Sri Lanka’s capital city is for many just a day’s stopover on the way to the beach, jungle safari, or tea plantations, but the town has some phenomenal food. Here are the top six Sri Lankan dishes you absolutely must try, according to Sabina Fernandez who’s fresh off the plane.
1. Baked Crab
What it is: Crabmeat topped with cheese, served in a crab shell.
Why it’s awesome: When in Sri Lanka, eat crab. No dude, seriously. I’m not one for being elbow deep in crustacean so I love that this crab is deshelled, tender and tasty. And did I mention covered in cheese? Hello!
Try it at: The Gallery Cafe, 2 Alfred House Road, Off Duplication Road, Kollupitiya, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka.
Egg hoppers [Image by Flickr user Paul Joseph]
2. Egg Hoppers
What it is: Eaten like prata, hemispherical hoppers are made with coconut milk and cooked in a round-bottom pan.
Why it’s awesome: Crispy on the outside, fluffy and spongy in the middle – like a very awesome thosai without the sourness. Also amazing on its own but the version with an egg cracked in the middle is obviously some epic sh*t.
Try it at: Palmyrah Restaurant, Renuka City Hotel, 328 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka.
What it is: A flavourful congee blended with local greens, usually eaten for breakfast.
Why it’s awesome: It’s got that homey goodness that all good comfort food has – like a hearty chicken soup, but vegetarian. They call it herbal as it’s considered very healthy, but it tastes absolutely nothing like Chinese herbal soups. (I repeat, nothing.)
Try it at: Ceylon Tea Moments, Colombo Racecourse 2, Reid Avenue, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka.
What it is: Spiced white and yellow rice with cashews and raisins, with a curried meat, usually mutton or chicken.
Why it’s awesome: The best bit about the Ceylonese version is the meat – which is tender and moist – and the sweet chutney on the side.
Try it at: Tasty Caterers, 88 Fife Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka.
Rice & curry [Image by Flickr user Qasic]
5. Rice & Curry
What it is: Similar to economy rice, this is a huge heap of rice with several curries on top.
Why it’s awesome: Chilli fans will go wild for Sri Lankan curries, which are an intense white hot somewhere between chilli padi and Szechuan pepper. You choose four or five curries over a mound of rice and crunchtastic papadam. Vegetarian rice & curry is also the bomb.
Try it at: Mythi, 125 Fife Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka.
6. Lamprais, DBU
What it is: Stock-simmered rice, Dutch frikkadels (meatballs), Sri Lankan sweet tangy eggplant and Indonesian belacan (chilli paste) wrapped in a banana leaf. A speciality of the Dutch burgher community.
Why it’s awesome: Colonialism did really well with this one. Sri Lanka’s Eurasian community (of Portuguese-Dutch-Sri Lankan heritage) had a win with this fusion dish, which is seriously tasty.
Try it at: VOC Cafe (DBU), 114 Reid Avenue, Colombo 4, Sri Lanka.
Sabina Fernandez recently moved back to Singapore after spending 18 months writing and teaching yoga in Colombo. For more of her musings visit www.sabinafernandez.com
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