Food is an integral part of traveling and discovering a new country. It’s an excellent way to expand your flavor palate and also gives you the chance to explore the roots of a country, its people and the different communities they come from. Although largely unknown to the greater world, Sri Lankan cuisine has charmed many a guests over the years. Varying from rice and curry – a plate of boiled rice complemented with an assortment of vegetables and meats cooked in coconut milk – a staple meal for most Sri Lankans to crispy hoppers, Sri Lankan cuisine has much to offer.
With a rich history in agriculture and chena cultivation that dates back to the first Sinhalese kingdom, Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped by many influencers such as the Dutch colonizers who introduced their dishes to the island, various tradesmen who came in search of spices and gems as well as the country’s proximity to South India.
Often resembled to a pearl in the Indian Ocean in size, Sri Lankan cuisine however is multicultural and has several distinct flavors each reflecting the communities it originates from. Although rice, coconut and spices are the base of most, the use and preparation of spices and aromatic, community influence over cooking methods complemented with age-old family recipes sets it apart.
In terms of flavors, there are several distinct palates each inspired by a different ethnic group in the island: the Sinhalese which makes up the largest group in terms of numbers scattered across the island, closely followed by the Tamil and Muslim communities mainly found in the North, East, and Central province, and minority groups like the Dutch burghers and Malays living in Colombo and the suburbs. Each group offers a signature dish or two that has now shaped the overall Sri Lankan culinary image. Whether its milk rice served with a spicy onion and chili relish from a Sinhalese household, the mouth-watering Jaffna crab curry, the sweet taste of watalappan (a coconut and jaggery pudding) made by Muslims to celebrate their religious festivals or an authentic Dutch breudher, Sri Lankan cuisine is a melting pot of flavors, aromas and spices that is waiting to be indulged in.
If you’re in Sri Lanka waiting to sample the different aspects of Sri Lankan cuisine, take a pick from one of the restaurants below that is sure to captivate your taste buds.
- Ministry of Crab, specializes in Sri Lankan seafood and was ranked No 43 at Asia’s 50 best restaurants held in February 2017.
- Nuga Gama roughly translated to village in the city, offers an array of delicious traditional Sri Lankan food
- Palmyrah Restaurant, focuses on classic Jaffna cuisine with an emphasis on dishes found mainly in Jaffna households
- Kaema Sutra, puts a modern spin on Sri Lankan cuisine serving an interesting selection of local favorites
- Rare at Residence by Uga Escapes, is another stylish restaurant that serves a Sri Lankan fusion menu