15 Local Food You Should Try on Your Solo Trip to Sri Lanka

If food is one of the reasons you love to travel around the world, Sri Lanka will not disappoint you! It offers a wide variety of cuisines from all over the world, but the local dishes stand out. And I am a firm believer in trying out the local options instead of having the same food over and over. I mean, do you travel the world to have a burger that you can have in your country? I don’t think so!

When we talk about Sri Lankan food, all that comes to mind is rice and fish curry, and of course, tea! While these are a must-try, there are many more local delicacies that you should try out. The best part is that not only are these dishes satiating, but they do not burn a hole in the pocket either.

So, before you get hungry, let me take you through some of the best local foods that you should try on your solo trip to Sri Lanka!

1. Hoppers

food to try in Sri Lanka

Locally known as appam, these are the Sri Lankan equivalent of pancakes. They are made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water, and a bit of sugar in a small wok and traditionally eaten for breakfast. However, the more popular version of these is egg hoppers. Egg and other ingredients like chillies, lemon juice, onions, and tomatoes are also added. It gives these hoppers some flavour and is usually served with a curry, which brings everything together.

Where to eat?

You can have them literally anywhere in the country. Be it a street vendor or a luxurious restaurant – there are always hoppers on the menu! I have tried it from various places, and the taste more or less remains the same, so you can try it from wherever you want to.

2. Pol sambol

Sambol is a traditional side dish that can be eaten with roti, rice, bread, curry, hoppers, or even by itself. There are various kinds of sambols that the locals make. However, the one that stands out is the pol sambol. It is made from finely grated coconuts, red onions, dried red chillies, lime juice, Maldive fish, or tuna. And if you like coconut, you cannot find a better side dish than this!

Where to eat?

While you can find it everywhere in the country, the taste can differ slightly. In my opinion, Galle and Colombo offer some of the best sambols that I have tasted. On my solo trip to Sri Lanka, I kept going back to Upali’s by Nawaloka to have the best pol sambol in Colombo. However, you might like it more at some other place, so don’t hesitate to try it out.

3. Fish ambul thiyal

Fish curry is Sri Lanka’s staple food. While there are many kinds of fish curry, ambul thiyal (or sour fish curry) stands out. A fish, usual tuna, is cut into cubes and then sauteed with a unique blend of spices. Some of them are black pepper, red chilli powder, turmeric, cinnamon, pandan leaves, curry leaves, and dried goraka, which gives it a sour taste. It is then cooked on low flame with a small amount of water and usually eaten with rice. And Man-O-Man, it just tastes so heavenly!

Where to eat?

You can find it everywhere in the country as it is every local’s staple food, but the taste can differ a lot. If I had to choose one place, it would be Café on the 5th in Colombo. 

4. Parippu

Dhal curry or parippu is hands-down the most common dish in the country and is eaten two to three times a day! Split red lentils are boiled and then transferred to a pan where other ingredients like onions, tomatoes, green chillies, garlic, curry leaves, and spices are added. A few spoons of coconut milk are also added to give it a creamy texture and some flavour. It is then eaten with fresh roti or rice. Do try it out and watch how bland white rice turns into a mouth-watering meal!

Where to eat?

Due to its popularity, you can find it anywhere in the country. I prefer eating parippu from street vendors rather than luxurious restaurants as they maintain the authenticity of the dish. On the other hand, these restaurants might make their own versions of parippu, and you might not like it as much.

5. Lamprais

Lamprais is the Sunday lunch for many in the country. It is a combination of meat, rice, and sambol chilli sauce, all wrapped in a banana leaf. A small packet is made and then steamed. The meat is infused with spices like cardamom and cinnamon that give the meat its flavourful taste. You can choose various meats from – beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, which the modern generation loves.

Where to eat?

Lamprais being a dish influenced by the Dutch community, doesn’t taste the same at every place, but after exploring a lot, I think that Colombo serves the best lamprais in Sri Lanka. You should visit Harpo’s Colombo Fort Café or The Fab to have some tasty lamprais.

6. Kottu roti

Instead of having your bland burger, try out the local favourite fast food – kottu roti. I believe in staying healthy on solo trips and eating fresh food. And when you are in Sri Lanka, you cannot take a pass on kottu roti. It resembles pasta and fried rice. However, instead of any of those, it is made from godamba roti, a flat and crispy bread. The roti is fried at the beginning of the day. And when you place your order, the chef chops the roti and serves it with your choice of ingredients and sauces.

Where to eat?

The best place to eat kottu roti is on the streets and nowhere else! Many restaurants do not even have it on their menu because people prefer to eat it from street vendors. Whenever you hear a rhythmic clanking of metal, just head in that direction, and you will find a street vendor selling kottu roti!

7. Kukul mas curry

It is pretty easy to make this Sri Lankan dish. Just add some coconut milk, tomato puree, and spices in oil. Then, add chicken pieces and stew them for a little while. And your yummy chicken curry is ready! If you plan to stay in a hostel or an Airbnb, you should definitely consider cooking some kukul mas curry at your place and have it with roti or rice.

Where to eat?

If you don’t want to cook at your place, don’t worry, many restaurants serve lip-smacking chicken curries. If I had to choose one place, I would pick Upali’s by Nawaloka in Colombo. However, you can find almost every local restaurant serves great kukul mas curry.

