Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped by many historical, cultural and other factors. Contact with foreign traders who brought new food items, cultural influences from neighbouring countries as well as the local traditions of the country's ethnic groups among other things have all helped shape Sri Lankan cuisine. Influences from Indian (particularly South Indian), Indonesian and Dutch cuisines are most evident with Sri Lankan cuisine sharing close ties to other neighbouring South and Southeast Asian cuisines.[1] Today, some of the staples of Sri Lankan cuisine are rice, coconut and spices. The latter are used due to the country's history as a spice producer and trading post over several centuries.


Rice and curry

A Sri Lankan rice and curry dish.
Typical Sri Lankan dish of rice and prawns.

The central feature of Sri Lankan cuisine is boiled or steamed rice, served with a curry of fish, chicken or mutton, along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils, or fruits.

Dishes are accompanied by pickled fruits or vegetables, chutneys, and sambols. Coconut sambol is especially common, a paste of ground coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried Maldive fish, and lime juice.


Kiribath (lit. 'milk rice') is rice cooked in salted coconut milk until the grains turn soft and porridge-like. Generally eaten for breakfast, kiribath is also prepared on special occasions such as birthdays, New Years' and religious festivals. It is usually served with lunu miris, a relish made with red onions and chillies. During Aluth Avurudu/Puthandu, the Sinhalese/Tamil New Year, kiribath is served with sweets such as kavum, kokis, mung kavum, etc.


Kottu is a spicy stir-fry of shredded roti bread with vegetables. Optional ingredients include eggs, meat, or cheese. It was invented in Batticaloa and literally means 'chopped roti' in Tamil.



Hoppers (appam) are based on a fermented batter, usually made of rice flour and coconut milk with spices. The dish is pan-fried or steamed. The fermenting agent is palm toddy or yeast. Hopper variants can be either savory (such as egg hoppers, milk hoppers, and string hoppers), or sweet (such as vandu appa and pani appa).[2] Savory hoppers are often accompanied by lunu miris, a mix of red onions and spices.

String hoppers

String hoppers (idiyappam) are made from a hot-water dough of rice meal or wheat flour. The dough is pressed out in circlets from a string mold onto small wicker mats, and then steamed.


A Dutch Burgher-influenced dish, lamprais is rice boiled in stock accompanied by frikkadels (frikadeller meatballs), a mixed meat curry, blachan, aubergine curry, and seeni sambol. All of this is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in an oven. Lamprais is ideal for special occasions with a large gathering of friends and family considering its richness and the time it takes to prepare. Lamprais is cooked twice; first the rice and the entrees are cooked separately and later what is already cooked is wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in an oven, which makes it a unique recipe.


Kool is a seafood broth from Jaffna containing crab, fish, cuttlefish, prawns, and crayfish. It also contains long beans, jak seeds, manioc, spinach, and tamarind. The dish is thickened with palmyra root flour.


Pittu[3] are cylinders of steamed rice mixed with grated coconut.[4]


Gothamba roti is a simple Sri Lankan flatbread usually made from wheat flour.

Variants of roti include thengappu roti (Pol in Sinhalese), in which shredded coconut is mixed into the dough. Another variant is Uraippu roti (spicy roti), in which chopped onions and green chilies are used when making the dough.


Sambols are enjoyed with many dishes including curry dishes and string hoppers.[5] Sini sambal, Pol sambal, Lunu miris and Vaalai kai sambal are common sambols found in the country.

Malay Achcharu

Malay Achcharu also known as Sri Lankan Malay pickle is a dish that originated from the local Malay community and is now widely popular among all ethnic groups in the country.[6][7] It is a selection of veggies in a pickled sauce and blends sweet, sour and spicy flavours.[8]

Chinese chili paste

Chinese chili paste is a condiment eaten alongside Sri Lankan-style Chinese dishes.[9]


Babath is an appetizer of Sri Lankan Malay origin and is quite popular in Sri Lanka.[10]


Sate is of Malay origin and has become a staple of the Sri Lankan diet.[11] They are served with peanut and chili sauce.[12]

Ekor sop

Ekor sop or Ekor soup is a delicacy of the Sri Lankan Malay community.[13][14]

Nasi goreng and mee goreng

Nasi goreng (left) and mee goreng (right) are widely popular and served throughout the country ranging from street hawkers to high end restaurants.

Nasi goreng and Mee goreng are popular street food dishes in the country, a result of cultural influences from Indonesia and the country's local Malay community.[15][16][17]


A common dessert in Sri Lanka is kevum, an oil cake made with rice flour and treacle and deep-fried to a golden brown. There are many variations of kevum. Moong Kevum is a variant where mung bean flour is made into a paste and shaped like diamonds before frying. Other types of kevum include athiraha, konda kevum, athirasa, and handi kevum.

Many sweets are served with kiribath milk rice during the Sinhala and Tamil New Years . Other sweets include:

Cakes and pastries:

  • Aluwa - Diamond-shaped rice-flour pastries
  • Bibikkan - A rich, cake-like sweet made from grated coconut, coconut treacle, and wheat flour. It is a speciality of coastal areas.
  • Kokis - A savoury crispy biscuit-like dish made from rice flour and coconut milk.
  • Pushnambu - A rich, cake-like sweet made from coconut treacle and wheat flour. Cinnamon/cardamom and sweet cumin is often added among the Christian population of Sri Lanka.
  • Seenakku - a glutinous rice cake often served with grated coconut.[18]

Treacle-flavored sweets:

  • Undu Walalu/Undu wal or Pani walalu - A sweet from the Mathale area, prepared using urad bean flour and kithul treacle.
  • Aggala - Rice balls flavored with treacle
  • Weli Thalapa - Made from rice flour and coconut treacle
  • Aasmi - Made with rice flour and the juice of a leaf called Neolitsea cassia (okra juice can be used as a substitute), deep fried and topped with pink-coloured treacle.

Puddings and toffees:

  • Kalu Dodol - A solid toffee-, jelly-like confection made by lengthy reduction of coconut milk, thickened with rice flour and sweetened with jaggery.
  • Watalappam - A steamed pudding made with coconut milk, eggs, and jaggery. First introduced by the Malay immigrants, watalappam has become a staple of Sri Lankan desserts.

Other sweets:

  • Thala Guli - Made from ground sesame and jaggery with finely grated coconut.
  • Kiri Toffee - Made with sweetened condensed milk or sugar-thickened pure cow's milk. Cardamom/sweet cumin and cashews are added for more taste.

Short eats

"Short eats" are a variety of snacks that are bought by the dozen from "short eat" shops and restaurants. These are eaten on the go, mainly for breakfast or during the evening. Short eats include pastries, Chinese rolls and patties. A popular short eat among Tamils is the mutton roll, made from tender pieces of mutton with potato and seasoned with spices. This can be a very spicy dish. Mutton rolls are served all over the world wherever there are Sri Lankan Tamils. Other short eats include:

  • Vade - parippu vade, ulundu vade, isso (shrimp) vade, crab vade
  • Chinese rolls or egg rolls, which often contain minced meats, potatoes, and vegetables
  • Patties and pastries - filled with vegetables, meat, or fish
  • Vegetable/fish roti - a flatbread with a filling rolled into a triangular shape and baked

Short eats are served at parties or to guests when they visit a home. Western food such as hot dogs and hamburgers have arrived in Sri Lanka, with the globalization of fast-food chains such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut. However, foods from these establishments are not usually considered short eats. Additionally, hot dogs and hamburgers are also modified to fit local tastes.


Beverages commonly served in Sri Lanka include:

See also


External links