Sri Lanka: The land of spices, rice and curries

Sri Lankan cuisine is a Pandora’s box of simmering curries, spicy food and coconut-infused delights

02 Jun 2023

Sri Lankan cuisine seems similar to South Indian cuisine at first glance, but the food from the island nation has a uniqueness which makes it stand out. The cuisine tends to be higher on the spice quotient, includes a range of indigenous vegetables (kekiri, luffa, banana blossom) and enjoys close to 15 different types of rice. The country is also known for its very wide range of spices, which feature heavily in the dishes. Some typical tourist must-buys are Ceylon cinnamon, Pandanus leaf, Goroka, Sri Lankan curry powder and Maldive fish flakes. Further, coconut features in most Sri Lankan dishes.

In India, you can explore the cuisine through signature specialties at +94 and Hoppumm in Mumbai.

Below are some of the prominent dishes, which give you a peek into the vast offerings of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Bittara appam

Also known as egg hoppers, this Sri Lankan breakfast dish is a lacy, fluffy pancake made of a rice flour batter and is a common dish amongst street food vendors. Rice flour is mixed with coconut milk and fermented to create a delicious crepe-like uppams. The egg is broken on top of the uppam and spices are sprinkled for added flavor. The uppams are cooked till they are slightly brown, and garnished with cilantro.

Lamb jaffna curry

The curry is the most prominent part of Sri Lankan cuisine. Made with seafood (crab, fish) meat(chicken, beef, goat) and other vegetables, a coconut-based curry is the mainstay across the island nation. The red Jaffna curry is made with the indigenous jaffna spice mix comprising coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, curry leaves, cloves, chilli flakes and fenugreek seeds. The spices, along with lemongrass, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom are cooked with coconut milk and cut pieces of lamb to create the perfect lip-smacking curry.

Gotukola sambal

Gotukola is an indigenous leafy vegetable which is fashioned into a light side dish, known as sambal. The leaves of the gotukola are finely chopped, and mixed with chopped tomatoes, chilli, and the native Maldive fish flakes. The hearty green salad is then mixed with grated coconut and enjoyed as a condiment. Other leafy veggies or even caramelized onions also feature in this popular side dish.

Kotthu roti

A delicious snack, the kotthu roti is another famous offering available on Sri Lankan streets. The dish consists of chopped rotis (similar to Malabar parathas), which are cooked with spiced veggies or meat such as chicken, or scrambled eggs. The mix is usually rhythmically chopped and fried on a hot griddle, creating the perfect textural mid-day delight!


Aasmee is a fried sweet dish made with rice and coconut. Rice flour is mixed with coconut milk, to which a cinnamon leaf extract is added. The stiff dough is then deep fried. A sweet sugary pink syrup is drizzled on top, which enhances the sweetness of the dish.

Sri Lankan cuisine is perfect for the ardent travelling foodie, eager to explore different cuisines.

Do you have some other Sri Lankan favourites? Let us know in the comments section below

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