8. Crabs

Sri Lanka is an island country, and seafood is quite common here. Out of all the dishes, their crabs are world-famous. There are various dishes that you can try out during your solo trip. Some of them include chilli crab, pepper crab, curry crab, butter crab, and many other dishes. The best part is that most restaurants serve fresh crabs and do not freeze them to extend their shelf life.

Where to eat?

When it comes to crabs, there is no better place than the Ministry of Crab. It has its branches all over the world and serves only the best and meatiest of crabs. They are also featured in Asia’s Best Restaurants regularly, which is why you need to check them out.

9. Wood apple

Wood apple is a popular fruit in Sri Lanka. It is slightly smaller than a coconut, has a hard shell and a pungent smell. While you can eat the fruit by cracking the cover, it is mainly consumed as a smoothie, called wood apple juice. Sugar or jaggery and water are added to it, which give it a sweet and sour taste. I have had it both ways, and the smoothie tastes much better than the fruit. Also, cracking open the fruit is a huge task if you do it all by yourself.

Where to eat/drink?

Some street vendors sell wood apple fruit. However, I recommend that you visit the local fruit juice shop and have a delicious glass of wood apple juice. It wouldn’t cost you more than a dollar, and you will totally love it!

10. Polos

Polos is a jackfruit dish that is pretty spicy and eaten alongside rice and parippu. Young jackfruit is sliced into little chunks and boiled until soft. It is then cooked with onions, ginger, garlic, and spices like turmeric, chilli powder, cinnamon, mustard seeds, curry leaves, pandan leaves, and lemongrass, which add some spice to the otherwise sweet fruit. After half an hour, coconut milk is added to give it a creamy texture, and it’s ready!

Where to eat?

Polos is a pretty standard dish and available at most restaurants. However, you should try it out at restaurants that specialise in serving curries. I believe these restaurants make the tastiest polos. If you cannot find one, just head to Kandy, and you will find many that serve great polos.

11. Wambatu moju

Wambatu moju is an eggplant or brinjal pickle that is usually eaten with rice and curries. It is diced into bite-sized pieces and then deep-fried to give it a crispy texture. Then, it is caramelized with a bit of sugar, vinegar, onions, green chillies, mustard seeds, chilli powder, and turmeric. It becomes soft and juicy and tastes sweet, sour, and salty all at once!

Where to eat?

Brinjal pickle is a staple in every Sri Lankan home. I was lucky enough to find a local friend that offered this side dish to me. However, you might not find someone like this all the time. And not all restaurants serve wambatu moju, but you can find some that do. Try checking out those that offer various curries, and you might find it on their menu.

12. Gotu kola sambol

Gotu kola sambol is one of the healthiest local dishes that you can have in Sri Lanka. It is made from pennywort, which is a medicinal herb commonly found in Asia. It is sliced and combined with tomatoes, onions, green chillies, coconut, and some spices like salt and pepper. You can also add your favourite sauce on top and have it alongside rice and curry.

Where to eat?

You can step into any local restaurant and find gotu kola sambol on the menu. I had this dish at a small local restaurant in Nuwara Eliya because I couldn’t find it in prominent restaurants. If you don’t see any restaurant that serves it, you can ask some locals, and they will help you out.

13. Kiribath

food to try in Sri Lanka

Kiribath is a special dish mainly served on auspicious occasions like festivals or the Sinhalese New Year. First, rice is boiled and cooked almost completely. But just before it finishes cooking, a bit of salt is added with thick creamy coconut milk, which gives it a sticky consistency. Once it is cooked, it is cut like a cake and served as slices. It is usually eaten with chilli sauce or curry. You can also have it with lunu miris, which is basically a sambol chilli sauce made from red chillies, onions, lemon juice, and Maldive fish.

Where to eat?

As it is only prepared on special occasions, you cannot have it most of the time during the year. But if you end up travelling to Sri Lanka during the festive season, you can head to any traditional restaurant and devour on the tasty kiribath. Or if you happen to make some friends and visit a wedding, you can enjoy it there too.

14. Ulundhu vadai

Ulundhu vadai is the best snack option that you have in Sri Lanka. These are tasty fritters made from yellow lentils. These lentils are soaked overnight and then ground to make a paste. Then ingredients like coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, green chillies, and turmeric are also added to give it a spicy taste. Then, they are then made into flat spheres and fried in oil until crispy and crunchy. It sounds so tasty, isn’t it?

Where to eat?

It is commonly found on streets where food vendors serve it fresh right out of the fryer. Head to any busy street, and you will find various vendors selling ulundhu vadai. It is commonly eaten as an evening snack with a cup of tea and your favourite chutney.

15. Sri Lankan Tea

I know tea isn’t a food item, but Sri Lankan tea is world-famous for its distinct taste. And I don’t want you to see all the stunning places in the country and go back home without having a good cup of tea. High-quality Sri Lankan tea leaves are brewed in hot water and then strained out. It is then mixed with milk or milk powder and sweetened with sugar. What results is a fantastic cup of hot tea!

Where to eat (drink)?

While you can have it anywhere in the country, the best place to have a cup of traditional tea is on the streets. These vendors prepare it right in front of you. And all you need to pay them is a few cents for one of the best cups of tea you will ever have in your life!

Which is your favourite local food in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is heaven for all the foodies out there. No matter what you like, you will always find something for yourself. These dishes cannot be missed and are a must-try. I hope that you try out most of these on your solo trip. And who knows, you might find something that I haven’t mentioned on this list! Let me know about your experiences in the comments section. I would love to hear them!


An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.

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