Sri Lankan food is soooooo…delicious. It exceeded our expectations in so many ways. It was fresh and yummy. It was completely different from what we usually eat, but we didn’t mind.
Nobody in our family experienced any stomach illness – even after eating plenty of street food. We were always able to find something our children would enjoy. AND – are you ready for the best part – we lost weight. Yes – we drank and ate to our hearts content and then some. And in the end we still lost weight on this vacation. True – there was quite a bit of physical work involved with hauling around children and exploring the area. But I think the big difference is that our diet changed drastically to become much more vegan and healthy. While we could always find some meats and carbs on the menu, just eating the local food most of the trip changed our diet drastically for the better – much more fruits and vegetables.
Top Sri Lankan Food Dishes (from a Western Family perspective…):
By far this was my favorite meal of the day. For me, the fresh fruit was the highlight of the Sri Lankan food experience. I am smitten over the small local bananas that grow on trees throughout the South part of the island. I also discovered a passion for passion fruit (so cheesy…I know.) It was just so tart and sweet all at the same time. Why hadn’t anybody ever told me about passion fruit!? Every breakfast we had there started with a big fruit platter and a choice of tea or coffee. Usually I am a coffee addict, but when in Rome…etc. The breakfasts at the hotels in general far exceeded our expectations and beat the old continental breakfast standard fare.
At breakfast the whole family loved the hoppers: bread-like rounds made of rice flour that can be “string” hoppers (almost like a bunch of rice noodles) or crispy hoppers – often with an egg cooked inside. At breakfast we also loved the pol sambol, which is finely shredded coconut missed with other item and usually includes some hot peppers. Plus some curry sauces and other flatbreads. It was also easy to find plain toast served with butter and jam or eggs made to your tasting (like a fried egg or an omelet or scrambled eggs).
The seafood in Unawatuna was amazing. I still drool thinking about the grilled prawns in chili sauce I had one night. All of the fish is local and extremely fresh. Often you can pick out your fish on the spot before it is grilled. Plus the atmosphere makes the meal even more exquisite -sitting right on the beach with tiki torches and candlelight making your menu just readable. The lake and river trout we ate up in Udawalawe was also delicious
Well this is a no-brainer and you might be thinking this is not something really special about Sri Lanka. Well let me tell you – I had the best ginger-based cocktails of my life while on this vacation. I couldn’t even begin to explain what the actual ingredients were but they blew my mind. We only trusted the ice at the nicer hotels we stayed in, but we are so glad we did.
Curry lunch buffets were universally decent to excellent. We never had one we found disgusting, but we did tire of them somewhat by the end of the trip. We were surprised to learn from our guide that curries are considered a breakfast or lunch-time meal in Sri Lanka. By the evening the curry is considered too old. I think our guide would have been horrified if he ever saw how I use a crock-pot at home!
Our guide, rather forcefully, encouraged us to try a small non-descript family-owned Roti shop in Unawatuna. And this was a great discovery for us. Rotis are very simple – sort of the Sri Lankan version of a crepe or burrito. I suppose every culture has a food where bits of food are wrapped in a round pancake like bread and served ooy-gooy warm.
On our drive up to Udawalawe we saw these
road-side stands full of these red clay pots. Our guide explained that those were buffalo curds. We immediately though back to the cheese curds we ate at the Minnesota State fair and decided we must stop and try them for comparison. OMG (or OMB in Sri Lanka – or is that a total insult to their religion? I digress…) These curds were served to us in little plastic bowls with plastic spoons. The owner poured a sauce that is a honey-based syrup over top. And then the taste explosion. It is sweet and tart at the same time – the closest comparison I can think of is greek yogurt with honey. More please! This is a very popular desert and mainstay of Sri Lankan food.
We drank a lot of tea…and brought home a lot of tea. I am no expert tea expert and only occasionally drank tea before this trip. So I will just leave it at saying that after a couple days I started to order tea with every meal, and it was the best tea I ever had. A nice experience was having tea at MacWoods tea plantation. It is served with a thick square of chocolate cake. MacWoods tea house is a bit of a tourist trap, but we didn’t mind as we needed a break from the van, it was directly on our route, we loved the tea, and we enjoyed a small hike there. See my post on the hike here.