Sri Lanka is a foodies haven, shoppers’ paradise and for followers of Buddhism, a cultural and religious treat 

5 things to eat/drink in Sri Lanka

Do you like South Indian cuisine? How about South East Asian fare? And if you are a fan of both, then Sri Lanka is your food haven. It has a quixotic mix: from hoppers to kuttu parota to sambal and chilly crab. Here’s a list of five things you must eat & drink on a trip to Sri Lanka:

Egg hoppers with spicy curry: Sri Lankan make a rice pancake like

egg hoppers
Photo: Hilton/ Sri Lanka

Kerala’s appams, using coconut milk in the batter to give it a sweetish flavour. In Sri Lanka, you get a version in which an egg is broken onto the top of a hopper while it’s almost cooked, giving you a nice poached egg. This eaten with a variety of spicy curries: Beef, mutton, chicken or vegetable. Hoppers are served all times of the day, it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is another version of the hopper, the string hopper (rice noodles) again eaten for any meal with a spicy curry

Chilly crab:

chilli crab
Photo: Catherine Ling/Flickr

The South East Asian influence in Sri Lankan cooking can be seen in this dish. Just like the Singaporean Chilly Crab, this island version too is hot and spicy and will leave you with teary eyes and messy hands: you can’t eat a crab curry without your hands getting messed up.



Kuttu Parotas: This is a roadside dish, akin to the chur chur naan of kottu parotaAmritsar fame. A maida (refined flour) parota is cooked on a large tawa. The roti is then cut into small pieces using a sharp, flat ladle (making a kut-kut  sound as the cook speedily cuts the hot parotas, hence giving it the name). The pieces of par0tas are tossed with onions, spices and small cuts of meat or vegetables. It makes for a wholesome meal.

Coconut arrack: coconot arrackThe local drink here is arrack. Toddy tappers climb coconut trees and collect the sap from the stem of the flowers. This fresh milk is known as toddy. The toddy is refined in a distillery to make arrack. Coconut arrack can be had with a variety of juices and mixed with other spirits. It’s not for the faint-hearted as it has a strong smell akin to Goan Feni and be warned, it’s a very heady drink. But do take a bottle home from duty free for your collection of spirits.

Beer: You must grab a pint of Lion’s, a local Sri Lankan beer. It comes in a lion beerrange of options: strong, light and a hearty stout. There’s also the option of trying Three Coins, another popular beer. (The same brand that’s available in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.)

Shop till you drop

Who would think that such a small island, would have so much to offer to a shopper? If you are a shopaholic, head to Colombo with an empty suitcase! You will return with a bagful of goodies from spice and tea to crockery and clothes. Here’s a list of five places, you must shop at while in Sri Lanka:

  • ODEL logoSri Lanka is big for rip-off western fashion wear. Being a big hub for textiles and garment factories for big labels, there are stores that sell the rejects for bargain prices. The most sought after store for shopping is Odel. They have two large stores in Colombo. The factory warehouse store of Odel is located on Dickman’s Road, where you can find a good bargain if you are lucky. They sell designer wear at really cheap prices. I picked up a white Davidoff shirt for my dad at just Rs 500! Odel also has a lovely range of its own clothesline with quirky t-shirts, sarongs and batik shirts. Trust me, you will shop until you drop in this store!
  • The second place to hunt for fashion bargains is House of Fashion onHouse of Fashion Duplication Road. Here you really have to hunt to find something that you like, as clothes are piled up in heaps and in cartons. Be prepared to dig through a heap to find something you like. I bought a long sleeves shirt in crushed synthetic chiffon 10 years ago and I still wear it!
  • Barefoot on Galle Road is Sri Lanka’s answer to our Anokhi. It has Barefoot SLhand printed and hand woven cottons in stylish cuts and designs. It where you will find the expat crowd stocking up for their trip back home. The prices are a bit stiff, but remember you have the currency advantage!
  • Noritake factoryThe Japanese ceramic brand, Noritake has a factory outlet in Sri Lanka.On your way back to Colombo from Pinnawala Elephant orphanage to Colombo, make sure you stop here. You can pick up some amazing bargains as well as some expensive tableware for your home. I found a dinner set for a low as 6000 Sri Lankan rupees It also has ceramic decorative plates, cut glass and shot glasses to take back home for family and friends. If you miss the factory outlet, there a store on Galle Road and an outlet at the airport, but you won’t get the bargain deal there!
  • The spice gardens in Sri Lanka are famous for their vanilla, Spice Sri Lankacinnamon, pepper and cardamom. You must make sure that you buy your quote of the fresh spices on your trip to Matale. The smell of the vanilla can lift you any cake you bake while the cinnamon and cardamom can nicely spice up any Indian or South East Asian curry you make! And of course, do pick up some Sri Lankan Dilmah tea, it is something you will relish!