What Does Food Look Like in Sri Lanka?

Eating and Drinking …Two of My Favorite Things

Veggie Kottu
Veggie Kottu

The most popular dish in Sri Lanka is by far the rice and curry which consists of a giant plate of rice and a selection of veggies in small dishes that are dumped over the rice. The vegetables vary but usually include some combination of lentils, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, jack fruit, some cut up gross spinachy thing, green leaf, squash, curd, cabbage, carrot salad or tomatoes. For extra money, one can get an additional dish of fish, chicken or beef. I pretty much stuck to the vegetarian options as I don’t like fish and the meat here is a bit suspect.

Sri Lanka’s other popular meal is kottu, which is roti (imagine the thinnest tortilla ever), veggies and, if you like, chicken, beef or fish, all chopped up and sautéed on a grill. This was my favorite dish in the country and no two preparations were the same. Much like with the rice and curry, I stayed mostly veg.

Food in Sri Lanka
Food in Sri Lanka

Roti is also a very popular enclosure for little snacks and is wrapped around vegetables, fish or egg. For around 25 – 40 cents per item, these quick bites vary in shape from triangle to egg roll and are available on nearly every street throughout the country. Sometimes you can even get an egg sandwich, which is literally a hard boiled egg cut up and placed in a bun with various spices surrounding it. In a restaurant these snacks come piled high on a large tray. Eat whatever you want and when the tray is taken away you are charged for what you ate.

Snack time at night always involved a search for the local chickpea dish, that was just boiled chickpeas covered in spices, coconut and, on a few unfortunate occasions, fish flakes. It was dirt cheap, filling and SUPER tasty.

A big issue I had with a lot of Sri Lankan food was the use of fish flakes. I do not like fish. Especially not fishy tasting fish. So, when I order a veg item or an egg sandwich, the last thing I want is for it to taste like fish. However, many things are prepared with these dried up fish flakes added in for seasoning. Needless to say, I spat out or refused to eat more than a few things in our time there.

Lastly we come to the hopper, which is essentially a bowl shaped pancake made of butter, flour and whatever you like in the center. Our favorite is the egg hopper, which despite being a breakfast food is very hard to find before lunch. Hoppers are crisp on the outside and often soft and spongy in the center, regardless of the central ingredient.

What about drinks you ask? Sadly, other than water we drank mostly soda. The tea is very sweet and not very good (I prefer lots of milk) and fruit juices are hard to come by and extremely overpriced. Fortunately, the most popular beer, Lion Lager, is quite good and tastes like a mix between Heineken and Presidente.

 

Making Vegetable Kottu in Sri Lanka
Making Vegetable Kottu in Sri Lanka