Home to an array of aromatic spices, exotic fruits and the celebrated seafood cuisines, Sri Lanka’s culinary scene can be overwhelming. What should you try first? Where is the best string hopper?
From a best-kept food secret in Kandy’s foothills to must-try street eats, celebrity chef, Peter Kuruvita, shares his top tips and foodie hot spots when navigating Sri Lanka’s food trails.
Just arrived in Colombo? Here’s where to find a nice cuppa to relax
“I think a cup of tea is probably best enjoyed at the Galle Face Hotel on the grass or by the seafront," suggests Peter.
"If you're there around 5:30, there's a quirky ceremony where they lower the Sri Lankan flag to the sound of a bagpipe, because the Gardiners, who own it, have Scottish heritage. It's the oldest hotel in Asia, so it's been going for four, five hundred years, and that tradition goes on every day. So, a cup of tea or a gin and tonic on the grass there is always a beautiful way to end the day, looking at the Indian Ocean.”
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Hitting the fruit markets? Try these local produce
“If you're there [around] October: mangosteen. The mangoes are just starting to come out.”
Fresh local Mangosteen at the Pettah Market in Colombo. Photo: Sophie Panton.
“Wood apple's another very interesting fruit. It looks a cricket ball, smells like an old rag, but inside when you crack it open is this knotted, brown, stringy mass, which you mix with coconut cream and make a drink or ice cream out of it, which is amazing.”
“[Also try] one of the 38 varieties of bananas, guavas... and rambutan,” he adds.
Go-to street food?
For Peter, it’s a godamba roti first thing in the morning.
“It’s like a paper roti, and I just have it with egg. Find any street-side stall that's making it fresh and get them to put two eggs into it. They fry it, chop it up, and then give it to you with some gravy and a little bit of coconut sambal. It's just amazing!”
Also give dodol a try - it's a popular sweet in Sri Lanka made from coconut cream and cashews and cooked for hours. Photo: @whoislexiconnors
A restaurant Peter Kuruvita always sees himself returning to...
Ministry of Crab. He recommends the black pepper mud crab, jumbo prawns and kottu roti as some must-try menu items.
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“It's modern Sri Lankan, and that's kind of very close to my heart and they use the freshest ingredients, so it's a great way for people to see and taste Sri Lankan food cooked in a modern way, but still keeping to the tradition.”
Stopping over at Kandy? Check out this best-kept food secret
“Kandy has a large Muslim population, and Muslims love their biryani… Pillawoos restaurant does a cracking biryani!”
READ MORE: Peter Kuruvita's Sri Lankan Ridged Gourd Curry recipe
From street stalls to some of Sri Lanka's best restaurants, where’s the best place to experience Northern cuisine?
World Expeditions' Sri Lankan culinary experience escorted by award-winning chef and restaurateur, Peter Kuruvita, is your best bet to get the most out of your Sri Lanka food adventure. Yes, you read correctly; Peter himself will be on the tour with you every step of the way for a culinary exploration of the island's remote regions.
“People are going to learn a lot, and they're going to think about Sri Lankan food in a totally different way... The first thing people say to me is when they put something in their mouth, is ‘Wow! I thought it'd taste like Indian, and it doesn't at all.’ So, get ready for a really amazing experience,” he says.
Learning traditional recipes is a feature of our culinary trips to Sri Lanka with celebrated chef Peter Kuruvita.
The new tour combines Sri Lanka's must-see highlights, exciting culinary experiences and hands-on cooking classes, where you learn to cook authentic Jaffna crab curry from the locals; make tea infused drinks; and grill up your catch of the day at a special beach BBQ prepared by Peter!
“We're a small group. It's very personal... [and] I'm with the tour 24/7. I'm actually sitting in the bus, totally engaged, telling stories and chatting with everyone. And at the front of the bus is Jeremy, who is highly knowledgeable, who can answer 99% of any questions that are thrown at him. Between the two of us, we ensure the comfort, the safety, the happiness, and all the rest of it,” adds Peter.
Enjoy your catch of the day on the exclusive culinary tour of Northern Sri Lanka with Peter Kuruvita.
The bottom line: try everything!
The last thing you want to be is over-cautious and miss out on heaps of great food as a result. So, if you’re wary about approaching some street food vendors, Peter suggests checking that the oil they are using is clean, looking for stalls that use fresh ingredients, have a look at the person who's making it and make sure their hands are clean. Peter stresses that Sri Lanka is a very clean country and hygiene is taken seriously.
A snapshot of some traditional starters for breakfast. Photo: @whoislexiconnors
“As long as you can see it being made, it's great. Go into the tea houses and have the curry of the day. In the morning, have a string hopper. In the evening, have an egg hopper. Try a Kottu roti. In the afternoon, all you have to do is just follow the sound of the clanging on the griddle.”
So, be adventurous, explore flavours you haven’t thought of trying and dive in!
Peter's culinary adventures regularly book out, so secure your place today.