Cup of coconut sambal

Sri Lanka – A Fascinating Cuisine With Delicious Dishes

This post was last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 03:28 pm

The food in Sri Lanka is adjusted to the country itself. On an island where rice fields are scattered through the hills, it will come as no surprise that most dishes in Sri Lanka consist mainly of rice and fish. Keep in mind that the food can be spicy here. Not just spicier than in most Western countries but also spicier than many Asian countries. Peppers are used very generously. Getting a bottle of water with your food is not a bad idea!


Sri Lanka Food

The country of Sri Lanka has a fascinating and quirky cuisine with delicious dishes. It is a mix of local products with recipes and spices that have been brought to the island over the centuries by Indians, Arabs, Malaysians, Portuguese, Dutch, and English.


The best known dish is rice and curry. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the tastiest and most well-known are those with contrasting flavors such as coconut milk, chili peppers, curry leaves, cinnamon, garlic, and fish. Sri Lankans make a party of everything and know how to make every dish a special experience.


TIP – Rice and curry is the number one dish in Sri Lanka.


What does it cost?

The food is particularly cheap. You can get rice and curry for a few dollars in a local cafe, while the main courses in most guesthouses and restaurants cost no more than US$5 to $10. Even in the fanciest restaurants it is possible to score dishes for less than US$15.


Chef preparing a curry dish
A chef in Sri Lanka preparing a curry dish, looks great!


What do the Sri Lanka Locals Eat?

The most important dish in Sri Lanka is rice and curry which is mainly eaten by the Sri Lankans. Curries come in all shapes and sizes, the best known of course are the vegetable curries, fish curries, egg and meat curries, but also fruit curries.


Curry it is!

They have a total of twenty types of curries. They all have one thing in common; they are all equipped with the necessary peppers. Fortunately, the Sri Lankans have a solution for this; curd. This is a yogurt made from buffalo milk. You can try it but beware; it is not for everyone 😉


Add Rice to it

Furthermore, the food is mainly based on a large pile of rice with some peppers and seasonings. Obviously this is not just a luxury. The food in Sri Lanka that you get in restaurants is very versatile. In addition to rice and curries, they also eat a lot of fish, meat and vegetables from the country itself.


If you go to eat in restaurants, chances are that you will be served a lot of fresh fish or shellfish that were taken from the fish market the same morning.


Sri Lankans say that you cannot properly enjoy the flavors and textures of food unless you eat with your fingers.


Cooked Rice and Curry Food Served on White Plate
You will usually get rice with your curry, which makes for a delicious combo!


Eating Habits

The food in Sri Lanka may resemble in many ways that of other Asian countries, but the eating habits are a bit different. Where in many Asian countries you will always find a place to eat, in Sri Lanka it will only be at the tourist spots (mainly the west coast).


You will eat a bit more often than usual in your own hotel or hostel.


Luckily there are small, local eateries everywhere, but most travelers skip these because of the hygiene in these restaurants. This is a shame because many of these restaurants have great food.


If you want to experience the best food in Sri Lanka, you have to eat at the locals’ home. And there are possibilities since Sri Lankans are very hospitable and they sometimes invite you for dinner!


TIP – You can also get Western (or other Asian) food in Sri Lanka.


Vegetarian Food

Vegetarians have it easy in Sri Lanka. Almost all curries are vegetarian; in fact, of all the rice and curries there are only one or two that contain animal protein. In addition, the Sri Lankans are largely Buddhist and Hindu and, therefore, vegetarian.


For a long time, fish was the only meat that people ate here until Europeans introduced different meat. In many restaurants you can ask to replace the fish with vegetables or nuts. You also have many vegetables and salad dishes that you can try.


Fresh rambutan in a fruit store in Sri Lanka
Fresh rambutan in a fruit store in Sri Lanka



The drinks in Sri Lanka are a feast for those who love fruit. There are countless fruit drinks and shakes. Exotic fruits such as mango, rambutan, papaya, pineapple, banana, king coconut, soursop, jackfruit, mangosteen and durian can be found here in abundance.


In addition to the fruit drinks, you can, of course, also buy soda here. The tap water is not drinkable here! The Sri Lankans themselves mainly drink tea.


Hills with tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya
View of the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya City


TIP – Nuwara Eliya is famous for its many tea plantations.


Tap Water

Tap water in Sri Lanka is not drinkable! This can lead to stomach flu and diarrhea. You can buy water bottles everywhere on the street and in supermarkets. Make sure that these are still closed when you buy them and that they are not refilled!


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