Food Lover’s Guide to Colombo
Sri Lanka’s food—and more precisely Colombo’s—has its own distinct identity. Native produce such as crabs, prawns, and spices take center stage alongside curry and rice combos, while the influences of colonial occupiers such as the Dutch and Portuguese have shaped some dishes. Here are the foods and experiences not to miss in Colombo.
Topping the list are Sri Lanka’s curry and rice dishes: fragrant, colorful concoctions that pack a punch spice-wise. Many center on soft and sweet-tasting mud crabs, shrimp, and fish, and they usually come smothered in coconut-milk broths.
Other favorites are hoppers —rice flour pancakes. Egg hoppers —bowl-shaped affairs with a fried egg cradled in each—are a breakfast classic; while steamed, vermicelli-like string hoppers are an evening staple served with curry sauces. Dutch influences have also resulted in lamprais, an oven-baked curry-rice-and-plantain combination cooked in a banana leaf.
Colombo locals love street foods, and some of the tastiest eats can be found this way—follow best travel practices and order from clean, busy stalls that cook food thoroughly. Dig into kottu : a carb-rich mash of chopped roti bread, meat, vegetables, and spices. Or, for on-the-go snacks, opt for vadai —tasty lentil patties—or spiral-shaped, neon orange-colored murukku. Drinks-wise, cool off with cold ginger beer or falooda —rose-syrup and vanilla milkshakes with bobbing ice cream floats.
- Book a private cooking class at a local’s home to learn how to make classic Sri Lankan crab curry.
- Take an evening food walking tour to discover some of Colombo’s top street eats.
- Buy fresh produce at a market and prep a classic lunch with guidance from a local chef.
- Sip on fresh coconut juice and sample ice cream and sweets on a bike ride around Colombo’s food stalls.
- Follow a guide to Nanas, a clutch of open-air stalls on Galle Face Green, to savor the city’s tastiest kottu and vadai patties.