From Aluwa to Kokis: Culinary Wonders Of Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine is a tantalising fusion of aromatic spices, coconut-infused flavours, and tropical ingredients that reflect the island nation's rich cultural heritage. At its core is rice, the staple, often accompanied by an array of vibrant curries. These curries, whether made with meat, seafood, or vegetables, are known for their bold flavours, thanks to a medley of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, as well as coconut milk for creaminess.

Street food delights like kottu roti and sweets infused with coconut and jaggery round out this diverse and flavourful culinary experience, offering a taste of Sri Lanka's diverse cultural influences and its tropical paradise setting.

Coconut plays a significant role in Sri Lankan cooking. Coconut milk and grated coconut are used to add creaminess and flavour to curries and stews. Coconut oil is also commonly used for frying and cooking. Sri Lankan cuisine is renowned for its use of spices. Commonly used spices include cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, and fenugreek.

The spice blend known as "curry powder" is a key ingredient in many Sri Lankan dishes, although each household may have its own blend of spices.  Fresh herbs like curry leaves, pandan leaves, and lemongrass are frequently used to enhance the flavour of dishes. Garlic, ginger, and onions are also important aromatics in many recipes.

Sambols are spicy condiments that are served alongside main dishes and rice. The most famous is "coconut sambol" or "pol sambol," which is made from freshly grated coconut, red onions, chilli peppers, lime juice, and sometimes Maldive fish. It adds a spicy and tangy kick to the meal. 


Aluwa is a traditional Sri Lankan sweet confection that holds cultural significance. Made primarily from rice flour, sugar or jaggery, and ghee, it is often flavoured with cardamom and other aromatic spices. Aluwa is typically prepared during festive occasions, such as religious celebrations and weddings, making it a symbol of togetherness and joy in Sri Lankan culture.

In terms of nutrition, while aluwa is undoubtedly delicious, it is also quite indulgent and calorie-dense due to the high sugar and ghee content. Its texture is dense and fudgy, and the flavour is a delightful balance of sweet and aromatic spices with a hint of richness from the ghee. However, due to its calorie content, it's best enjoyed in moderation as a special treat. 


Lamprais, also spelled "lamprai" or "lump rice," is a unique and flavourful dish that is part of Sri Lankan cuisine. It is believed to have Dutch Burgher origins and is a popular dish in Sri Lanka, particularly among the Burgher community. Lamprais consists of a combination of rice, meat (usually chicken, beef, or pork), and vegetables, all wrapped in a banana leaf and baked or steamed.

The ingredients are typically cooked separately with a blend of spices, including cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and curry leaves. The rice is usually cooked in a rich broth or stock, absorbing the flavours of the meats and spices. The enticing aspect of lamprais is the use of a banana leaf to encase the entire meal before it is baked or steamed. This technique infuses the dish with a subtle, earthy aroma and imparts a distinct taste to the rice and its accompaniments.

Lamprais often includes side dishes like fried brinjals (eggplants), blachan (shrimp paste), sambol, and a boiled egg. While it has Dutch origins, it has evolved over the years to incorporate Sri Lankan spices and ingredients, making it a beloved and unique fusion dish in Sri Lankan cuisine. 


Kiribath, often referred to as "milk rice," is a classic Sri Lankan dish, a simple yet beloved preparation made from rice and coconut milk. The main ingredients are rice and thick coconut milk, and sometimes a pinch of salt is added for flavour. To prepare kiribath, rice is cooked until it becomes soft and sticky.

Then, coconut milk is added to the rice and simmered until the mixture thickens, resulting in a creamy, almost pudding-like consistency. Kiribath holds cultural importance in Sri Lanka and is often made on special occasions and festivals. It is a symbol of prosperity and is traditionally prepared during auspicious moments like New Year's celebrations or other significant cultural events.

The dish is believed to bring good luck and happiness. When served, kiribath is often accompanied by spicy sambols, such as lunu miris (chilli sambol) or a sweet onion and chilli relish known as "seeni sambol," to provide contrast to its mild and creamy flavour.


Kottu (also spelled "kottu roti" or "kothu roti") is a popular and iconic street food dish in Sri Lanka. It is known for its preparation method, where ingredients are chopped and mixed together on a griddle or flat-top grill. A thin flatbread (similar to paratha) is used as the base for kottu. Commonly, vegetables like onions, carrots, leeks, and cabbage are used in kottu.

Kottu can include various protein options, such as chicken, beef, mutton, or seafood (like shrimp or crab). Vegetarian versions often feature paneer. A blend of spices, including curry powder, turmeric, and black pepper, is used to season the dish. Soy sauce or other sauces may also be added for extra flavour.

