Sri Lanka: Food & Tropical Fruits

Sri Lanka has an extensive number of indigenous dishes, fruits and spices. Over the last centuries Lankan cuisine is complemented with Indian, Chinese, Malay, Arabian and European tastes. Today, even with the presence American taste in Colombo represented by McDonaldís, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, the average Sri Lankan still continues to eat traditional food at home. Rice and curry still comprises the main meal in almost every Sri Lankan household. (Read More)

Rice and Curry - boiled rice with curried vegetable, fish and/or meat laced with Sri Lankan spices is the typical Sri Lankan main meal, a gourmetís delight. It is served for both lunch and dinner and some do have it for breakfast too. Curries are usually made hot but can be mellowed to suit the pallet. Rice and Curry is served for lunch and dinner. Boiled or steamed rice with a variety of curries, salads, sambols, pappadam and chutney form the meal. Spices are added to make the dishes more delectable. The unaccustomed may sometimes find the curries too hot but, this is easily controlled by reducing the quantities of spices used, specially chilli and pepper, to suit the different tastes. Everything is brought to the table at once and there are no separate courses as in a Western style meal. It is perfectly correct to take a little of everything and taste it against the neutral rice. On special occasions yellow rice is cooked in coconut milk and delicately flavoured with spices. Turmeric is added to give the rice a bright yellow. It is served garnished with cashews raisins, and hard-boiled eggs. (Read More)

Delicious Dessert - If you still have room for dessert after all delicious Lankan food, go for a cup of curd topped with treacle or try Wattalappam - a rich pudding made with Jaggery, fudge from the Kitul palm treacle. If you're battling the bulge, you can still choose from a mouth-watering range of fresh tropical fruits that will really give you a feel of the tropics. Try perennials like papaya, pineapple, several varieties of mangoes, passion fruit, and over a dozen varieties of bananas. Or go for the unusual - pearly white Mangosteen in its purple husk, Rambutan, Sapodilla. Soursap, Guava, Beli, Varaka and Durian.

While you are here, don't just ask for fruit juice. Tambili ( King Coconut juice ) drunk straight from the golden fruit, the delicate Kurumba, the crushed pink rice of water - melon juice, passion fruit juice, orange, pineapple, papaya - take your pick.

"Short-eats" are savoury bite-sized pastries or rolls and can be quick, easy and fun. There's always a dish of sambol (a red hot combination of grated coconut, chilli and spice) available if you really want to set your mouth on fire. Short eats such as chinese rolls (a pancake with a beef, fish, chicken or vegetable filling and fried), cutlets, patties, pastries, hot dogs, ham burgers etc. are freely available. The fish cutlets made from mashed tuna spliced with curry spices are delightfully tasty, while the squids hidden in a bed of onions fried to the very bone seem unusually crispy. But still, the taste of the flesh is intact.

Order short-eats to your family / Friends in Sri Lanka via KAPRUKA

Lamprais is a popular Dutch dish. Rice is boiled in beef stock, then added to vegetables and meat and baked in a low oven after it is wrapped in a banana leaf. Baking the rice in a banana leaf gives a special flavour to the rice. Lamprais has a unique flavour and an appetizing aroma.


The most popular breakfast dishes in Sri Lanka are the hoppers (appa). These wafer thin, cup-shaped pancakes are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy. A hopper, crisp on the outside, yet soft and spongy in the centre, is best eaten with curries and sambols while still streaming hot. There are many types of hoppers: plain hoppers, egg hoppers, milk hoppers, and sweeter varieties like vanduappa and paniappa.  (Read More)

Another popular breakfast dish is a rice preparation known as indi-appa or string hoppers. These are small spaghetti-like strings of rice-flour dough squeezed through a sieve onto small woven trays, which are steamed one atop the other. Light and lacy, string hoppers make a mouthwatering meal with curry and sambol. (Read More)

Pittu probably came to Sri Lanka with the Malay regiments of the European colonial period. It is however completely naturalized now and is a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine. Pittu is a mixture of fresh rice meal, every lightly roasted and mixed with fresh grated coconut, then steamed in a bamboo mould. It has a soft crumbly texture and is eaten with fresh coconut 'milk' and a hot chilli relish or curry. (Read More)

