Hopper To Pittu: Hop On A Culinary Journey Through Sri Lanka
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Sri Lankan cuisine is a unique and diverse blend of flavours, spices, and ingredients that reflect the country's rich cultural heritage and its history of trade and colonisation. The cuisine of Sri Lanka is heavily influenced by South Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, and British cooking styles and ingredients, resulting in a fusion of flavours and textures that are distinctly Sri Lankan. The cuisine is known for its use of aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, and clove, as well as coconut milk and rice, which form the backbone of many Sri Lankan dishes. In this article, we will explore some of the most famous Sri Lankan dishes and delve into the cultural significance and history behind these culinary delights. Whether you are a seasoned foodie or just curious about the diverse cuisines of the world, Sri Lankan cuisine is sure to captivate your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

Rice And Curry

Sri Lankan rice and curry is the national dish of Sri Lanka, and it is a staple food in the country. It consists of steamed rice served with a variety of curries made with vegetables, meat, or fish. The curries are usually made with a mixture of spices, including chilli powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek. The curries may also include coconut milk, which gives them a rich and creamy texture.

There are many different types of curries that can be served with rice and curry, including chicken curry, fish curry, and vegetable curry. Vegetable curry can include a variety of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and beans. Meat curries are often made with beef, chicken, or mutton, while fish curries are made with a variety of fish, such as tuna or prawns.

Sri Lankan rice and curry is typically served on a large plate or banana leaf with small portions of each curry, along with some chutney or pickle on the side. The combination of spices, curries, and rice creates a unique and delicious taste that represents the vibrant and diverse culture of Sri Lanka.


Sri Lankan hopper, also known as appam, is a traditional Sri Lankan dish that is commonly eaten for breakfast or dinner. It is a bowl-shaped pancake made with fermented rice flour and coconut milk, and it is cooked in a special hopper pan that gives it its unique shape.

The batter for the hopper is made by combining rice flour, coconut milk, yeast, sugar, and salt, and it is left to ferment for several hours. The batter is then poured into the hopper pan, which is heated over a fire or stove. As the batter cooks, it forms a crispy and slightly sour edge around the rim, with a soft and fluffy centre.

Hoppers can be eaten plain, but they are usually served with a variety of accompaniments, such as a spicy coconut sambol or curry. Egg hoppers are also popular, where an egg is cracked into the centre of the hopper while it is cooking, and it is then covered until the egg is cooked.

Hoppers can be eaten at any time of the day and can be filled with a variety of sweet or savoury fillings. They represent the rich culinary heritage of Sri Lanka and are a must-try dish for anyone visiting the country.

Kottu Roti

Kottu roti is a popular street food dish in Sri Lanka that is made by stir-frying shredded flatbread (roti) with vegetables, meat, and spices. The dish originated in the Tamil cuisine of Sri Lanka and has become a favourite comfort food for Sri Lankans.

To make kottu roti, thin slices of roti are first toasted on a hot griddle or iron skillet. Then, they are mixed with an assortment of vegetables like carrots, cabbage, leeks, and onions, and meat such as chicken, beef, or mutton. Spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and curry powder are added to the mix to give the dish its unique flavour.

Kottu roti is a dish that is typically cooked on a large griddle in front of the customer, using two flat spatulas to chop and mix the ingredients together to create a rhythmic clanging sound. The dish is often served with a side of curry sauce, sambol, or gravy and can be customised according to one's preferences. Kottu roti can be found at almost every street corner and restaurant in Sri Lanka.

Pol Sambol

Pol Sambol is a traditional Sri Lankan condiment that is made with freshly grated coconut, chilli flakes, red onions, lime juice, and salt. It is a popular accompaniment to many Sri Lankan dishes, especially breakfast items like hoppers and string hoppers.

To make pol sambol, grated coconut is mixed with finely chopped red onions, chilli flakes, and salt. The mixture is then seasoned with a generous squeeze of lime juice and stirred together until well combined. The resulting dish is a flavourful and spicy condiment with a creamy texture from the grated coconut.

Pol Sambol is a versatile condiment that can be used as a dipping sauce, a spread, or a side dish. It is an essential component of a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast, where it is served with coconut pancakes (hoppers) and rice noodles (string hoppers). Pol Sambol can also be paired with curries, seafood, or any dish that needs a little kick of heat and flavour.

Fish Ambul Thiyal

Fish Ambul Thiyal is a signature dish from the southern coastal region of Sri Lanka, particularly popular in the town of Tangalle. It is a sour and spicy fish curry that is made with a variety of local spices and coconut vinegar.

