Top 10 foods to try in Sri Lanka

Published March 16th, 2015

Delve into the world of Sri Lankan cuisine and you’ll discover some wacky food names and enticing flavours far beyond the coconut and spice-rich curry you’d imagine (although there’s plenty of that too, and it’s delicious). Discover tantalising local tastes with influences from around the world thanks to Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic colonial past and historic trading links - think Dutch, South Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and British, to name a few. Here is our list of the top 10 foods to try in Sri Lanka.


Fish ambul thiyal

Seafood features high on Sri Lankan menus and this popular fish curry is a must-try. Served with rice, this dry fish curry using tuna or mackerel is fried up with spices and goraka fruit, which gives it a delicious hot, peppery, sour taste. Fish ambul thiyal is quite the flavour sensation!



A Dutch-Burgher culinary legacy, mouth-watering lamprais (from the Dutch words for 'lump' and 'rice') is a delicious, messy blend of curried meat, rice and chilli sauce wrapped up and steamed in a banana leaf parcel. One of the country’s most popular dishes, lamprais can be found in restaurants, cafes and street vendors all over the country.



Think part crispy taco, part pancake, stuffed with savoury filling and eaten for breakfast and you've got the hopper! A very popular local delicacy, this bowl-shaped, rice flour pancake makes an appearance at cafes and street vendors everywhere. Hoppers are usually served with a fried egg in the middle and topped with chilli and chutney.



Dessert time! This delicate flan is a sweet and spicy blend of coconut milk custard and it needs to sit firmly on your to-taste list when visiting Sri Lanka. The perfect way to round off a meal, wattalappan is served either hot or cold and is guaranteed to put a smile on your dial.


When the craving for fast food strikes, head for Sri Lanka’s answer to the good old hamburger and fries, the kottu. Found around markets everywhere, the kottu is a grab-and-go deliciously greasy and comforting blend of fried roti (flatbread) chopped up to order with your choice of spices and flavours and topped with curry sauce.



Fruit curry, anyone? Don’t worry - it’s not as out there as it sounds! The fruit in question is young jackfruit, which is a little like potatoes, which are cut up and boiled before being fried with onions, spices and coconut milk. You’ll find polos on the menu in most restaurants. Go on, give it a try.



Although not the most exciting ingredients, the red lentil dahl curry known as parripu is probably the most common and popular curry in Sri Lanka’s extensive smorgasbord of tastes. Enjoy it with rice, or as a dipping sauce for tasty roti bread.


The curious looking (and tasting) wood apple.

Wood apple

This coconut-like fruit is a much-loved favourite and a popular flavouring in Sri Lanka. Eat its sweet and sour brown paste directly out of the shell, or blend it up in a wood apple juice smoothie as the locals do.



The rice journey continues with this sticky rice pudding-type creation, which is boiled with thick coconut cream until it’s so sticky it can be served up in cake-like wedges. Eaten sweet with treacle and coconut, or savoury with a chilli sauce or curry, kiribath is often served on special occasions.


Coconut sambal

With a multitude of curry and rice dishes topping the list of Sri Lankan specialities, side dishes and pickles are a big deal here. Probably the most popular is coconut sambal - a tasty blend of coconut, chillies, salt and lime, which is served up alongside pretty much every savoury dish. A true taste of Sri Lanka.

Amy Dalgleish

Wanderlust pommie, currently living the dream in sunny Byron Bay.