Foods and Drinks

Food is one of the most exciting aspects of Sri Lanka. While most dishes in Sri Lankan cuisine can trace their origins to India, Malaysia, the Arab world and the colonizers from Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain, a unique local twist can be experienced, which sets them apart.The local palate and the various fragrant spices growing in Sri Lanka contribute much towards this. Many Sri Lankans consume rice with a collection of curries, the main being a lentil curry. Other main dietary selections include string hoppers, hoppers, milk rice, roti or thosai, all accompanied by curries or chutneys. However, the ultimate street food found in every nook and corner of Sri Lanka is kottu, which is shredded roti, mixed with vegetables and a preference of meats, served with gravy. As an island, sea food too is a main staple in the country.

Milk Rice

Milk rice or Kiribath is a customary Sri Lankan dish made of rice and coconut milk. It is a popular festive dish for any auspicious moment. The dish is prepared by cooking rice with coconut milk and served with Lunu Miris (a paste of chilli, salt, Maldive fish and onions).

Rice & Curry

Rice is the staple food of Sri Lankans. Almost every household in Sri Lanka takes rice and curry as their main meal. Meat, fish and vegetables are prepared as curries. Sliced onions, green chillies, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and saffron are used to add flavours. A basic rice and curry requires one fish curry, two different vegetables, one portion of fried crispy stuff like ‘papadam’, a ‘Mallum’ (chopped leaves and coconut), and a gravy of spiced and cooked with coconut milk.

Sour Fish Curry

Sour fish curry or Malu Ambulthiyal is a unique spicy fish preparation with thick gamboges ‘Goraka’ paste. This is a very popular dish of a fish steak in a sour curry sauce. Sri Lanka has a great selection of delicious fish. Best accompaniment if you want to bring down a few blocks of milk rice or a few hoppers and Pittu as well.

Potato Curry

This is one of the most popular curries in Sri Lanka, prepared by boiling potatoes well and cooking them with coconut milk and spices etc. Selected as one of the favourite curries among the local citizens, potato curry can be accompanied with almost any main course and nutritious-wise the curry itself stands on a stable stage


Hoppers are a traditional Sri Lankan food eaten for breakfast or dinner. It is made of red or white flour and is thin, flaky and crusty. Red flour string hoppers are of more nutritive value as they contain dietary fibre. It is best enjoyed hot and there are many variations of hoppers. Hoppers can be made with an egg in the middle, honey or even plain. A hopper needs very few accompaniments and is usually eaten with Lunu Miris which is made of onions, Maldive fish, and chilies chopped up and mixed together with salt.

In hotels hoppers are normally made to order as it is served hot and in eating places one has to give the order and then wait until the hoppers arrive. Friends gather around a table, order tea and indulge in a friendly chat until the hoppers are brought by the waiter. Special instructions can be given to the chef for the crust to be made browner if necessary.

String Hoppers

String hoppers are made out of white or red flour. Red flour string hoppers are higher in nutritional value as they contain dietary fibre. They appear as thin strands of flour that is circular in shape and can be eaten as the main meal for breakfast or dinner. Almost all the hotels in the island provide string hoppers for breakfast or dinner. A variety of dishes can be had with string hoppers. Two special side dishes that go with string hoppers is coconut sambol and potato or plain white curry that helps to soften the string hoppers so that they are easy to swallow. Fish, chicken or beef curry could be ordered with this.


Pittu constitutes another staple food that is made of red or white rice flour and coconut. It is considered a substantial, heavy meal as it contains a large amount of coconut. Pittu is steamed in the traditional bamboo or in an aluminum cylinder. Next this long roll is cut into pieces. Prior to indulging in a piece of Pittu, one must break it into pieces and add a substantial amount of curry to make it juicy enough for swallowing. Pittu can be had with potato curry, lunumiris and a meat or fish dish. Pittu is essentially a breakfast or night time meal and hotels make Pittu to suit these two particular times.

Coconut Roti

Roti is a quick meal and easy to prepare. Wheat, rice or Kurakkan (type of brown millet) flour is mixed with fresh grated coconut and a touch of oil and baked on a hot griddle in thin flat cakes. Roti is equally good with chillie relish or with syrup. Shallots, green chillies, curry leaves and Maldive (cured) fish flakes are added to ring in the changes.


