One of the reasons we chose Sri Lanka is because we love a good curry! We also do not hesitate to make travel plans around foods we like and want to try. Tasting the local cuisine is very much part of our travel experiences.
On the first day of our trip, the moment we took our first bite at a breakfast of rice & curry, we fell deeper in love with Sri Lankan food. The dishes are so full of flavour, that your mouth will instantly wake up with the first bite. This love affair continued to blossom through our trip as we experienced dishes beyond the rice & curry.
Rice and Curry
OK so Yes, it’s mainly rice and curry. There’s no avoiding it really. And why would you? It’s delicious and nutritious with all levels of the food pyramid usually represented in each dish.
When you see “Rice and Curry” on the menu, expect a buffet selection of sorts with … you guessed it! … rice and curry. You’re not just offered one curry, there’s usually at least half a dozen varieties to choose from at any given time. Most of the curries offered are vegetable and one or two will have some sort of meat – usually fish or chicken.
The vegetable curries, were much nicer than we expected and usually only contained one vegetable ingredient. So for example, eggplant curry, pumpkin curry or Okra (bitter melon) curry etc. In this case, a ‘vegetable’ curry, is one without any meat or seafood. But it may also include fruit like mango curry (which was delicious).
Secondly Yes, it’s spicy. The level of spice varies and of course this varies also according to your palette. One thing is for sure a trip to Sri Lanka will definitely raise your spice tolerance a notch or two 🙂
Most similar to South Indian cuisine, if you can persevere past the spicy hit, you’ll then taste the depth of flavours in the dish. It’s hard to believe but on most days, we ate a little bit rice and curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Kids love Dhal
A staple in all Sri Lankan households and as we found out, well loved by all Sri Lankan’s…. and kids. At the hotel buffets and in restaurants, there was definitely one dish that we saw most kids had on their plate and that is the dhal.
Izzy devoured it. Often a little milder (but not always), Dhal is a simple curry of lentils, turmeric and mustard seeds. I’m sure there is more to this than those ingredients and each establishment certainly made them differently, but one thing is certain and that is … (according to a 9-year old) whether it is with papadums, rice or on it’s own – it’s delicious!
Hotel food is good
There are other things to eat in Sri Lanka besides curry. Thankfully, it’s not McDonalds or some other fast food. Actually outside of Colombo or Kandy, we did NOT see a single fast food chain.
Unfortunately, a good hotel doesn’t guarantee good dining. Which is a shame, as I know of some who have been known to rely on hotel food because it’s easier for the kids.
Well, parents with fussy eaters… do not fret, because hotel food in Sri Lanka was great! Not surprising really, as visitors from all around the world have been coming this island for centuries so they know how to cater for everyone.
There is plenty of European or Western style food available. Especially at hotels, where you will find pastries, eggs and a swag of other cuisines as well. Not to mention the world’s best tea (served with scones and sandwiches of course!).
What we also enjoyed most about these are some of the Sri Lankan twist to them. For example, on the menu you may find a Sri Lankan omelette or a bread bun filled with curry. A way to ease those with less adventurous taste buds and slowly introduce the flavours.
Who can resist sweet juicy paw paw or papaya? Or a refreshing coconut juice straight out of the coconut?
Tropical fresh fruits are abundant and in varieties that we’ve not seen before. Whilst the more familiar, watermelon and paw paw are available all year around, there are lots of other exotic fruits to try.
Izzy particularly enjoyed fruits with exciting and imaginative names like dragon fruit, lychees, lanzones, jackfruit and about 30 different types of bananas to choose from!
NO cutlery required
We visited a few places where we were able to experience an authentic village meal. One place that was especially memorable is Gami Gedara, in Polonnaruwa. Next to a rice paddy field, we entered a large thatched roof hut where the dishes are cooked in the clay pots over an open fire.
It was here, after our climb to the top of Sigiriya, where we had the best meal during our trip. We happily tucked into some delicious curries and ate with our hands, as is traditionally done in Sri Lanka and many Asian countries.
And boy did we have fun with it! Izzy especially enjoyed eating with her hands. I mean how many times do you find yourself repeatedly asking your kids to use their cutlery?! Oh no not here … just let the kids be and have a great time!
It’s not easy to eat rice without making a mess of yourself and being of Asian heritage ourselves, we don’t do it often but I do recall some things that my mother taught me. So here’s a few quick tips to help the kids actually get some food in their mouths.
- Make mountains – using the tips of all your fingers form a small mound of rice
- Place a small piece of the meat/vegetable on top of the rice mound, making sure to form/mould it again
- Using the tips of your fingers, pick up the rice bundle and turn it upwards so that the palm of your semi-enclosed hand is facing you
- With your thumb push the food into your mouth
And there you go! Always use only one hand and remember that you’re not making meatballs or kneading dough, so use your fingers and not your palm when eating with your hands.
Thankfully our daughter Izzy is fairly adventurous with food, isn’t allergic to anything and enjoys most things (except fish). So it’s unusual for us, to not find anything that she won’t eat. Having said that, there are plenty of food options in Sri Lanka, to cater to the most adventurous to the fussiest eater.
Do you have fussy eaters? Do any of your travel companions have food allergies? How do you handle these on your travels?