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Cuisine of Sri Lanka

A trip to Sri Lanka is a feast for the senses, and you can bet that includes plenty of culinary treats on both the sweet and savoury side. Although they're neighbours on the map, Sri Lanka's food and drink is more different from that of India or Thailand than you might expect, although there are plenty of common flavours that link those destinations together.


Sri Lanka's cuisine is truly a joy, and just starting to reach international palates as it starts a new trend, but you can get right to the heart of it all during your stay. Before your big trip, take a look at the kinds of meals and snacks you can expect to enjoy in this serene and often surprising island nation.


Get happy with hoppers

If you've been part of the street cuisine scene of London town, you might have chanced upon hoppers before, since they're wowing foodies across the UK. Make no mistake though, because that succulent hipster mainstay is actually from deep in the Sri Lankan heartlands.

Hoppers are best described as a pancake, swept up into the form of a bowl, yet even that's selling the real deal short. Although thin and crispy on the outer edges of their bowl-like shape, the centre is thick and rich, like a breakfast crumpet. An edible bowl saves on the washing up, of course, but it's also a smart way to make a whole host of fillings for these succulent snacks, both sweet and savoury.

The mix of rice flour and coconut milk that goes into each base also makes them as healthy as they are suitable for more selective dietary requirements. And as for the fillings themselves? Curries, rices, sticky syrups or a big tasty fried egg, and that's just the start. Make sure you try the varieties of hopper Sri Lankans specialise in from the moment you begin your break.

Rice is nice

Rice and Asian cuisine go hand in hand for a reason, and in Sri Lanka, they know how to do fragrant curries right. As far as light bites are concerned, rice is put to good use here too, in the form of pittu, which are tubes of steamed rice mixed with coconut and other mild flavours.

When the curries are done and dusted, try a kottu or two with rice. Similar to a stir fry, you'll find a good mix of hearty vegetables and finely cooked meats here, from pork to beef to lamb or chicken. Rice and prawns forms a simple seafood staple, but for those who love the flavours of the deep, a good soup full of crayfish, crab and cuttlefish makes for a real treat, and that's known locally as kool.

Delicious desserts

Save some room for the sweet stuff, because the big meals of Sri Lanka might be flavoursome, but they know how to do dessert right too. Cakes and confectionery of every description can be found both on street stalls and in pretty town cafes, so you'll want know which delectable delights deserve a place on your plate.

A good example of a sweet treat you've likely never tried can be found in buffalo curd, sold in jars across the land. You might think yourself a foodie after you took on the famous skyr of Iceland , but make no mistake when you learn that buffalo curd is a very different beast – pun very much intended.

Often paired with treacle or similarly syrupy flavours, it has a texture somewhere between yoghurt and ice-cream, yet is at a cool refrigerated temperature that beats the heat without chilling the bones.

If you prefer some pudding, sit down for a watalappam. The rich coconut custard flavour makes this treat a fine complement to the fresh fruit they do so well here. While aggala shows once more that anything Sri Lankan chefs can't do with rice isn't worth eating – think scrumptious rice balls dunked in treacle. On the crispier side, kokis are delightful little coconut-milk biscuits and aluwa are rice-flour pastries whose aromas always entice.

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