Sri Lankan food tends to charm the senses in more subtle ways than some better-known cuisines from the region. Fragrant dishes, with rounded yet fiery depths, are filled with flavours from the island’s famous spice plantations, such as heady cinnamon and aromatic pepper. A seam of coconut runs through the country’s core, giving a rich, sweet undertone to many recipes.
Onion relishes, shrimp fritters, lime seasoning, heavily spiced dhal and fierce curries are a ubiquitous part of cooking all over the island, alongside the very freshest seafood. An experience in Sri Lanka is many things, but always a journey into the character and history of the island through its food.
Eating forms a memorable part of any trip to Sri Lanka. Our team’s eyes glaze over in a wistful daze when reminded of their food encounters on the island, and the delights of devouring their favourite dishes in the Sri Lankan sunshine.
There are fantastic opportunities for fine dining everywhere, particularly at some high-end hotels where the experience is taken to another level, and in top restaurants where you can enjoy the most innovative food the island has to offer. When in Colombo, we always book a table at the delectable Ministry of Crab or Upali’s where the food is out of this world (unless you don’t like crab in the case of the former, of course!)
Some of the best street food in Asia makes its case well in Sri Lanka. Spending a morning with your guide outside the crush and chaos of Pettah Market, enjoying typical Sri Lankan ‘short-eats’, is a great way to start the day. Discover a selection of these fried and filled snacks, cooked quickly and eaten hot, from spicy vegetable roti flatbreads and round potato cutlets to stuffed seeni sambol buns and crispy lentil vadai.
Later in the day, you’ll find yourself on Colombo’s verdant Galle Face Green, watching the sun go down over the horizon as the Indian Ocean crashes into the sea wall, and you make your way around the smells and sights of the colorful street food stalls. This is a pivotal moment for many, and one of the key highlights of a visit to Sri Lanka.
Tasting some of the island’s best dishes can make you keen to learn how to create them for yourself. Cooking experiences are available at almost every hotel, but some are little more than demonstrations so chat with our specialists about which are the best for getting real, hands-on cooking experience. The classes at the Ashburnham are especially good or, if you're looking for something a little more premium, head to one of Colombo’s highly regarded cooking schools.
However, one of the best ways to learn more about real Sri Lankan cooking is by creating and sharing a meal with a local family. Head out to the markets to pick out the best ingredients before returning to your host’s home to cook typical Sri Lankan dishes with a few family twists. There’s nothing like it.
Combine the island’s top wildlife crowd pleasers with some magnificent hidden gems and cultural highlights before spending some time on the beach.