There are many reasons to visit the fascinating country of Sri Lanka, and certainly one of them is the local cuisine. Sir Lankan dishes are very spicy, tasty, savory, aromatic and many other adjectives one can think of in describing the delicious dishes in the Indian subcontinent. A mouthwatering example is devilled chicken with curry and fiery “pol sambol”, which is grated coconut, red chili powder and lime sauce. Eating and drinking in Sri Lanka is surely a unique culinary and cultural experience.
Food is very cheap in Sri Lanka. A full meal may cost only a dollar, yet the quality in taste and nutrition is not sacrificed at all. The staple food is rice and curry. This means a meal is never a meal in Sri Lanka without rice and curry, and often the typical meal of an average Sri Lankan is a mound of rice garnished with different types of curries and delicacies. Local meals made from rice and curry packets are available at the rows of cafés or food joints confusingly referred to as “hotels”. These are where the average Sri Lankans eat, and a dish is very cheap. Also common are spicy rolls called “short eats”. Foreign tourists, especially the adventurous ones and backpackers, might want to try eating at the “hotels”, but hygiene, cleanliness and safety are definitely in question. Most locals eat with their hands. For those who want to go on the safer side, meals in expensive restaurants are still quite cheap, rarely going beyond ten dollars.
It’s impossible to go hungry in Colombo, the capital city. There are endless rows of street vendors, snack bars and restaurants in malls, hotels, and most tourist areas. Upscale restaurants are found in several 5-star hotels, mostly in the western side of the capital city along Galle Road. International brands such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC, among others, are also not uncommon in the big cities. When traveling outside Colombo to see the island’s several beaches and tourist attractions, there are many places on the road to stop for a quick lunch. Sri Lankans know that their country is home to many world-class attractions and so small, local businessmen have established several food places, from tiny street food joints to first class restaurants, throughout the country. Regardless of the choice of venue, tourists are sure to be treated to a delicious and cheap menu consisting of rice, curries and spices.
A common and popular local dish is Kottu (or Kothu) Roti. This is one meal that locals can’t get enough of and tourists must try. It is an interesting mix of chopped roti, vegetables and meat. Diners get to choose a preferred meat – chicken, pork, beef or seafood. This dish is popular in leading restaurants but locals are quick to explain that it is best and more deliciously prepared by street vendors. Other dishes that should interest tourists are String Hoppers, Hoppers, Pittu and Kitibath.
When eating and drinking in Sri Lanka, the best drinks to down with a typical spicy Sri Lankan dish is Thambili (fresh coconut juice), locally produced ginger beer or cream soda, and local beer, Lion Lager or Lion Stout. The traditional spirit is called Arrack, which is best drunk with ginger beer.