Discovering Sri Lankan Food Culture

Food for vegetarians in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has one of the most unique food cultures in the world. If you are visiting Sri Lanka, you will soon understand that people around the world don’t do food like Asians do. Our food culture has some similarities to other Asian countries but highly distinctive.

The everyday meal in most Sri Lankan homes will have one or two kinds of vegetable curries, a dal or yam curry, with rice, rotis or string hoppers. Apart from this, meat and fish, fried or curried, condiments with something savory and something sweet, papadam and chutneys are quite common. In our food, chutneys and pickles are a must for special occasions and in some homes, everyday occurrence. Everyday Sri Lankan food aims to balance various tastes. This philosophy of food is missing in various food cultures around the world.

Yes, most Sri Lankans eat with their fingers. We believe that you haven’t really lived till you’ve eaten a plate of rice or hot rotis dipped in creamy gravy with your fingers. Eating with fingers lets us enjoy the wonderful warmth, the suppleness and the textures of our food. It helps us engage all five of our senses, sight, smell, taste, and hearing and touch while eating. That’s something you miss when you eat with cutlery.

Most People in the world eat vegetable cooked in different ways but use mostly salt and pepper as taste enhances. Once you try Sri Lankan way of cooking, you will be amazed to note how many things we use to enhance the flavours of our food. We are a nation that can’t imagine food without plenty of spices. Even our everyday packet of roasted curry power is a mix of at least 8 spices. No wonder most Sri Lankans embrace “the spicier, the better” philosophy.

Sri Lankans have a way with vegetables and yams. We make vegetables as something that goes beyond salads. Cooking vegetarian dishes are a form of art for Sri Lankans. Sri Lankan families don’t drink alcohol with their meals therefore a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages are liberally available. In addition to tea and coffee, plenty of non-alcoholic beverages like soft drinks, juices are served in restaurants. Not only that, even in resorts and guest-houses, many vegetarian options are available. Even in Ayurveda hotels in Sri Lanka, it is common to only have vegetarian food options as part of the treatment regime.

Sri Lankans are generous when it comes to potions. It’s not uncommon, when you are invited to a meal in a Sri Lankan home, the hosts will beg you to have a second portion. We like to share our food with family, loved ones and friends.