By Mohamed Lafir
The daily Sri Lankan lifestyle is centered on food. From shopping around in the supermarkets to preparing and serving meals to guests, food is an essential aspect of our culture.
Sri Lanka is an amazing destination to explore an array of cultures, traditions, climate, exotic beaches and fascinating people, as well as the exquisite cuisine across the country.
From the west coast to the east of the country, and the central hills, street food is a fascinating entity in this beautiful island’s food culture.
Sri Lankan street food delivers an abundance of incredible servings of hot, sour and sweet flavours to food-lovers.
Here is some street food you shouldn’t miss while you are in Sri Lanka.
Paruppu Vadai and Isso Vadai are a must have on a typical evening visit to Galle Face Green, at the heart of Colombo.
These spicy, round-shaped discs, made out of batter using dhal, are fried with a minimum of three prawns on top. The vendors are kind enough to serve these delights with some spicy Onion Sambol.
If Isso Vadai isn’t the brand ambassador for Sri Lankan Street Food, we aren’t sure what is!
Every city has this cart going around selling hot-hot chickpeas, stir-fried with chillies, onions, coconut pieces. This is famous among locals, who want a mouthful on their way back home after a tiring day. This cart can be found in every nook and corner of the city, and the vendors sell them in a paper pouch.
As an island nation blessed with all the right tropical fruits, Sri Lanka has a variety of Achcharu to be tasted on the streets. Everything in Sri Lanka can be mixed with chilli. Try fresh fruit with chilli and you will be blown away! The fruit is cut in pieces and mixed with chilli powder, pepper, some salt, vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Teasing your taste buds, it’s tangy, spicy and sweet all at the same time; you can never have enough of it! These are made of semi-ripe mangoes, Veralu (Sri Lankan olives), guava, pineapple, apple and, of course, the quintessential ambarella, and served semi-soaked.
Popularly known as Aappa by locals, the ever so popular Hopper is made of pancake batter blended with coconut milk.
Plain hoppers are usually served with a sambol made of onion and chilli. It is also popular to combine hoppers with different kinds of curries to give your taste buds an extra treat. Plain hoppers and egg hoppers are the most common varieties, but there are also honey hoppers (made with kithul treacle or jaggery) and milk hoppers to be found in different parts of the country, giving it the local taste of the area.
The crusty edges and a thick, soft layer at its base make it even more delicious.
If you visit Sri Lanka you will definitely hear the characteristic ‘chop chop’ sound from Kottu shops. Made using chopped up flatbread (Parotta), spices, a handful of vegetables, fish, chicken or meat and the addition of an egg or two and a few sauces on a griddle. The chopping makes the sound you can listen for if you are out looking for a kottu shop in the evening. Kottu is perfect for a tasty dinner.
The loud, distinctive sound of metal blades bashing against a metal hotplate filling the smoky air is a unique experience altogether!
Maniok and Taste Parcel
Eastern Sri Lanka has its own variety of street foods. Maravalli kilangu parcel, the dish is popular amongst Hindus, is the vegetarian version of the street food, a serving of large chunks of fried cassava with spicy powder and gravy, Maravalli kilangu is the Tamil name for manioc. Amongst the Muslims, there is another variation called taste’ the same preparation of cassava and gravy topped with fried babath and beef chunks.
Fried Peanuts, Chickpeas and Funnel treats
Roasted or fried, salted and/or devilled or spiced on-the-go-snacks of this kind are plentiful in Sri Lanka, especially nuts like cashews and peanuts; and grams/pulses like green peas, popcorn, and even root veggies such as manioc, potato and palm fruit.
Sold in mobile carts by the roadside, funnel treats are served in generous portions in small paper funnels, or cones, designed to make eating convenient. Fried chickpeas also can be conveniently bought at small outlets or mobile carts selling such ‘bites’ in and around every city. Have some on the go as a snack… you won’t be disappointed!
Saruwath (Tropical Juice)
Those colours by the roadside!
Over at least ten flavours at a glance, these irresistibly vibrant fruit cordials are just the things for a quick refresher in tropical weather.
A drink made of a thick syrup-like rose, lime, lemon, Nelli, strawberry, pineapple, any flavor of your choice, mixed with chilled water or with cold milk, topped with cubes of jelly and or casa is, hands down, an absolute thirst quencher, made right in front of you.
The fresh local oranges, pineapple pieces and even king coconut mixed with lime juice are a distinct variety to have on the go.
Remember, while touring the tropics: don’t sweat it, have a chilled saruwath instead!
Most of the dishes are hot and spicy, with some spices so strong they are sometimes hard to consume. So spicy you may want to cry at some point. Most of the cuisine of Sri Lanka shows some Indian influence, however, its taste, and the combination of spices and flavours makes it so unique and different from Indian and any other Asian cuisine.
The more you eat, the more you feel it.