A Quick Overview of Sri Lankan Food and Culture
I’m not sure you can quickly overview a whole culture so let’s just call this some key snippets of information instead. For any of you planning a trip with kids to one of our favourite destinations, we hope this serves up an appetiser for your culinary adventures ahead.
Sri Lankan food is a delicious and diverse cuisine that has been influenced by centuries of trade, migration, and colonialism. At its heart is rice, which is usually served alongside an array of curries, sambols, and other side dishes that are bursting with flavour and spice.
Here is your first tip, make sure you don’t get a local portion of rice…it is HUGE!
One of the defining features of Sri Lankan cuisine is its use of spices, which range from the mild (like cinnamon and cardamom) to the fiery (like chili and black pepper). These spices are used to create complex and layered flavours that are both bold and balanced. Forget all those premade seasoning packets you have used before, this will open your eyes to the world of fresh, simple seasoning. Take a cooking class if you get chance to understand how many spices are involved in creating these amazing tastes.
Beyond its delicious cuisine, Sri Lanka is also known for its stunning natural beauty, ancient temples and ruins, and rich cultural heritage. From the golden beaches of the south coast to the lush tea plantations of the hill country, there is no shortage of breathtaking landscapes to explore. You can read all about our favourite places here, or check our our favourite surf spots here.
If you have opportunity to learn about Sri Lanka’s long and complex history you will understand the legacy of cultural diversity and artistic expression that has been left behind. From the intricate carvings of the ancient city of Anuradhapura to the vibrant murals of the Kandyan era, there is much to discover and appreciate in Sri Lankan art and architecture.
Overall, Sri Lankan food and culture are both vibrant and multifaceted, reflecting the country’s long and fascinating history. Whether you’re a foodie looking to sample new flavours or a traveler seeking adventure and discovery, Sri Lanka has something for everyone to enjoy, even the kids. Keep reading below to find the top things to feed the kids.
Common misconceptions about Sri Lankan food
- “Sri Lankan food is just Indian food with a different name.” Nope, sorry! While there are certainly some similarities between Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines, they are distinct in their own right.
- “All Sri Lankan food is spicy.” Not true! While Sri Lankan cuisine is known for its use of spices, not every dish is tongue-burning hot. There are plenty of mild and flavorful options available for those who prefer a less spicy experience.
- “Sri Lankan food is all about curries and rice.” While curries and rice are definitely a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine, there is so much more to discover beyond these dishes. From roti to hoppers to a wide range of street snacks, Sri Lankan food has plenty of variety to offer.
- “Sri Lankan food is too exotic for kids to enjoy.” False! Sri Lankan cuisine can be incredibly family-friendly, with plenty of dishes that will appeal to even the pickiest eaters. Plus, trying new and exciting flavors can be a fun adventure for kids and adults alike.
- “Sri Lankan food is too difficult to cook at home.” While some Sri Lankan dishes can be complex, there are plenty of recipes that are easy to follow and can be adapted for home cooking. Plus, experimenting with new flavors and ingredients can be a great way to expand your culinary horizons.
Must-Try Sri Lankan Dishes for Kids: Kottu Roti, Hoppers, and More
So the biggest question is, what are we supposed to feed the kids. It’s a tricky world to navigate, once you have fully weaned the kids off all the western carbs of fries and crisps its time to move beyond the white rice or South East Asia. But what to try? Check out the hit list below. All of these have been verified by at least one kid. I mean if both kids liked them then that would be some sort of miracle, right?
- Kottu Roti: Kottu Roti is a popular street food in Sri Lanka. It’s made by finely chopping up roti bread and mixing it with vegetables, egg, and meat (optional) on a hot griddle. The resulting dish is crispy, flavorful, and difficult to complain about. Head to the busy place to make sure you don’t get the super stale old roti.
- Hoppers: Hoppers are a type of pancake made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk. They’re crispy on the edges and soft and fluffy in the middle, making them a great breakfast or snack option for kids. Hoppers can be eaten plain or filled with sweet or savory ingredients like eggs, vegetables, or meat.
- String Hoppers: String Hoppers are thin, noodle-like strands of steamed rice flour that are usually served with coconut sambol and curry. They’re a tasty alternative to regular rice and our kids actually agreed on this one. A huge hit. If they get chance to make them, it’s a huge amount of fun, think the playdoh barber set!
- Egg Hoppers: Egg Hoppers are a variation of regular hoppers that are cooked with an egg cracked into the middle of the pancake..
- Pol Roti: Pol Roti is a type of flatbread made with grated coconut, flour, and water. It’s cooked on a hot griddle and served with curry or sambol. Pol Roti is a simple and satisfying dish that kids will enjoy.
- Watalappam: Watalappam is a Sri Lankan dessert made with coconut milk, jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), and spices like cinnamon and cardamom. It has a rich and creamy texture that kids will love, and the spices give it a unique and delicious flavor.
The ultimate drink- The King Coconut
Tips for Eating Sri Lankan Food with Kids: Spices, Heat, and Portion Sizes
Spices: Sri Lankan cuisine is known for its bold flavours and spices. If your kids aren’t used to eating spicy food, it’s a good idea to start with milder dishes and gradually work your way up. Being totally honest here… no spice doesn’t necessarily mean no spice. No spice to most Sri Lankan’s is equal to spicy for our soft and wimpish western mouths. The key here when requesting no spice is to repeat many times with emphatic hand gestures and repeat a few more times. No chili is a good thing to say again and again. Fingers crossed at this point they understand… no guarantees though.
Portion sizes: Sri Lankan portions are often quite generous, so it’s a good idea to share dishes with your kids or order smaller portions. Many Sri Lankan restaurants offer half portions or smaller plates for kids, so be sure to ask if these options are available. We would usually order two sets of curry and rice between the four of us and if we needed more, we would order later.
Finger foods: Sri Lankan cuisine offers a range of fun and tasty finger foods that are perfect for kids. Dishes like Kottu Roti, Hoppers, and Wadiya can be eaten with your hands, making mealtime a fun and interactive experience for kids. The kids loved getting stuck in with curry and rice and also encouraged a lot of hand washing!
Cooking Sri Lankan Food with Kids: Why you should take a cooking class
Cooking Sri Lankan food with kids can be a fun and educational experience that promotes cultural immersion, healthy eating habits, and family bonding. By learning new skills, trying new ingredients, and cooking with fresh and whole foods, kids can develop a deeper appreciation for Sri Lankan cuisine and its cultural significance. Taking a Sri Lankan cooking class with your kids is a great way to create lasting memories and foster a love for cooking and healthy eating habits. Most guesthouses will offer a course if you ask, if you eat delicious food somewhere, ask them to teach you how. In our experience, they love to share this with people. Alternatively you can book a course through getyourguide or viator
Conclusion: Why Sri Lankan Food is a Must-Try for Families Traveling with Kids.
Sri Lankan food is a must-try for families traveling with kids. With its bold flavors, unique ingredients, and fun finger foods, Sri Lankan cuisine offers a memorable and delicious dining experience for the whole family. Our kids tolerance of spicy food has definitely developed, maybe not always through choice though. If you really want to immerse your family in Sri Lankan culture, consider taking a cooking class together to learn more about the cuisine and its traditions. As avid travelers, we can confidently say that Sri Lankan food was one of our favorite culinary experiences. So, if you’re planning a family trip to Sri Lanka, make sure to put the food on your must-try list!
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