The cooking process involves chopping and stir-frying the ingredients on a hot griddle or griddle-like surface using metal blades or spatulas. This process breaks down the roti, allowing it to absorb the flavours of vegetables, protein, and spices. Kottu is often served with a side of spicy curry gravy or a spicy sambol, which can be drizzled over the dish to add extra heat and flavour.


Parippu, also known as "parippu curry," is a staple of the country's cuisine. It is typically served as a side dish with rice and other main courses. The primary ingredient in parippu is lentils, specifically red or yellow lentils, which cook relatively quickly and become soft and creamy when cooked. Other common ingredients include onions, garlic, green chilies, and a mix of spices such as turmeric, cumin seeds, and curry leaves.

Parippu has a creamy and slightly thick consistency due to the lentils breaking down during cooking. It has a mild yet flavourful taste, with the earthy richness of lentils complemented by the spices and aromatics. It can vary in heat depending on the number of green chilies used, but it's typically not excessively spicy.

Parippu is not only delicious but also nutritious, as lentils are a good source of plant-based protein, fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals. It is a comforting and homely dish that showcases the simplicity and flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine while providing a hearty meal.

Sri Lankan Crab Curry  

Sri Lankan crab curry is a mouthwatering and spicy seafood dish that is a highlight of Sri Lankan cuisine. It's known for its bold flavours, aromatic spices, and the use of fresh crab, often mud crab or blue crab, caught from the coastal waters of Sri Lanka.

The main ingredient, of course, is crab, which is typically cleaned and broken into pieces before cooking. Other essential components include coconut milk, aromatic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves, as well as onions, garlic, ginger, and green chillies. Sri Lankan crab curry is known for its spiciness. The level of heat can be adjusted to suit individual preferences, but it is typically on the spicier side.

The heat comes from the use of chilli powder and green chillies, so be prepared for a fiery kick when enjoying this dish, which is often served with steamed white rice or traditional Sri Lankan rice varieties like red or brown rice. It's a must-try dish for seafood lovers and anyone looking to explore the diverse and flavourful world of Sri Lankan cuisine. 

Egg Hoppers  

Egg hoppers, also known as "appa" or "appa roti," are a popular Sri Lankan breakfast or snack item. They are a type of bowl-shaped pancake made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk batter, with a whole egg cracked into the centre during cooking. The batter is left to ferment for a few hours or overnight to develop a slightly sour taste and a characteristic bubbly texture. To make egg hoppers, a special pan called an "appachatti" or "appa pan" is used.

Egg hoppers have a unique combination of flavours and textures. The edges are crispy and slightly caramelised, while the centre remains soft and tender, with the egg adding a creamy richness. often served with spicy sambols, such as coconut sambol or seeni sambol. Egg hoppers are not only a delicious breakfast option but are also a common street food item in Sri Lanka, available from hawker stalls and restaurants throughout the country.


Kokis is a popular and traditional Sri Lankan deep-fried snack, often enjoyed during festive occasions, particularly the Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations. These intricately shaped, crispy, and golden-brown treats are made from a simple batter consisting of rice flour and coconut milk, along with a pinch of salt and sometimes a bit of sugar for flavour.

What sets kokis apart is its intricate shape, which is achieved using special kokis moulds or rosette irons. Kokis is deep-fried in hot oil until it turns a crispy golden-brown color. The hot oil causes the batter to bubble and expand, creating a lacy and delicate texture.

The addition of salt and sometimes a touch of sugar provides a well-balanced flavour profile. Kokis can be stored in airtight containers for several days, which makes them a convenient snack to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

Kukul Mas  

Kukul Mas is a traditional Sri Lankan chicken curry known for its rich and aromatic flavours. It is a popular dish in Sri Lankan cuisine and is enjoyed across the country. The main ingredient, as the name suggests, is chicken. Typically, bone-in chicken pieces are used for added flavour. The marinated chicken is then added and seared to lock in the flavours.

One of the distinguishing features of Kukul Mas is the use of a rich blend of spices and coconut milk. The spices are added to the chicken, creating a fragrant and aromatic curry. Coconut milk is added to the dish to create a creamy and flavourful sauce. The chicken is simmered in this coconut milk and spice mixture until it's tender and infused with the spices.

It is generally considered moderately spicy due to the use of green chillies and chilly powder. However, the heat can be adjusted to suit individual tastes. Kukul Mas is typically served with steamed rice or Sri Lankan bread, such as roti or hoppers. It is often accompanied by side dishes like sambols or vegetable curries. The creamy and aromatic chicken curry pairs perfectly with the starches and complements the meal.