Sri Lankan cuisine has been influenced by many historical and cultural factors, including British colonialists who once ruled Sri Lanka who brought their own cuisines with them, plus the cuisine of Southern India, which continues to share and inspire popular Sri Lankan dishes. Whatever the influences, Sri Lanka now has some of the most wild and varied street food of any nation on the sub-continent!
Fresh vegetables, traditional seafood, nuts and chickpeas, and of course copious amounts of rice are always going to be readily available on the streets of Sri Lanka. But when we take a closer look at what the Sinhalese people eat, we can see that there are many sweet delicacies being consumed in between meals! Here are 12 of the most popular street foods from Sri Lanka:
Mallum is a healthy Sri Lankan street food favourite consisting of mashed up greens such as cabbage and kale, as well as onions and chilies. Fish is also an optional ingredient to give it an extra taste. A good choice for vegetarians.
Hoppers are a range of dishes formed with fermented batter, usually made of rice flour and coconut milk with spices. The dish is pan-fried or steamed. The fermenting agent is palm toddy or yeast. Hopper variants can be either savoury (such as egg hoppers and milk hoppers), or sweet (such as vandu appa and pani appa). Savoury hoppers are often accompanied by lunu miris, a mix of red onions and spices.
Wellawahum are delightful coconut-stuffed pancakes! This snack is an increasingly popular sweet treat and is often consumed with tea after work or school.
Sri Lankan Crab Curry has always been a major part of Sri Lankan cuisine, although nowadays, as times are changing, many street vendors now serve up fulsome portions from their roadside carts to keep the locals happy without needing to book a seat at an expensive restaurant.
Kalu Dodol is a very sweet snack dish! The dark and sticky dish consists mainly of kithul jaggery (from the sap of the toddy palm), rice flour and coconut milk. Kalu dodol is a very difficult and time-consuming dish to prepare. The Hambantota area is famous for the production of this dish.
Adhirisam is a popular Sri Lankan comfort food. The doughnut like pastry has a long history of being eaten as a dessert, but increasingly Sinhalese people are munching on their adhirisam as a snack in between meals. Also popular in southern India.
Issowade is a simple snack dish that relies on the best quality small, firm prawns that can be sourced. The aroma of the mouth-watering fried prawn vadai is wonderful. Street food vendors usually serve this prawn vadai with a dab of lime juice and/or chopped onions.
Elawalu Roti is an imported food from south India and can be eaten at breakfast, but more commonly as a snack. In Sri Lanka, this is served at 24 hours a day and is also a favourite midnight snack. It is also consumed as an appetizer in restaurants, but the best rotis can be found on the streets of Colombo!
Kokis is a deep-fried, crispy and sweet street food made from rice flour and coconut milk. Although considered as a traditional Sri Lankan dish, it is believed to have come from the Dutch.
Kottu Kothu is an ever-popular Sri Lankan street food made from Godhamba roti and vegetables, egg and/or meat, and spices. It is considered Sri Lanka’s equivalent of the classic hamburger.
Halapa is one of the more famous Sri Lankan snacks, and is it basically a mixture of steamed and sweetened coconut wrapped in kanada leaves. The taste from these leaves differentiates Halapa from other similar snacks from south east Asia.
Bibikkan is another coconut-inspired food from Sri Lanka, and this time in the form of a sweet cake. While it can be eaten as a dessert, it is now common to see specially prepared portions of this cake in paper bags being sold as street food to delighted customers across Sri Lanka!