Top 10 Best Most Popular Sri Lankan Food Dishes

By on October 29, 2012
Plain & Egg Hoppers with Beef Curry, Seeni Sambol & Tempered Coconut Sambol

Plain & Egg Hoppers with Beef Curry, Seeni Sambol & Tempered Coconut Sambol

Sri Lanka has lavishly aromatic and spicy cuisine. If you are visiting Sri Lanka you should try these popular Sri Lankan dishes. Sri Lankan cuisine is mostly shaped by its history and culture, with some dishes so inherently unique you wouldn’t find them anywhere else in the world.

This list includes following types of food:

Main meals such as Rice and Curry, Those, Pol Sambol (coconut sambol), Mallum – Gotukola sambal, Dhal or Lentil currry (Parippu Hodi), and Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour fish curry).
Breakfast dishes such as Hoppers (Appa) and String Hoppers (Indi Appa).
Special Occasion and Festive dishes such as Milk Rice (Kiribath) and Sweetmeats (Kavum, Kokis, Asmi etc.)
Fast food– Kottu

CULINARY TRADITION – The rice is always put on to the plate first and then the curries are selected from the other dishes to mix with it so you have a collection of minor meals around the plate. You eat by mixing the rice with something forming it in to bite sized ball and consuming by hand. Is generally consumed with a range of vegetables or meat, parripu , dhal and Mullung.

1 – Rice and Curry

Rice and Curry Sri Lanka
It is the main meal in almost every household. A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of rice served with curry of fish, meat or poultry, several other curries made with vegetables and pulses such as lentils (Dhal). Condiments such as chutneys and sambols are included. These are generally spicy and are made from various ingredients such as coconut, onions, lime juice and chillies. All the dishes are placed on the table at the same time for consumption.

2 – Milk Rice (Kiribath) with Onion Sambola

Milk Rice Kiribath Sri Lanka
Milk rice is a traditional Sri Lankan dish made with rice. It is a popular food served in auspicious and festive occasions (eg. Sinhala New Year, first day of each month). The dish is prepared by cooking rice with coconut milk. This is normally served with Onion Sambola (lunu miris), a fiery hot mix of red onions and spices, or bananas. This is also a traditional breakfast in Sri Lanka.

There are varieties of kiribath especially Mun kiribath, where green gram is added and the delicious Imbul Kiribath with its center filled with coconut and jaggery (Honey).

Best Sri Lankan foods – Rice and Curry, Those, Pol Sambol, Dhal Lentil curry Fish Ambul Thiyal fish curry, breakfast dishes Hoppers Kiribath and Sweetmeats Kavum, Kokis, kottu.

3- Sweetmeats – Kavum, Kokis, Asmi etc.

Sweetmeats - Kavum, Kokis, Asmi etc

Traditional juicy sweetmeats are commonly prepared during Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrating times and other special occasions. These include Kavum, Kokis, Asmi, Halape and Thalaguli.

Kavum is a mushroom-shaped battercake of ground rice and treacle, fried in oil. There are several varieties of kavum. Among them the konda kavum is very popular.
Kokis is a dish made from rice flour and coconut milk.
Asmi is also a traditional sweetmeat in the shape of’string hoppers dipped in treacle.
Halape is a mixture of jaggery and flour, wrapped in a leaf.
Thalaguli is a ball of confectionary liberally peppered with sesame.

Asmee, Pani walalu, mun kavum, athirasa, konda kevum, kokis

Asmee (inside packets), Pani walalu, mun kavum, athirasa, konda kevum, kokis

Other Sri Lanka sweetmeats include Kaludodol (a rich, dark, confection made from coconut milk, jaggery and cashew nuts), aluva, pumpkin preserve (puhul dosi) and Panivalalu (honey bangles).

4- Kottu

Kottu roti

Kottu is very popular street fast food in Sri Lanka. It is made of shredded pieces of Sri Lankan paratha bread that are stir fried with an assortment of spices and a choice of other meaty (or vegetarian) ingredients.


5- Pol Sambol (coconut sambol)

Pol Sambol (coconut sambol)

Pol Sambol (coconut sambol)

Pol Sambola is prepared with grated coconut, onions, red chilli powder, lemon, salt and Maldive fish (cured tuna). It is usually eaten with rice. There is also Seeni Sambol: a very dark, rich, spicy-sweet onion relish.

6- Mallum – Gotukola sambal

Gotukola Mallum Sambola

Gotukola Mallum Sambola

Mallum is more like a green salad and prepared by mixing shredded green vegetables, onions, coconut and some basic spices for garnishing. The name Mallum literally means “mix up” and is usually a combination of shredded greens, onion, chilli, Maldive fish (Umbalakada) and coconut. Gotukola (Centella asiatica), Mukunuwenna (Alternanthera sessilis) and Kankung (Ipomea aquatica) Leaves are the local green leaves commonly used in Mallum. The most famous Green sambol (mallum) is made from fresh.

