Sri Lankan cuisine has influences from colonial powers, foreign traders and the Kerala region of India. Key ingredients are rice, coconut and especially spices, reflecting the island’s history as a spice producer and trading post over several centuries.
Sri Lankan cuisine centers around boiled or steamed rice served with a curry of fish, chicken, beef, pork, mutton or goat, along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils or fruit.
Dishes are accompanied by pickled fruit or vegetables, chutneys and sambals, especially coconut sambol, a paste of ground coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried Maldive fish and lime juice.
Kottu is a spicy Sri Lankan stir-fry of shredded roti bread with vegetables, optionally with other ingredients such as egg, meat or cheese.
Hoppers (appa) are a range of dishes based on a fermented batter, usually of rice flour and coconut milk with spices, that is deep fried or steamed. The fermenting agent is palm toddy or yeast. Hopper variants can be either savoury, such as egg hoppers, milk hoppers, string hoppers, or sweet such as vandu appa and pani appa. Savoury hoppers are often accompanied by lunu miris, a mix of red onions and spices.
String hoppers (idiyappa) are made from hot-water dough of rice meal or wheat flour. This is pressed out in circlets from a string mould onto little wicker mats, then steamed.
Lamprais is rice boiled in stock with a curry, accompanied by “frikkadels” (frikadeller meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in an oven. It is a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish.
Kool is a seafood broth from Jaffna with crab, fish, cuttlefish, prawns and crayfish with long beans, jak seeds, manioc, spinach and tamarind. The dish is thickened with palmyra root flour.
Pittu are cylinders of steamed rice mixed with grated coconut.
Godhamba Roti is a simple Sri Lankan flatbread usually made from wheatflour. A variant is Pol Roti, in which shredded coconut is mixed into the dough.
Kevum oil cake is made with rice flour and treacle and deep-fried to a golden brown. Moong Kevum is a variant where mung bean flour is made into a paste and shaped like diamonds before frying. Other types of Kevum are Athiraha, Konda Kevum, Athirasa & Handi Kevum. Many sweets are served with kiribath milk rice during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
“Short eats” refers to a variety of snacks that are bought and eaten by the dozen from short eat shops and restaurants. These are eaten on the go mainly for breakfast or during the evening tea time. Short eats include pastries, Chinese rolls and patties. A popular short eat among Tamils is the Mutton Roll, which is tender pieces of mutton with potato and seasoned with spices. This can be very hot and is served all over the world, where the Sri Lankan Tamil population is vast.
Other short eats:
Vegetable/fish Roti-a flatbread with a filling rolled into a triangular shape & baked.
Short eats are served at parties or to guests when they visit a home. Fast food such as hot dogs and hamburgers has arrived in Sri Lanka, with the globalisation of McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut Fast-Food Chains, but these are not usually considered to be short eats. Hot dogs and hamburgers have also been modified to fit local tastes.
Beverages commonly served in Sri Lanka include