Kottu is one of the most popular foods in Sri Lanka. It is taken during night time and is a complete meal. Kottu is served in almost all the hotels in the island. A hard metal surface is heated and the dough is laid upon it and two metal pieces are used to break it up into shreds. Next eggs, vegetables and the preferred kind of meat that includes Chicken, Beef or Fish are added with spices and salt. At this stage the aroma is irresistible. The unique clattering sound of the two metal plates banging on the metal surface lures one towards the spot where Kottu is being made. It is served hot and comes with chili paste and chicken or fish curry. It is a popular way side boutique delicacy and is essentially Sri Lankan in origin. Kottu can be individually tailored by requesting the chef to use the desired amount of ingredients one would want.

Seafood in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, the resplendent isle surrounded by the Indian Ocean has a variety of seafood to offer. Many of the hotels spread across the island provide a fresh catch which is a celebration of the country’s heritage and is a culinary experience that will enthral taste buds and leave one happy and wanting more. Sea food contains important micro nutrients that are beneficial to health but cautioned should be exercised if one is taking it for the first time as certain individuals develop allergies


Crab is a very popular food. It can be prepared in a various ways. The two main ways of preparing crab is dry or curry. Many traditional Sri Lankan herbs and spices are added to make the crab dish rich and delicious. To relish crab meat, the crab has to be opened and on request a crab opener is provided. On special order, crab meat could be obtained without the shell and comes as a shredded substance to which spices and condiments are added.


Lobsters are found in many fancy dishes of Sri Lankan hotels. Regarded as a delicacy today, lobsters are highly-priced and have a higher nutritional value too. Lobsters are cooked either by boiling or steaming or grilling, and served with hot, melted butter garnished with vegetable leaves like broccoli salad. One of the tastiest seafoods, fresh cooked lobsters are also served chilled with a mayonnaise, cocktail or other cold seafood sauce for dipping. There are a number of local and international lobster recipes that tourists can experience here in Sri Lanka


Shrimps come in various sizes. The favorite way to eat shrimp is devilled. This is a bit hot and spicy and overseas visitors may find that it doesn’t suit their usual cuisine but is nevertheless delicious. Shrimps can be made into a salad or roasted and had with barbecue sauce as well. This can be garnished with salad leaves, herbs, condiment powder and local ingredients. Shrimps can also be made into a juicy curry. The chef can be given instructions on the particular way one likes it prepared. Before eating shrimps, one should inspect whether they are cleaned or not as shrimps have a hard external covering that is not palatable to some.


Cuttlefish is called Dello in Sinhala and comes in a ring-like appearance and can be made into a delectable array of dishes. The favorite way of having it is fried. This delicacy adds spice to any meal. It is normally prepared by a professional chef as it has to be properly cleaned and cut into small rings. Cuttlefish contains a bitter part and this has to be removed and the cuttlefish carefully be washed prior to cooking.

Sri Lankan Sweetmeats


Kevum is Sri Lanka’s most popular sweetmeat served at most of ceremonial occasions such as Sinhala & Tamil New Year celebration, parties, weddings, etc. Kevum is made of rice flour, treacle or sugar by deep-frying in coconut oil. There are several variants of Kevum like Athiraha, Mung Kevum, Konda Kevum etc.


Kokis is yet another popular sweetmeat in Sri Lanka. Kokis is made from rice flour, coconut milk and sugar by deep-frying in coconut oil. This crispy sweetmeat is usually served with Kiribat and Kevum at celebrations like Sinhala & Tamil New Year.

Mung Kevum

Mung Kevum is a variant of Kevum. This sweetmeat is made with roasted flour of Mung beans alias green gram and rice mixed with boiled treacle or sugar syrup to make a paste which is then deep fried in coconut oil. Mung Kevum is served at special celebrations, parties, weddings, etc.


Aasmi is also a fine crispy sweetmeat popular among Sri Lankan communities. To make Aasmi, large string hoppers are folded and dried in sunlight. Then they are deep fried in coconut oil and boiled treacle or sugar syrup is sprinkled over the fried Aasmi. Then it is served at special celebrations, parties, weddings, etc.


Yet another popular sweetmeat in Sri Lanka, Welitalapa is served at special celebrations such as Sinhala & Hindu New Year and birthday parties. To make Welitalapa, rice flour is steamed well and then the steamed rice flour is crushed into small pieces and mixed with boiled treacle or sugar syrup. Then the paste is made into diamond or square shapes with a wooden mould.


Unduwel alias Pani Walalu is one of Sri Lanka’s popular sweetmeats served at celebrations like Sinhala & Tamil New Year. Pani Walalu is deep fried coils made of Urad dhal & rice flour mixture soaked in sugar syrup


Aluwa is also a popular sweetmeat in Sri Lanka prepared from roasted rice flour and boiled treacle with a roasted rice flour covering. Aluwa is made into diamond or square shapes by a wooden mould