Kiribath (milk rice) is a ceremonial specific and included in all special occasion menus. Kiribath is translated in to "milk rice". The rice is cooked in thick coconut cream for this un sweetened rice-pudding which is accompanied by a sharp chilli relish called "Lunumiris" or with a tackey coconut and treacle confection called "Panipol" - a sweet made with grated jaggery coconut and touch of vanilla. (Read More)

Pol sambhol is a fiery mix of dry grated coconut, red chilli tempered with curry leaves. We also have two other stunning sambhols- seeni sambhol made from sweet onions, sugar, chilli and spices - and katta sambhol, a mix of onions and chillis ground to a fine paste. Seeni Sambol is one of the lanka's rare dishes that is both sweet and hot. Although Sri Lankans like their food to be spicy, sugar (seeni) is added to Seeni Sambol to give it that special taste, and to take the sting out of the hot chilli.

Wattalapam is a rich pudding of Malay origin made of coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs, and various spices including cinnamon cloves and nutmeg. It taste like a chocolate pudding.


European conquerors who landed on these shores have admirably complemented the islandís cuisine

Kottu rotti

Kottu roti is a filling snack found at street side eating houses. This elasticated doughy pancake is chopped into shreads and stir fried with vegetables, onions, egg and beef or chicken.

Mallung: is a Sinhalese word which means 'mix-up' and is usually applied to the leafy green preparations with everything chopped finely and mixed over heat. This dish is an accompaniment to rice, and is always without a sauce - the liquid that comes out of the leaves or other ingredients is evaporated. A traditional blend of spices used to flavour green leafy vegetables, producing a light, fresh accompaniment to all Sri Lankan dishes. 

The passion fruit takes its name from the flower symbolic of Christ's Passion. Passion fruit are round, slightly oval fruit 5-8cm in length that grow on long, trailing vines. They are purple or yellow in color . and have a smooth, thin skin that wrinkles as the fruit loses moisture - a normal process which doesn't affect their flavor. Their juicy flesh is orange and contains several soft, edible seeds. Passion fruit have a bittersweet flavor and pungent aroma.

 The durian is probably the most notorious of tropical fruits due to its unpleasant odour. The fruit, which is round to ovoid and covered with sharp spines, has a white, custard-like pulp regarded as an aphrodisiac. You either love it and consider the fruit delicious, or you loathe it without eating it, unable to surmount the olfactory barrier. For the uninitiated, its best to try it creamed as fresh fruit custard


Woodapple is a wooden-shelled fruit (a favourite with elephants) that is so hard a hammer has to be used to break it. The truffle-like pulp within has a pungent smell, but it has an agreeable slightly sweet-sour taste. The pulp is eaten with salt, although the most popular preparation is a drink called diwal kiri made with the pulp, treacle and coconut milk. A fruit cream made with the pulp and condensed milk is also popular, as is woodapple jam.

In Sri Lanka, where the word plantain is often used interchangeably with banana, this fruit is a general favourite, served to complete any meal. Bananas come in many sizes, and can be green, yellow or even red in colour. Some of the most popular varieties are: embul - small, yellow when ripe: sweet and sticky kolikuttu - yellow when ripe: sweet and starchy anamalu - long, bright green when ripe: slightly floury seeni kehel - small, yellow when ripe: very  sweet rath kehel - thick, red when ripe: very fleshy

 Mangosteen is a dark purple fruit with luscious translucent segments within. Its flavour may be described as a combination between strawberries and grapes. They are seasonal and are available from July to September. Mangosteens are commonly sold by the roadside at Kalutara.


Being a tropical country Sri Lanka is blessed with a huge variety of fruit. Some like bananas, known as plantain, and mangoes come in a huge number of varieties, shapes and sizes.  Fruits such as rambutan, pineapple, papaya, melon, passion fruit and guavas are just a small sample.

The cashew apple is the yellowish-orange part . It is known everywhere as the nut, and the "fruit" sold for eating is a swollen stem. It has a very thin skin-green when unripe and turning to yellow, pink, or more rarely, bright scarlet, when ripe. The ripe fruit is sweet, crisp and juicy with a faint rose perfume.

Read more on Sri Lankan food in the Lanka Library Forum



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