The dish is made by marinating cubes of firm fish, such as tuna or mackerel, in a mixture of turmeric, chilli powder, salt, and pepper. The marinated fish is then pan-fried until golden brown. In a separate pan, a blend of roasted spices, including coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds, is tempered in coconut oil along with sliced onions, garlic, and curry leaves. The fried fish is then added to this mixture, along with a generous amount of coconut vinegar, and cooked until the gravy thickens and coats the fish. The result is a tangy and spicy dish with a rich flavour that pairs well with steamed rice. Fish ambul thiyal is not only delicious but also has a longer shelf life due to the use of vinegar, which was a crucial factor in preserving the fish in the coastal regions in the past.

Deviled Chicken

Deviled chicken is a popular Sri Lankan dish that features crispy, juicy chicken cooked with a spicy, tangy sauce. To make this dish, pieces of chicken are marinated in a mixture of spices, including turmeric, chilli powder, paprika, garlic, and ginger. The marinated chicken is then fried in oil until golden brown and crispy. In a separate pan, sliced onions, garlic, ginger, and green chillies are sautéed in oil and then mixed with soy sauce, tomato ketchup, vinegar, and sugar to create a tangy and spicy sauce. The fried chicken pieces are then added to the sauce and cooked until the sauce coats the chicken evenly. Deviled chicken is typically served as a side dish or appetizer, and it is also a popular street food in Sri Lanka.


Lamprais is a traditional Sri Lankan dish that originated during the Dutch colonial period. The dish consists of a mixture of various ingredients, such as rice, meat, vegetables, and spices, that are wrapped in a banana leaf and baked. To make lamprais, rice is cooked with various spices and mixed with meat curry, eggplant curry, ash plantain curry, frikkadel (meatball), and seeni sambol (sweet onion relish). The mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked until the flavours have melded together. The banana leaf not only adds flavour but also helps to keep the ingredients moist and tender.

The dish has a unique flavour that comes from the combination of the different curries and spices used in its preparation. It is typically served with a side of chutney and sambol, which are used to balance out the flavours of the dish. Lamprais is a popular dish in Sri Lanka and is typically served on special occasions such as weddings, festivals, and family gatherings. The dish is often prepared by families at home and is also available at many restaurants throughout the country.

Wambatu Moju

Wambatu moju is a popular Sri Lankan dish made with brinjal (eggplant) that is pickled in a tangy and sweet marinade. The dish has a unique flavour that comes from the combination of different spices and ingredients used in its preparation. To make wambatu moju, the brinjal is first sliced and fried until it is crispy and golden brown. The fried brinjal slices are then mixed with a marinade made from vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, and a variety of other spices. The mixture is then left to marinate for a few hours or overnight, allowing the flavours to meld together. The resulting dish is a sweet, tangy, and spicy pickle that is typically served as a side dish with rice and curry.

String Hoppers

String hoppers, also known as idiyappam, are a popular Sri Lankan dish made from steamed rice noodles. They are a common breakfast or dinner item and can be served with a variety of different curries and side dishes.

To make string hoppers, rice flour is mixed with water and formed into thin noodles using a special press. These noodles are then steamed until they are cooked through and have a soft, delicate texture. String hoppers are often served with a variety of different curries, including chicken or vegetable curry, dhal, and coconut sambol. They can also be eaten with jaggery or honey. One of the unique features of string hoppers is that they are often served in a circular shape with multiple layers, which is achieved by stacking the noodles on top of each other before steaming. This creates a beautiful and intricate presentation that is a hallmark of Sri Lankan cuisine.


Pittu is a traditional Sri Lankan dish made of steamed cylinders of ground rice, coconut, and water. The dish has a unique texture and flavour that make it a popular breakfast or dinner item across the country. To make pittu, a special cylindrical steamer is used, which has two compartments: one for rice flour and another for grated coconut. The rice flour and grated coconut are mixed with water and then filled into the steamer in alternating layers, creating a striped effect. The steamer is then placed over boiling water, and the pittu is cooked for about 10–15 minutes.

Once cooked, the pittu is removed from the steamer and served hot with a variety of different curries and side dishes, such as chicken or fish curry, dhal, or coconut sambol. It can also be eaten with jaggery or honey. Pittu is a staple dish in Sri Lankan cuisine and is loved for its unique texture and flavour. The combination of ground rice and coconut gives it a slightly sweet taste, while the steaming process gives it a light and fluffy texture. The dish is also known for its versatility, as it can be paired with a variety of different flavours and ingredients to create a range of delicious and satisfying meals.

Sri Lankan cuisine is a beautiful blend of spices, flavours, and aromas that truly reflects the country's rich cultural heritage. From fiery curries to delicate string hoppers, the cuisine offers a range of dishes that are loved and celebrated across the country and beyond. Whether you're a meat lover or a vegetarian, a fan of spicy food or prefer milder flavours, there is something for everyone in Sri Lankan cuisine. So, next time you're in Sri Lanka, make sure to try out these popular dishes and experience the true flavours of the island.