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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Food and Drink

Whether it's a home-cooked curry or a gourmet resort dinner, Sri Lankan cuisine is a treat for the taste buds. Flavours are exactly what you would expect from a nation at the historic trade junction between India and Southeast Asia, with abundant use of Indian spices and seasonings from China and other parts of Asia.

Fish and seafood feature heavily on menus, and coconut and coconut milk crop up prominently in many dishes. Rice is the centre of most meals, but roti (flatbread, like Indian naan) and appam (hoppers) – pancakes made from a rice and coconut milk batter – are also used to mop up curries and sauces. Curries typically have more chilli than in India, and often include coconut. Maldive fish – sun dried tuna – is another popular local ingredient.

Locals generally have richly spiced dishes for breakfast, but Western breakfasts are widely available. Street food is delicious, but to avoid stomach upsets steer clear of unpeeled fruit and salads, ice and ice cream.

Specialities

Appam (hoppers): Bowl-shaped rice-flour and coconut milk pancakes, often served with a soft-baked egg on top.
Idi Appa(stringhoppers): Squashed nests of fine rice noodles.
Roti: Sri Lankan flatbread, often made with coconut, which accompanies most meals.
Kottu roti: A stir-fried dish made from vegetables, egg and pieces of roti, chopped on the hotplate with special knives.
Lamprais: Rice, curry and meatballs wrapped in a banana leaf and baked in the oven.
Koola’ya: Leftover curries, mixed together with rice and served in blended balls; often found at Hindu temples.
Pol sambol: A Sri Lankan condiment, made from ground coconut, salt, fish, chillies and onions.
Short eats: Sri Lankan savoury snacks, including small pastries and egg rolls.
Pittu: Cylinders of ground rice layered with grated coconut and steamed.
Kool: A seafood stew made with flour from roots of the palmyra palm, with prawns, squid, crab and vegetables, originally from Jaffna in the north.
Tē (tea): The national drink, said to be amongst the best in the world.
Toddy: Mildly alcoholic fermented drink that is tapped from palm trees – often illegally – and drunk across Sri Lanka.
Arrack: A potent liquor made from the sap of palm trees.
Fresh coconut water: Served straight from the shell all over the country.
Lion: The country's national beer.

Things to know

Alcohol cannot be sold on poya holidays (which occur each lunar month on the day of the full moon).

Tipping

Most hotels include a 10% service charge. Elsewhere tipping is optional, but appreciated; around 10% is appropriate.

Drinking age

21.