fish, prawns and crabs are often used along the coast.

Pork is used in the higher elevations in central Sri Lanka. Chicken, beef, goat, and lamb can be found across the country.Crab curry is probably the most coveted and justifiably famous, because the fine crab meat absorbs the flavors of the curries excellently.

The color of a curry is determined by how many different spices are initially used. in the Pork currythat can be found in every color, from light yellow to almost black, comes withGolaka, seasoned.

The deep red “Jaffna Curry” is most commonly made with goats and seafood. Seafood curriesoften have an additional secret ingredient: the soil, the palm fruit.

I also ate delicious curries in all different variations on the day when I celebrated the New Year's festival Avurudu with locals.

Side dishes of Sinhalese cuisine

In addition to the main curry there is alwaysPappadum (Lentil crackers),Coconut sambal and a Lentil Curry (Dhal). The lentil curry is also always a bit thinner than the Indian version, but more heavily spiced. Depending on the effort, there are also various secondary curries, which are then vegetarian.

Sometimes willOnion sambal (Lunu Miris) made of chopped shallots, lime juice and paprika. However, caution is advised here, because the nice-looking onion salads can be quite hot. Seeni Sambal (sweet), is rich in caramelized onions and is the sweet opposite of all the hot spices. There is no rule for using the sambas, just try to combine them or spread some sambal onto a pappadum.

With vegetables it is British influence Obviously, there are curries made with carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beetroot, and pumpkin. But often too Cassava, bitter melon, cashews or jackfruit used. Leafy vegetables get a special treatment because these are called in dishes Mallum (literally: "mix") is used. Mallum consists of cut leaves (lettuce, mustard seeds and / or cabbage flavored with coconut, lime juice, onions, chilli and Maldives fish.

Sinhala Cuisine - Breakfast in Sri Lanka

Most food in Sri Lanka is made up of Rice and Curry, a vegetarian version is already eaten for breakfast.Hoppers are also a breakfast staple. These bowl-shaped pancakes, cooked in a round pan (like a mini wok), taste best with a bottom-fried egg (Egg Hoppers). String hoppersare rice flour noodles, thin and steamed to form a flat circle.

Another popular breakfast is kiribath. This is rice prepared with coconut milk and shaped into squares. Kiribath becomes with Seeni Sambal and Curry or sometimes simply Jaggery (palm sugar) served as a sweet option. Pittu, a kind of bread, consists of roasted rice flour mixed with coconut, it is steamed in a bamboo pot and is used to absorb the sauce of curries.

The dishes that are not based on rice mostly come from the Indian neighbors: Dosa or roti. A unique Sri Lankan version is a Roti made from coconut flour. Even for breakfast are nice Mallums eaten. Usually very hot and with few ingredients. Onions and garlic are usually the main ingredients.

A specialty of the Sri Lankan cuisine is Buffalo Curd. A thick, yogurt-like mixture made from the milk of the water buffalo. Usually the curd is wetted with Treacle, the sap of the kithul palm. The curd tastes like fresh, thick cream with an unmistakable taste of buffalo milk. Difficult to describe and definitely different from what we Europeans know yogurt.

Sri Lankan specialties - Short Eats or Sri Lankan snacks

For Kotthu or Kotthu Roti one takes flaky roti bread and chop it with two knives along with vegetables, meat and / or eggs. The mass is fried and the roti pieces replace the rice. The kottu is then served with egg, chicken, or any number of other fillings like a wrap.

Cutlets are more like Dutch croquettes - breaded balls often made from beef, chicken or shrimp. Vadai comes in kinds, which are small fried lentil cakes. It is available in different versions with a shrimp, a curry leaf or shaped as a donut.

They are dense and tend to be very hard on the outside but still moist on the inside. Are very popular fried chickpeas with lots of spices as well samosas with many delicious fillings that range from hearty to extra hot.

The most delicious desserts in Sri Lanka

Because of Dutch and Portuguese traditions and influences, food in Sri Lanka includes many different sweets. The dessert that you will most likely find on the menu in a restaurant is Watallapan. It's very similar to a flan, but it's made with coconut, raisins, and jaggery. It is airy and usually seasoned with chopped nuts.

If you are traveling in Sri Lanka, you will see many modified tuk-tuks offering baked goods and sweets for sale. Here you can find Coconut Pancakes and String Hoppers with jaggery.