7- Thosai (Those)

Thosai & Vadai

Thosai & Vadai

Is basically a lentil pancake soaked and ground to form a smooth batter, flavoured with fried shallots, curry leaves, fenugreek and cumin cooked in a hot griddle with sesame oil. Eaten with ground coconut and chilly sambol. VADAI: Classical accompaniment to dosai- a triumph of tamil cuisine, they are small savoury rissoles fashioned into cakes and deep fried in coconut oil.

It is prepared with Ulundu flour, Rice flour, wheat flour, Sugar, Salt, and yeast.

8- Dhal or Lentil currry (Parippu Hodi)

Dhal Lentil Curry

Dhal Lentil Curry

Dhal (Daal) curry is one of the main curries Sri Lankans eat day to day with rice, bread, roti or parata. The dhal lentils are often cooked with coconut milk and made into a rich stew that acts as a gravy for rice.

9- Hoppers (Appa) and String Hoppers (Indi Appa)

Hoppers and Egg Hoppers served with Sabmol and Banana

Hoppers and string hoppers are popular breakfast or dinner dishes in Sri Lanka.

Hoppers are much like sour-dough pancakes. The batter is fermented in the traditional way with a light palm toddy, which gives the hoppers a delicious liquor tang. Usually served with sambol. There are several types of hoppers – egg hoppers and a couple of sweeter varieties.

String hoppers are made from rice noodles curled into flat spirals. It is served for breakfast and dinner with a thin fish or chicken curry, containing only one or two pieces of meat, a dhal dish, and a spicy sambol or fresh chutney.

10- Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour fish curry)

Fish Ambul Thiyal

Ambul Thiyal is a popular dried fish curry with a sour taste made in many homes in Sri Lanka. The dish can be stored for days at room temperature without getting spoilt. Goraka (Garcinia gummi-gutta) is the ingredient which helps to preserve the fish. It’s also responsible for the sour flavor in the dish.

What do Sri Lankans normally eat?

We bring you some common meals consumed by Sri Lankan.

Vegetarian Sri Lankan Meal

This is a very healthy vegetarian meal.

A vegan feast. 1. Boiled cowpea, 2. red lentils, 3. boiled tapioca (මංඤ්ඤොක්කා), 4. spiny gourd (තුඹ කරවිල), 5. coconut sambol, 6. jak fruit in coconut cream (කිරි කොස්), 7. leafy greens with grated coconut, 8. drumstick (මුරුංගා) in coconut cream with 9. par-boiled red rice (නාඩු හාල්).

A vegan feast. 1. Boiled cowpea, 2. red lentils, 3. boiled tapioca (මංඤ්ඤොක්කා), 4. spiny gourd (තුඹ කරවිල), 5. coconut sambol, 6. jak fruit in coconut cream (කිරි කොස්), 7. leafy greens with grated coconut, 8. drumstick (මුරුංගා) in coconut cream with 9. par-boiled red rice (නාඩු හාල්).

Common Persons Breakfast

Breakfast with Bread, Potato curry, Dhal curry and Pol Sambol

Breakfast with Bread, Potato curry, Dhal curry and Pol Sambol

Sri Lankan Dinner

Bitter gourd, curried tender mango, coconut sambol, leafy greens with grated coconut, pumpkin curry and red lentils with par-boiled red rice

Bitter gourd, curried tender mango, coconut sambol, leafy greens with grated coconut, pumpkin curry and red lentils with par-boiled red rice


List of Popular Food Dishes in Sri Lanka

Rice, Biriyani and String Hoppers

String-Hoppers with Rice Flour `Fried Rice `Kiribath (Milk Rice) `Koththu Roti
Mutton Mixed Rice Plain Biriyani Sri Lankan Style Rice Stick / Noodles Rotti
Sri Lankan Style Pizza Easy Cous Cous Dish Those(Dosa) Yellow Rice
Hoppers Onion and Peas Rice Kola Kenda Bread Koththu

Fish, Chicken, Beef Pork curries

Hot and Spicy Chicken Curry Beef and Potato Devilled Curry Black Pepper Beef Chicken Black Pepper Curry
Curried Meat Balls Devilled Pork Lamb/Mutton Curry Baked Pork Dish
Mustard Chicken Curry Grilled Chicken with Bell Pepper Party Style Chicken Dish Kankun with Beef
Pork Curry with Goraka Pork with Gravy Roast Chicken Tempered Beef Curry
Pork Kalu Pol Curry Pineapple and Cashew Chicken Mustard Beef Curry Sprats Moj

Vegetable Curries

Eggplant (Brinjal) Pickle Tempered Spinach with Dhal Cashew Curry with Veggies Sinhala Pickle (Achcharu)
Spinach & Potato Stir-Fry Spicy Stir-Fried Green Beans Radish Tempered Potato Stir-Fry (Deep Fried)
Polos(Green Jack fruit) Curry Pineapple Curry Mushroom Stir-Fry Devilled Kankun
Malay Pickle Kirikos/Jak Milk Curry Bittergourd (Karavila) Curry Green Beans with Cheese
Ela Batu Curry Eggplant Salad Sweet Potato Curry Eggplant Pahi
Drumstick (Murunga) Curry Dhal(Lentil) Curry Chickpea Stir Fry Cauliflower Stir Fry
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Cabbage Stir-Fry Beet Curry with Cilantro Banana Flower Stir-Fry
Baked Potatoes Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach Banana Pepper Curry Garlic Curry
Fried Okra Ash Plantain Black Curry Mango Curry

