What you should eat on your Sri Lankan holiday

Experience the true flavours of Sri Lankan food

Food in Sri Lanka is heavily influenced by Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India. There are a lot of similarities yet unique tastes in their local food and why eat anything else when you can have authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. Sri Lanka has many roadside eateries serving deliciously warm breakfast; while most of them are restaurants, there are several shed-like structures run by women serving up colourful food for cheap prices that would definitely not burn a hole in the pocket of a tourist in the country.

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Local food in Sri Lanka

The distinct accent made it difficult for us to get the local names but we did get the translated version of most. Breakfast includes a Tender cutlet (SLR 25) made from sweet jaggery and batter-fried crisp with a little spice. It was followed by the Idiyappams (SLR 20) – rice flour noodles garnished with curry leaves to lend a spicy flavour; it was served along with Sri Lankan sambol (an orange dry chutney made from coconut and chilli powder). Sweet Hoppers (SLR 20) are crisp pan-fried appams filled with sugar and can be eating plain without any accompaniment unlike the savoury alternative. Ulunde Wade (SLR 25) are the Sri Lankan equivalents of Medhu wadas only a spicier and served with a delicious white coconut chutney.

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Digestive warm drink of Beli Mal made from locally found beli flowers

Usually, Sri Lankan’s apart from beverages like coffee and tea, like to end their breakfast with Beli Mal – a brownish detox drink made from ground beli (a local flower) and water; the bitter taste from the drink is cut off with a small piece of jaggery served along with it.

Also Read: This is all the money you need for a Sri Lankan holiday

Eating local food brings out the true essence of a place but looking for the right restaurant is important because most and usually overpriced if the city is visited by tourists; especially Colombo. We stopped by a restaurant that had a lot of people lined up waiting to eat their lunch and were lucky to get a table soon enough to eat our meal. Since we were ravenously hungry we didn’t mind sharing the table with another local.

lunch
Thick dal (top left), spicy radish side-dish (top right), French bean preparation (bottom left) and Sri Lankan sambol chutney (bottom right).

We savoured a plate of fat rice that was served along with a spicy radish side-dish, a French bean preparation rich in coconut and a thick dal gravy we really relished. The meal is also served with the Sri Lankan sambol chutney on the side to make a deliciously wholesome meal. We were also served fried fish (resembled a Pomfret), a dry chicken dish and a prawn chilli fry on the side. While most look for the non-vegetarian food, the vegetarian food is an absolute delight. Interestingly, the whole meal turned out to be only SLR 130.

Also Read: Your travel bucket-list for Sri Lanka

Meals are incomplete without a sip of alcohol for most people and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring drinking Arrack. The drink almost tastes like black rum but is not as strong and has a strong flavour of coconut in it.  However, the prices of the bottle differ from place-to-place and is anywhere between 230 – 350 SLR for half a litre.

Tip: Eat only local food as it is really cheap and the flavours are worth the money

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This is all the money you need for a Sri Lankan holiday

Travel cheap to an underestimated destination

Planning international trips take a while mostly because of the money involved and while it may seem a lot, it is also important to see if it is worth the experience. While most travellers settle for exotic destinations in Europe and the US and UK among others, looking closer home may help Indians looking for shorter trips.

Around India, Sri Lanka is an under-explored destination and can be a good change for people on a shoe-string budget. There are many reasons to visit the colourful land but an easily available visa and the lower currency rate are easily on top of that list. The currency is almost two-and-a-half times the Indian Rupee and the visa comes to you within two days.

If you’re itching to go on a cheap holiday, Sri Lanka is not more than INR 60,000. Our trip for five days turned out to be an amazing stay that encompassed almost everything we wanted to do while in the country. Here is the break-up of the money spent followed by tips on how it can be cheaper.

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Local food in Sri Lanka

Money spent for five days:

Flight tickets – INR 18,200 (round trip)

Tour Package – INR 28,500 (including car with driver, breakfast and dinner, stay)
The tour included staying at two five star hotels – Amaya Hills in Kandy and Hotel Eden in Bentota and a three star Hotel Sapphire in Colombo (which is closer to the airport).

Visa – Rs 1,400 (for one month) 
The visa can be applied for online or can be acquired on arrival. Applying for it online is easier and less time-consuming

Miscellaneous expenses – Rs 12,000 (lunch, alcohol, shopping and souvenirs)

Do’s and Don’ts

1. Book flight tickets four months prior to reduce cost to barely Rs 12,000.

2. Do not spend on food at big restaurants. Eat local food at SLR Rs 130 – 150.

3. Travel by local transport or be ready to spend on food and drink for personal driver.

4. Inform personal driver that eating local is priority and not at fancy restaurants if comfortable with local cuisine.

5. Walking around will save money and help explore place better.

6. Do not go by a tour guide as it will save a lot of additional unwanted costs.

This is the first article in a series about my Sri Lankan travel experience. Come back for more on the best places to visit, food and culture and my personal experiences.