Sri Lanka is emerging as an Asian hotspot with its fantastic mix of historic and natural World Heritage sites, stunning scenery, and friendly people. And for me, the cuisine is part of that very appealing mix. The food is flavourful with liberal use of tropical fruit, fresh seafood, and a treasure chest of spices.

Here are just a few of my favourites (and it was hard to limit it to just five!)

Kottu Roti
Kottu Roti
An iconic Sri Lankan dish that is associated in my mind with the rhythmic clank of knives striking against large metal frying pans. You’ll hear this on the streets (Kottu Roti is a go-to street food) and in fine restaurants. The dish speaks to all the wonderful flavours and spices of the country.

Flat crispy roti bread is fried at the beginning of the day and stacked to serve when ordered. The chef will then chop up the roti (‘kottu’ means broken) with his spatula and knives in the frying pan, mixing in finely shredded vegetables like leafy cabbage, carrots, onions, and tomatoes, pieces of meat, soya sauce, ginger, garlic, and his own spice mixture.

This is a dish I could eat every day and the way it’s made is an art in itself.

Egg hoppers
Egg hoppers with sambol
An essential breakfast to dinner dish, hoppers are thin pancakes with crispy edges formed in to a bowl. The batter is made of fermented rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water, and a pinch of sugar. The spoonful of batter is ladled into a small wok and swirled around to form the bowl. For breakfast, an egg is cracked into the bowl as the pancake cooks. It’s served with a sambol (relish). These delicious relishes are made in different styles; one of my favourites is a blend of grated coconut, red onions, chilies, lime juice, and salt.

 Sour Fish Curry
Sour Fish Curry
This is a southern Sri Lanka dry curry which makes excellent use of goraka, a favourite tamarind-like fruit that adds a similar tart flavour. Cubed fish (often tuna) is sauteed in a mix of black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, pandan leaves, and curry leaves, along with the dried goraka. The ingredients are simmered with a small amount of water and cooked until the liquid reduces, coating the fish cubes. Fresh fish and seafood is abundant in coastal Sri Lanka and not to be missed.

Jackfruit curry
Jackfruit curry
Jackfruit is just one of the many wonderful fruits found throughout the island. Here it’s also treated as a protein and prepared in many savoury dishes. The young green jackfruit is called ‘polo’. Sliced into small chunks and boiled till soft, it’s then cooked with onions, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric, chilies, curry leaves, and pandan leaves. Coconut milk is added at the end and simmered to reduce most of the liquid. This local favourite has a starchy texture like potato – but better!

King coconut photo by Singhalawap
Thambili – fresh King coconut juice
Another roadside treat that is special to Sri Lanka! King coconuts are yellow in colour and a lot bigger than the green or brown coconuts that are also found on the island. You’ll often see stacks of these yellow beauties by the side of the road and a vendor armed with a machete ready to hack one open for you. The juice tastes sweet and fresh. When you’ve finished drinking, the vendor will crack open the coconut and craft a spoon from the side of the fruit for you to enjoy scraping out the soft coconut meat within. So refreshing!

sri lanka market

These are just a few of the dishes we’ll be tasting (and learning to make!) with Vikram Vij in Sri Lanka, March 8 – 19, 2022. Come along and taste with us!