This is the first blog I’m writing about our recent Lanka trip. There was just so much to see, taste and experience in Sri Lanka and I wasn’t sure where exactly to start. But then I thought what can be more scrumptious topic to write about than Food?
Srilanka is heaven for seafood lovers. Sri Lankan food is very similar to Indian Food. They like their food spicy and hot. Never mind the fact that their climate is already hot and humid. As you’d expect, rice and seafood is the staple here. Roti and bread are less common. Although Lanka is geographically and culturally very close to South India, there are some stark differences. For example,
Surprisingly, Idli, Sambar, Vada and Dosa are not very common in Sri Lanka.
Instead, they have a few other very common dishes in Sri Lanka which are quite a stape and you’ll most likely find them at almost every meal and breakfast. Also, they’re a life-saver for a vegetarian like me.
The everyday snacks
A hopper is similar to a dosa, made with rice batter, but looks slightly different. It is bowl-shaped with an extremely thin and crispy outer part and a thicker central part. Sometimes, it is also made with an added egg and called Egg hopper.
String hopper is something similar to vermicelli and is also made with rice flour batter. But the texture is quite different from vermicelli. It is eaten along with Pol Sambol or curry.
Pol Sambol is an extremely popular snack eaten as a side dish with rice, hopper, curries and just about everything. It basically a dry coconut chutney. It’s made with freshly grated coconut mixed with red onion, chilli and lime juice.
Exploring the flavours of Colombo
On our first day in Colombo, we landed up at the Old Dutch Hospital during lunch time. There weren’t a lot of veg. options so we picked Harpos Cafe which seemed like a decent place. I only had a Lion Beer and Spaghetti but the taste was pretty good. I finished every last bit of it since I was famished. Unless you’re here for sea-food, I’d say this is a pretty good option for lunch.
Ministry of crab
After I finished my Spaghetti, we headed to the place which was the main reason for our visit here. Ministry of Crab is one of the most famous seafood destinations in Colombo know for crabs.
The menu was mostly crabs with some choices for prawns curry. It took quite some time for our order to arrive. Me, being a vegetarian had nothing much to do here. Once the order arrived, over the next 45 minutes, I watched in silence as Athashri devoured an entire giant crab. She also enlightened me with some crab-gyan. Apparently, all crabs are kept fully alive and well until you order one. They are then put into boiling water where they leave their mortal remains. So crabs are always eaten fresh. She also ordered some prawns on the side. And as per her, these were some of the largest and most delicious prawns she’d ever had.
On another occasion, we headed to this popular place called Raja Bhojan (also meaning King’s meal in Hindi) for lunch. This place came in highly recommended and true to its name, it didn’t disappoint. They had a buffet meal option which we chose. We can safely say that this was the heartiest meal we had during the whole of our stay in Colombo. They had an array of spicy, sweet and sour curries. As per Athashri, it was also the best non-veg food she had had in Colombo. The place is not very pretentious and high on taste. Highly recommended to visit once to taste authentic Sri Lankan food.
Street-food tour of Colombo
We didn’t stay at an Airbnb in Colombo but we did book a food tour experience from them called – “Flavours of Colombo“. So we hit the road on the third day in the evening, all excited to taste the local snacks of Sri Lank. Our host was kind enough to drive us around to different eating destinations while she gave us a lot of lowdown on Sri Lankan life and culture. We first had a Ginger tea and a King Coconut at the Viharamahadevi Park. The King Coconut water taste is a bit different from your regular coconut so you should try that one out. It’s certainly available in many parts of South India but not very common.
We started our journey from the famous Galle Face Hotel. Our tour host told us that the Queen of England has a reserved suite for herself at the Hotel where she stays whenever she arrives. There is a street food lane right at the beach of Galle Face. It certainly cannot be compared to a Mumbai Chaupati since it’s a pretty small place, but quite popular over here.
Our tour host introduced us to a local snack called Isso Vadai. It is a vada-like snack but made with prawns. Athashri tried it out and apparently it was very delicious. But it was also a bit oily so she could finish only one.
Maybe because I am a vegetarian, and there weren’t too many veg options on the tour, our host had to keep the tour short and we headed straight to dinner after that. We ended the evening while having dinner at a nondescript authentic Sri Lankan place. On the menu were loads of hoppers, rice, delicious curries, papadam and Sri Lankan dessert. The brinjal curry was delicious and I couldn’t get enough of it. We left the place only after stuffing ourselves up to the brim.
You can book a walking food tour in Colombo for yourself here.
Our delicious dinner on the food tour
After dinner, our kind host dropped us at our hotel where we bid her goodbye.
Exploring the local fruits
Whenever we visit a new place, one thing we’re very fond of doing is to explore the local fruit market. That’s maybe because we always find something unique in every place. In Sri Lanka, we did not actually go to a fruit market, but we did get a chance to visit a bunch of fruit shops. On our way to Kandy, we made a few stops along the way to taste some delicious local fruits. We also got to taste them for breakfast at many places we stayed at.
We stopped at this particular point to soak in the amazing view. While we munched on some roast corn, we also explored a few more local fruits nearby.
Avocadoes are apparently quite popular in Sri Lanka. This was the first I saw so many different varieties of Avacadoes at one place. I also got introduced to some really unique fruits on the Sri Lanka trip. The Mangosteen is one of such fruit which I got hooked to. Unfortunately, we bought only one fruit not knowing whether we will like it or not. We finally tasted it only after coming to Bangalore. I felt really sorry that we didn’t buy more of them from Sri Lanka while we had the chance. We were able to find it in Bangalore only after a lot of searching. It is certainly not an easy find and certainly not cheap in Bangalore but really worth the taste. I’d recommend you to try it out whenever you’re in Sri Lanka.
The delicious Mangosteen fruit
Another unique fruit which we discovered in Lanka was the Soursop. It is a strange looking fruit and tastes quite different too. You usually have it as a thick pulpy juice. It is a very popular fruit in Lanka and is believed to have a lot of medicinal benefits.
Most desserts we had in many places were common and not particularly unique to Sri Lanka. The one however which is uniquely Sri Lankan and we absolutely loved is the mouth-watering Watalappan. It is a brown coloured sweet with a soft texture made with milk and jaggery. The texture is slightly similar to that of Maharashtrian sweet – Kharwas but the taste is much richer than that. If you get a chance do not miss this sweet Lankan delicacy.
We were in Kandy only for two days but were able to fully enjoy its flavours which were slightly different from what we tasted in Colombo. On the menu, at our hotel stay, was a humble rice and curry option which we opted for on the first day. But when it arrived, the portion was surprisingly large enough to feed three people completely full.
The rice was accompanied by five different varieties of curries and Dal. Brinjal and Jackfruit curry and Dal were surprisingly delicious. Even the two of us could never finish the dish completely but the taste was so fulfiling that we didn’t feel guilty ordering it again the next day.
Tea is the favourite local beverage and an integral part of SriLankan life. Just like Indians, they like their cup of tea twice a day. If you go on a visit to any tea factory in Nuwara Eliya or Kandy, you’d not only be able to taste the local Ceylon tea but watch it in the making. During our visit to a local tea factory in Kandy, we took a walk through the entire process of making tea. It was quite informative and fun to watch the tea-making process – something I am used to drinking at least twice a day. We tasted some 5 different varieties of tea there. Relishing the hot cup of tea it in the rainy weather was quite an experience.
This post has turned into a mini-booklet and I still feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. Sri Lanka offers a lot to tickle your tastebuds so go ahead and explore more, do share your own experiences of food adventures in Sri Lanka.