Most of the time there is alsoHalapa: a mixture of kurakkan (red millet) flour, coconut flour, and jaggery wrapped in a sheet and steamed. Then if you still have a sweet tooth, head to the markets and buy packaged sweets: fudge toffees, British cakes, and other Indian sweets.

Sri Lanka specialties - fresh fruits from Sri Lanka

If you've been to Sri Lanka and haven't eaten any fruit then you have missed the best. Hardly any country has one like this rich selection of fruits. You probably haven't heard of many of them. Or do you know Woodapple, Rambutan or Soursop? No? I didn't know either.

In general, Sri Lanka is known for the following fruits:

  • Cashew apple
  • Carambola
  • avocado
  • Breadfruit
  • Woodapple
  • Mangoes
  • pineapple
  • Jackfruit
  • coconuts
  • Guava
  • papaya
  • more than 30 types of bananas

There are many juices or smoothie stands where you can have fresh shakes prepared. If you have the chance, just give it a try. For example, my favorite was a shake Woodapple and Avocado. They were also very interesting red bananasthat really taste very different from what we would expect. Much savory and not that sweet at all.

What you will come across again and again on your travels within Sri Lanka is coconut. Tall piles of yellow King Coconut (Thambili) you'll find everywhere on the streets. So the coconuts are ready to be chopped and opened. The King Coconut is not eaten, but rather sipped with relish. When you have finished drinking, give the coconut back to the vendor, who will crack it so that the meat can also be eaten.

By the way, Sri Lankan women swear by King Coconut oil as hair care and use it every day.

Sri Lanka specialties - drinks from Sri Lanka

Well known and especially recommended for stomach problems Ginger Beer.However, there is no alcoholic drink behind it, but a soft drink with a really sharp ginger taste.

If you'd like to try some local alcoholic beer then you should Lions Beer try. This is a lager that is usually sold in a 625ml bottle. Tapped and imported beer is rare and also very expensive.

Arrack is the only locally produced liquor that can be bought in Sri Lanka. It is obtained from the nectar of the coconut plant. This nectar ferments very quickly and then becomes Toddy called. However, Toddy is not officially sold and you need to know someone who speaks Sinhala best to find this specialty.

By the way, in Sri Lanka there is the so-called every 30 days Poya Day. It is forbidden to sell and consume alcohol on this holiday.

Tea from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world, but tea enjoyment is not really capitalized here. You can usually only get good tea if you drink it on a plantation or a factory with a café.

Typical for Sri Lanka isMilk tea. It's sweetened and mixed with powdered milk. If you don't like it sweet, you better order the sugar separately.

Locals prefer to drink their tea straight and with a long steeping time. For connoisseurs, the highest of feelings is a piece Jaggery, that you bite off and then take a sip of tea.

How do you eat in Sri Lanka?

Food in Sri Lanka is mostly unusual. Traditional you eat with your right hand. The left hand stays under the table and does not touch the food as it is considered unclean. You form small balls out of rice and the other ingredients and push them into your mouth with your thumb.

To eat mostly Glasses with water passed. However, this is not drinking water, but water for cleaning the hand. Since it is mostly tap water, you should definitely not drink it.

In some restaurants you can get Sinhala cuisinePlates with a plastic cover. This has a lot to do with the convenience of Sri Lankans, because what is not dirty does not need to be washed.

Where to eat Sri Lanka

Unfortunately, it is also really difficult during the trip authentic restaurants to find. Most of them are just designed for tourists. A good hint are usually those restaurants that have no English advertising at all. It is usually worthwhile to just ask and follow the locals.

You can get a good insight into the food in Sri Lanka from one Cooking class. I also took a cooking class and learned so much about authentic cuisine. By the way, traditionally in Sri Lanka people cook in clay pots and over an open fire.

Thomas von Pixelschmitt also took a cooking course.Made in Unuwatuna and was simply thrilled. Find out more here: A cooking class at Karunas Cooking Class in Unawatuna

If you are lucky enough to be invited by a Sri Lankan family, then take this chance. Here you get the best insight into the life and traditions of the country.

I was lucky enough to celebrate Sinhala New Year with a family during my travels and I am still overwhelmed by the hospitality.

Do you want to cook Ceylonese or Sinhalese yourself?

Admittedly, it will be difficult to find an authentic restaurant in Germany that offers specialties from Sri Lanka.

You can find recipes from Sri Lanka, for example, here:

Do you have any questions about eating in Sri Lanka?

Did you like these culinary Sri Lanka tips that I brought with me after my trip? Do you have anything else that absolutely needs to be added? Let me know in the comments!