If you’re like me, food is more than just fuel while travelling. There’s a ‘food’ tab in your travel spreadsheet and your travelling style is more food safari than road safari. You’re a travelling foodie –– a troodie!
The night food market in Sri Lanka’s mid north
So, when I was given the incredible opportunity to take a food tour through Sri Lanka with World Nomads and Intrepid Travel, my taste buds were more than ready.
With the land mass of approximately one Tasmania, and the population of an entire Australia, every inch of Sri Lanka is bursting with people, culture and glorious food. The food on this small island nation is surprisingly diverse; and contrary to popular belief it’s not all just rice and curry. I also found out that while the gourmet scene is growing, especially in tourist hot spots like Galle, Kandy and Colombo, the best part about Sri Lankan cuisine is the home-style cooking.
So, here it is: my ‘best of’ list for all those hungry travellers planning a trip to Sri Lanka. You lucky things!
Start your day with a touch of good karma with Kiri Baht
Kiri Baht is a white rice cooked in fresh coconut milk. Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that the boiling over of milk in a clay pot brings prosperity. If you’re in Sri Lanka on a Poya Day, get up early and visit a Buddhist temple to catch pilgirims make a Kiri Baht offering to the Buddhist society.
Startle your senses with a kotthu rotti experience
You’ll hear this dish before you see it. It’s like a noodle stir fry which is then chopped in theatrical fashion to an unintentional rhythmic beat over a hot griddle. It’s an exciting way to serve up dinner and a popular street food among locals and tourists, alike. You can find kotthu rotti in just about every town but Downtown Rotti Hut in Ella is an exception. We ordered a couple different varieties of their Kotthu Rotti dish and couldn’t leave without trying some of their crepe-style chocolate and banana rottis, as well.
One of the best ways to and from Ella is by train
Try a Sri Lankan curry
Rice and curry is the staple dish in Sri Lanka. It’s tasty, filling, cheap (a couple dollars, or 200-300rp) and on every menu. Mama’s Fort in Galle was a real highlight though. Mama’s special roasted curry powder is the secret to the amazing flavour, and her mango chutney and vegetable curry dishes are a stand out. Mama also offers cooking classes, which includes a trip to the local food market.
The amazing rice and curry spread at Mama’s Fort in Galle.
A typical rice and curry in Sri Lankan eateries. Not as glamorous (check out the cling wrap!), but equally delicious.
Try a curry wrapped in a banana leaf
Do one better than the standard curry and try Lamprai – a rice, veggie and curry dish cooked in a banana leaf. If in Ella, bypass the crowds (and tourist prices) at Chilli and give one of the other restaurants on the main strip a go. There’s a great place (forgot the name!) with lip-smacking Lamprai just two doors down from the Rotti Hut.
Taste the fiery dishes of the north
For the past couple of decades the northern cities of Sri Lanka, like Jaffna, have been synonymous with civil war, but with peace restored to the area that’s about to change. You won’t see many tourists here (yet) so chances are you’ll have the spice trail on the main road all to yourself, and you’ll be free to mingle with the locals at the popular fruit and veg markets near the bus depot. But what you want to try here is the famous Jaffna chilli crab.
Jaffna cuisine is influenced by the region’s Hindu culture.A local Jaffna merchant (above) and the spice trail in Jaffna’s main street (below). Our host for the night prepares the Jaffna chilli crab dish.
Ditch the toast for breakfast
Feast like a local at dawn with some fresh Rotti and Pol Sambol – a mouthwatering shredded coconut and chilli ‘salad’. You can get a decent serving pretty much anywhere, but De Silva’s in Nuwara Eliya would be my top pick. Their traditional pastries (like cheese rotti and onion buns) are bang on as well.
Homemade pol sambol
Go loco for coco
Hydrate with the ubiquitous orange king coconut. You’ll find a coconut kiosk around every corner in most parts of Sri Lanka.
This restaurant in Ella took a creative approach to serving up their king coconuts (above). Coconut kiosk in Jaffna (below).
Cool down with the local brew
Watch the sunset in Galle with an EGB ginger beer or Lion Lager, and for the perfect snack order a bowl of dry roasted cashews with chilli spice and curry leaves.
Originally published on worldnomads.com.au
Do you have a favourite foodie moment from Sri Lanka? What did I miss? Share your comments below!