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Updated by Helix Digi Labs on Jul 13, 2023
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10 Reasons to fall in love with Sri Lanka cuisine

The island of Sri Lanka is famous for its unique, diverse, spicy cuisine. With quirky names and surprising flavour combinations, Sri Lankan cuisine is an experience waiting to be discovered. Here’s ten reasons why you should fall in love with some of the greatest food ever!


Spice it up!

Spice it up!

One of the first things visitors notice about Sri Lankan food is that it’s hot! The curries are usually red, with a generous sprinkling of chilli powder. Fish curries can cure colds, and it can be so hot, or ‘smarting’ as locals put it, that your eyes tear up! While this is certainly an experience, spice doesn’t just refer to indiscriminate use of chili powder. It also refers to the delicate balance of flavours brought about by the various spices on any Sri Lankan’s shelf – from curry powder to various leaves and herbs, cardamom, cloves, and of course turmeric which gives certain dishes their distinctive yellow shade. One of the most interesting culinary things to do in Sri Lanka is take a tour of a Cinnamon farm, as the process of extracting one of the country’s biggest exports is fascinating and wonderful to witness.
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It’s simple to prepare!

If you’ve had a taste of Sri Lankan cooking at a hotel buffet, such as the one at Lemon Sun in Citrus Waskaduwa, then you may have wondered how you can try your hand at making them yourself. If you do want to attempt Sri Lankan dishes, you’re in luck! The most famous ones aren’t all that difficult to make, as long as you know how they are made, and of course, as long as you have the right ingredients! Many homestays offer cookery classes as a part of the stay, which are lovely for an authentic experience, learning straight from Sri Lanka’s best cooks! Some hotels and other establishments also offer more professional classes that are tailored with visitors in mind so that they can understand the basics of Sri Lankan cuisine, along with substitutes if certain ingredients aren’t available in their home countries.


The ingredients are local, and fresh!

The ingredients are local, and fresh!

Which brings me to my next point, Sri Lankan cuisine is amazing because the ingredients are fresh! If you’re staying near the beach, chances are the fish you’re having for lunch was caught just that morning. Many of the dishes that surround the rice in the country’s most famous lunch dish, rice and curry, can be simple curries or salads made from vegetables straight from a close by garden. Of course, not all of it is, as Sri Lanka has its fair share of fried out of its mind street food and the like, but for the most part the richness of the curries is due to the fresh coconut in it, for example, and is the reason why these dishes are so hard to recreate outside of the country.
(Image credit: Citrus Waskaduwa)



Sri Lanka has tons of healthy food that is as yummy as it is good for you. If you steer away from the carbs (namely the rice, string hoppers, roti etc) and look at the pulses for example, you will be amazed at how good some chickpeas tossed in some oil with curry leaves and chilli powder can taste! There are many dishes that focus on greens, but have a bite to them. So explore the vegetarian side of Sri Lankan cuisine for a nice surprise!


Expect fusion food

Expect fusion food

The term Sri Lankan cuisine also doesn’t begin to cover just how vast the influences on the food actually are. Culture and food are intertwined anywhere in the world, and Sri Lanka is no exception. Expect to find food that is traditionally Sinhalese, as well as Tamil, with interesting dishes that were influenced by Indian cuisine, as well as Portuguese, Dutch, Indonesian, Italian, Chinese and more! Make sure to try Lamprais, for example, a delectable dish that’s made with rice cooked in ghee along with accompaniments. Even the fast food here has a Sri Lankan twist!
(Image credit: Instagram|thesteuart_co)



The world has been singing the praises of Coconut for a few years now, but Sri Lankans have been using Coconuts and its by-products in their lives for centuries. As a food, curries are made with coconut milk, giving them creamy, rich textures and flavoursome tastes. The fresher the coconut, the purer the taste of the curry! Coconut oil is also used, as well as freshly shaved coconut in salads. Pol sambol is a particular favourite, and a dish you should definitely sample more than once! Also try to find thambili, or king coconut, and have a sip of this extremely healthy drink on a hot day – you will be craving it as much as water!




While a lot of Sri Lankan cooking is easy to replicate, there are some dishes that are still made the same way today as they were a hundred or more years ago. At supermarkets you may see strange looking utensils, but asking a local will tell you what they are used for – string hoppers, for example, or pittu. Coconut scrapers, grinding stones and various moulds such as the kokis mould are fascinating to watch when they are being used, and fun to try out as well! These methods prove that tried and tested ways to cook sometimes trump modern technology, so why fix something that isn’t broken? Another fun method that will definitely catch your eye, and ear, is the way Kotthu is made. One of Sri Lanka’s beloved street foods, kotthu is made from a cacophony of sounds, as the chef chops up little pieces of a thin flat bread and mixes it on the fire. The noise comes from the chef using two metal pieces to do the chopping right then and there!
(Image credit: Instagram|upaliscolombo)


Best Breakfast food

One of the best reasons to fall in love with Sri Lankan food is the fact that the country’s breakfast food is simply the best. You will be spoilt for choice, as every offering for breakfast is delicious! You can eat string hoppers with potato curry and a meat. Switch up string hoppers for kiribath (milk rice), keep the curries and add some lunu sambol (onion sambol) and voila! Another delicious meal. You can also eat roti, pittu, or roast paan, which is a thick yeasty and extremely satisfying type of bread. There are also a variety of fruits that make an appearance at the breakfast table – from bananas, mangos, papaw, pineapple and more. You’ll find yourself wanting to try everything, as well as come back for seconds!


The diversity of Rice and Curry

The diversity of Rice and Curry

A dish that can singlehandedly make you fall in love with Sri Lankan cuisine, rice and curry is more like a collection of different dishes, making every meal feel like a buffet. Rice, of course, is a staple, and dahl usually shows up as well. Other vegetable and meat dishes also make an appearance, as well as chutneys and fried accompaniments. The possibilities are practically endless! It’s almost guaranteed that you may eat rice and curry many times during your stay, but not eat the same meal twice!
(Image credit: Instagram|benavijitha)


The Snacks!

You cannot talk about Sri Lankan cuisine and not bring up the phenomenon that is ‘short eats’. Walk into any café or shop on the side of the road, and you will be greeted by a dozen different kinds of eats that are meant to be snacks. Some of these are buns that are filled with different things, including the triangle shaped fish bun. Others are fried, such as Chinese rolls and patties. These are beloved by Sri Lankans, and you should definitely try them!