Food that doesn’t bite back!
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Feb 2, 2013 8:39 AM Last Post By: colomboeighter
Jan 29, 2013 5:25 AM
Food that doesn’t bite back!Hi all
Can any seasoned Sri Lanka travellers recommend any local dishes that aren’t loaded with chilli and not full of ghee (clarified butter)?
Or does it mean a diet of plain rice?!
I’ve heard Western dishes are available in some hostels but I gather these can be rather expensive compared to local food.
And while we’re on the subject, do I need to be concerned about food hygiene? I’ve been told it’s better in Sri Lanka than India, but that’s not exactly a seal of approval!
Also, is it possible to get ‘real’ coffee rather than Nescafe? And what’s the beer like?
Jan 29, 2013 7:51 AM
It's 15 years since I was in Sri Lanka, so odds are that Western food is now much more available.
As I remember it, a lot of local food were served in small individual bowls. So chicken, or fish etc. in one bowl, rice in another, sauce in a third. The sauces were often fiery, but you could add as much or as little as you want. Food was not loaded with Ghee.
I seem to remember that the coffee was excellent, but often served with (sweetened) condensed milk.
Beer was Carlsberg, cold, in big bottles.
Loved, it, swore to go back, but have been side-tracked with Thailand, Vietnam, etc. since.
Jan 29, 2013 8:55 AM
2Just got back from 3 weeks there. Stay away from the "devilled" dishes as that is just a synonym for very very spicy. Otherwise food is not generally very spicy and if you order anything with chilli in it, you are generally asked how spicy you want it. Chinese style dishes such as fried rice, Italian style spaghetti and pizza and Western style burgers, sandwiches and chips are readily available everywhere. Fresh seafood is to die for and served without chilli unless you ask for it. Pastry shops serve up a variety of tasty samosas as well as cakes and pastries. I didn't come across anything at all loaded with ghee.
Coffee was never good even when not Nescafe.
Local beer is called Lion and is fine, LKR180 in the liquor stores or between 230 - 450 in bars / restaurants.
Food hygiene must be OK as I never got sick and I ate all sorts.
Jan 29, 2013 9:38 AM
3Don't worry ... they don't use ghee in Sri Lanka!. The curries are delicately flavoured and absolutely delicious. I loathe Indian food (especially the ghee!) and was dreading the food in Sri Lanka but it was absolutely amazing. I didn't go to the North so that might be slightly different but for the rest it was a joy!
Jan 29, 2013 10:02 AM
4The staple here is rice and curry and the curry tends to be pretty damn hot. Unlike in north indian cooking, ghee is very rarely used. Curries are usually fried in coconut or vegetable oil.
For some reason I've never managed to fathom, Sri Lankan curries take hours and hours to cook. Most guest houses ask you to order dinner hours in advance, so it's no problem to ask them to tone down the chilli a bit.
Most places catering to tourists reduce the chilli as a matter of course. It's also easy to get non spicy alternatives like fried rice (available in every backpacker guest house) although these can get pretty bland after a few days. Expect to pay about 500 LKR for a portion of mixed fried veg rice or noodles.
Compared with other countries in the Indian subcontinent, diarrhoea isn't such a problem in Sri Lanka. I don't think this has anything to do with hygiene rather just lucky that the water is not so polluted, the climate not so unforgiving and poverty not so rife.
Despite it being grown here in the nineteenth century, coffee in Sri Lanka is best avoided. If you're in the capital you could try 'Coffee Bean' an up-market cafe serving western-style coffee.
Sri Lankan men like their beer strong (preferrably 8 % or more). Lion Lager is the ubiquitous beer of the island (4.9%) and is really quite ok. The second most popular weaker beer is probably Carlsberg. Three Coins is a flatter, more malty, more ale-style beer. There is an Irish 'dark' ale that attempts to replicate British bitter and Anchor a quite sweet lager-type beer. Most cost around 2.50 SLR in a 'wine shop'.
I recommend string hoppers (wheat flour noodles) or egg hoppers ( fermented coconut batter pancakes), both served with curry. You could also try the Dutch Burgher dish, lamprais, available from the Dutch Burgher Union, Bauddaloka Mawattha or from Green Cabin on Galle Road (near Barefoot), both in central Colombo.
Sri Lankan snacks, 'short-eats' are usually not too hot. Ask for
'dhal vaddai' or 'rotti'. They are bit stodgy, for my liking, but are generally safe to eat.
Jan 30, 2013 1:34 AM
Sri Lankans are not using ghee oil.
if you order SL food ask them to prepare not spicy.
coffee is not good in most places even if you ask STRONG coffee.
But if you go to Ella go to Sun top inn for a real sri lankan meals and best coffee in Sri lanka .They will prepare according to your taste.
Don't try very local places for the food too much of oily and spicy.
Jan 30, 2013 6:37 AM
6One of the great coffees of the world is grown and roasted in Sri Lanka. It is called Hansa Coffee and is available in many hotels and coffee shops. Packages of Hansa coffee are available in some supermarkets. They also have their own coffee shop at 24 Fife Road, Colombo 5, off Thimbrigasaya Road. Here's are several reviews of the place.
They also have their own web site:
One of the greatest beers I have ever tasted was made under license from a Belgian brewery by Three Coins of Sri Lanka. It was called "Riva". It was never easy to find, and I must say I have not seen it lately.
Jan 30, 2013 8:14 AM
Jan 30, 2013 8:15 AM
Jan 30, 2013 8:16 AM
Jan 30, 2013 10:31 AM
10Also, don't forget fresh fruit...available everywhere pretty cheap usually. The small bananas are the best I find - very sweet - also there is good papaya,pineapple and sometimes avocados. Curd (made from buffalo milk) and treacle is wonderful if you can find it. Quite a few curries are not too hot especially if it is a place used to serving tourists. the hygiene is quite good generally; I don't think I have ever been sick with food poisoning on any of my 8 visits ther so far.
i quite like the local Sri Lankan coffee but maybe it is an acquired taste...tends to have some sediment if brewed fresh. Definitely recommend Lion Lager - also arrack with ginger ale is not bad and a lot cheaper than foreign spirits or cocktails. Wine (foreign) is available but expensive.
Some unusual curries that i like include beetroot,pineapple,cashew nut,jackfruit . I am not vegetarian but i could happily exist on those for a few days (with rice or hoppers etc.). Enjoy your trip !
Jan 30, 2013 10:36 AM
11Thanks jollyjacktar, I'll definitely try the coffee on Fife road and will look out for Riva.
Jan 31, 2013 5:31 AM
Feb 2, 2013 7:10 AM
13@colomboeighter For some reason I've never managed to fathom, Sri Lankan curries take hours and hours to cook
Many places have very little or no refrigeration and meat is often slaughtered to order. It's quite likely that the meat you are eating in the evening was still alive and kicking that very morning, has never been hung and so it is going to be very very tough unless it has the life cooked out of it.
Feb 2, 2013 8:39 AM
14@ Thanks for the answer.
Personally, I don't think I've ever stayed in a guest house in Sri Lanka that didn't have a fridge though.
I'm veggie too, so the long wait I have till dinnertime has probably got more to do with spices being ground or inactive kitchen staff. It remains a mystery to me how preparing food can take so long!
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