Sambol and Mallum

Bandakka(Okra) Sambol Bitter Gourd Sambol Pol Sambol(Coconut Sambol) Karapincha Sambol
Cabbage (Gowa) Mallun Carrot Sambol Cucumber Salad Fried Bittergourd(Karavila) Salad
Gotukola Sambol Green Jack Fruit (Polos) Mallun Kale Mallun Broccoli Mallun
Lunumiris Minchi (Mint) Sambol Pol Mallun Broccoli and Cauliflower Mallun
Seeni Sambol Tomato Salad Green Bean Mallun

Sweets and Desserts

Aluwa Mung Kavum Tropical Fruit Salad Caramel Pudding
Pol Toffee Coffee Biscuit Pudding Date Cake Milk Toffee
Chocolate Biscuit Pudding Butter Cake Kokis Love Cake
Bibikkan Christmas /Wedding Cake Watalappan Potato Toffee
Jaggery Mould Sau Dodol Halape Recipe Bread Pudding
Easy Jelly Pudding Konda kawum Athirasa Lavariya
Musket Rulang Aluwa Milk Toffee

Shorts Eats and Appetizers

Chinese Rolls Cocktail Eggs Cutlets Dhal (Parippu) Vada
Patties Recipe Fish/Meat Bun Vegetable/Meat Roti(wraps) Samosa
 Stuffed Chillies Uludhu Vadai Bacon and Egg Pastry Ala Bola
 Spicy Bread Rolls Egg Roti (Wraps) Murukku


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12 Comments

  1. Wendy Kelly

    January 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Have yummy string hoppers for breakfast.

  2. Suresh de silva

    November 7, 2013 at 2:32 am

    I just wanna know How to cook babys food Rcepies Fruits and Stuff
    Cos My Baby is now 5 months old doctor said to start food now
    1 bath kada like many thanks

  3. Pingback: Top 10 Best Herbal Ayurvedic and healthy tea in Sri Lanka | Trip to Sri Lanka

  4. Pingback: Travel to Sri Lanka – How Sri Lanka is different to India | Trip to Sri Lanka

  5. admin

    April 2, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Travel to Sri Lanka – How Sri Lanka is different to India
    http://trip2lanka.com/2014/04/travel-to-sri-lanka-how-sri-lanka-is-different-to-india/

  6. admin

    April 12, 2014 at 5:31 am

  7. Janyanthi

    April 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

    What is the recipe of Sri Lankan Aluwa.

  8. rita albaneze

    April 20, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Please e-mail me a menu as I wish to place an order for delivery (on the 1st of each month).(stringhoppers, gottukola sambol etc for sure) The address inSL will be Kalubowila, Dehiwela. Will give full details once I hear from you. Will pay from the US. Please advise the method of payment you prefer. Thanks – Rita

    • admin

      April 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Sorry Rita. This website will not take any food orders.

  9. Pingback: Healthy Breakfast Sinhala Food Recipes Sri Lanka « Recipes for Health

  10. Pat

    May 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Hoppers are real tasty.

  11. chef Pabilis Silva

    May 25, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Sri Lankans use 42 cooking ingredients containing properties with herbal value. Ours is exclusive because we do not use ingredients which are artificial or made of animal oil After the importation of sugar and wheat, it made a lethal health blow to our people. We inherited non communicable diseases. As for Kavum, we cannot, in fact, trace its origin other than going by some hear-say On a festive occasion, our people tend to make sure that Chopsuey is available. They try to have fried rice somehow. They do not know the meaning of it though. They mistakenly call vegetable rice ‘fried rice’. We embraced alien cuisine casting aside ours. I think this happened after the Portuguese and British invasion. Some of our people compromised their identity for the sake of titles conferred

    At village level, Sri Lankans have traditional family functions to mark weddings or events of girls attaining age. We also conduct ritualistic ceremonies. We normally make two or three vegetable curries on such occasions to host guests and relatives. We are used to fry Papadam. In the past, we mostly made Kiribath and Kavum. With the arrival of the Portuguese, it changed. We started making cake even for birthdays. What we lost is our traditional food culture.
    Eating cake on birthdays is not our culture. We have embraced it from elsewhere. We only ate Kiribath and Kavum. We have heard of Kiribath made by Sujatha to be offered to the Buddha prior to his attainment of Buddha-hood. She made it with fresh milk. That is the history of Kiribath we can think of. Whenever there is any almsgiving at a village household, fellow villagers contribute to it with various food stuffs. This practice is always there.

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