Street Food in Sri Lanka That You Must Try

Street Food NatnZin Lanka

We love getting on the streets. Hunting down roadside kades and small mobile carts to find the best food. Street food in Sri Lanka is like a small sister to the food in Indian streets but, as always, Lankans put ‘unique’ into everything that is, food. (Also read: About us)

1. Isso Vadai From Galle Face Green

Isso Vadai Galle Face

If you’re in Colombo, Galle Face Green is everyone’s go-to place for delicious street food and most importantly, isso vadai. Isso Vadai are oh-so-good. They are tiny fritters made with dhal, deep fried combining a few small prawns. Crunchy and heavenly delicious. You will come across isso vadai in many places including local buses or long-distance trains. But the best isso vadai is, obviously, at Galle Face Green. You will get a delicious spicy chutney made with onions and a few veggies at Galle Face Green. And that’s what makes the vadai here incredibly unique.

2. Samosa

Samosa Pettah NatnZin

Samosas are flat bread stuffed with veggies, spices and even fish, chicken or beef. Deep fried, crunchy and triangle-shaped, samosas are packed with amazing flavours. You will come across samosa sellers everywhere you go in Sri Lanka but if you’re in Colombo, try Fort Railway Station. Nathan’s favorite: Deep fried crunchy and crispy samosa near the mosque in Wellawatta with freshly brewed chai. Nom nom nom!

3. Hoppers

Hoppers Sri Lanka NatnZin

Hoppers are made with pancake batter combined with coconut milk and cooked in a small wok. Soft and thick on the bottom, hoppers have crunchy edges that make you coming for more. Plain hoppers are best eaten with lunu miris (a sambol made with onions and chilli). Combine many curries such as chicken, dhal and potato to your plain hoppers meal for a treat of flavours. Now hold on sugar plums, there’s not only one kind but there are many kinds of hoppers and we love all of them. While egg hoppers are pretty easy to find in every small kade, Zin loves honey hoppers the most. Zin ditched her English period once to go to the school canteen, got sixteen hoppers, carried all of them in hand back to the class only to meet her English teacher confusedly looking at the stack of hoppers. Her English teacher was too kind! Zin convinced her teacher to get them, too.

Nathan loves milk hoppers the most. That, too, from Taste of Asia. No no no, we don’t recommend anything else here.

4. Achcharu

Achcharu Pettah NatnZin

How to eat fruits the Lankan way? Cut them into small pieces, add chilli, pepper powder and salt combined with a bit of sugar. Trust us, we love adding spices to everything. And fruits, of course taste way better this way. The most common on the streets you will find are Veralu (Ceylon Olive), Mangoes and pineapple. Zin is pretty ashamed to say this but she never liked apples much because she always ate it plain until very recently. A month or so ago, a kind uncle was selling apple achcharu in Fort Railway Station and Zin bought it. Apples are now her favorite fruit. Correction: Apples with chilli powder and salt are now her favorite fruit (achcharu).

5. Bombai Mutai

Bombai-Mutai-NatnZin

The Lankan way of candy floss. But more sugary! And it’s actually addictive. Bombai Mutai melts in your mouth and makes you coming for more. Zinara has these memories where every weekend she went to Sunday Pola (market) with mom and puppy-faced at bombai mutai until ma bought them all. Thanks ma! That was so kind of you.

6. Saruwath

Saruwath NatnZin Sri Lanka

Did Zin, did she just tell you that she tricked her mom into buying her some unhealthy yet heavenly kind of candy floss? She did. She did. And here she is, again tricked her mom to buy her saruwath. Saruwath are a refreshing drink, made with fresh fruits, combined with three trucks of saccharine and two bottles of artificial colors. Now, don’t believe the numbers we talk about. But you can believe that they are actually pretty unhealthy but literally sugar plums, we love saruwath. They are a refreshing drink specially in Lankan heat. Zin had saruwath again after ten years in Negombo Bazaar. Nathan bought her one. Thanks Nathan, you were kind, too but Zin expected two. Not one! (Also read: Things to do in Negombo.)

7. Kottu

Kottu Roti DBU NatnZin

Before we start, there are thousand types of kottu in Sri Lanka. No, not that much but at least 20? Kottu are flatbread, chopped into small pieces, mixed with veggies, meat of all kind and banged into a mouthwatering street food in Lankan nights. Some types of kottu to name are, chicken kottu, fish kottu, beef kottu, pork kottu, veg kottu, string hopper kottu and dolphin kottu (hush now, we love dolphins).

8. Chai (Tea)

We love the Indian masala chai the most. Masala chai are tea leaves + water cooked in a pot with all the amazing spices India are home to. We aren’t India but if you are lucky, you can find good masala chai here, too. The Chaat Kade in WA Silva Mawatha is home to amazing masala chai. (Also read: Great eats in Colombo.) If you are there, try their amazing pani puri, dahi puri and the best parotta you get in this town.

Now we Lankans don’t cook tea but ours taste just as amazing. Even better? Yes, Nathan thinks so. Try plain tea, milk tea and ginger tea from small kades. Diyatha Uyana Park in Battaramulla serves some amazingly delicious ginger tea!

PS: Chai has often become another name used for tea by Colombo wannabes. Yep, they exist! We aren’t posh. We adapted chai to our language as a result of our immense love for Pakistan.

9. Snacks

Street Food Sri Lanka

The most unhealthy yet super addictive junk food. Welcome to the world of deep fried, crispy cassava chips. For Rs. 50, you get a bag full of these goodies.

10. Thambili (King Coconut)

King Coconut Sri Lanka

This is something Zinara is proud to be Sri Lankan for. No, she isn’t even kidding. If you see piles and piles of oranges lining the streets, those, sugar plums, are king coconuts. The coconut water is super healthy, delicious and refreshing in tropical weather. Prices are around Rs.40 but recently Zin drinked one for Rs.70.

Now, that’s ten in number but Sri Lanka has its own pancakes, lawariya and pol roti to find on the streets. Have you tried them all? Or none at all? Maybe one, two? Maybe something that’s not in the list? Tell us your favorite Lankan street eats!


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Street Food NatnZin

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We are Nathan and Zinara, documenting our experiences and stories for a lifestyle full of love and adventure. Currently based in Sri Lanka.

22 thoughts on “Street Food in Sri Lanka That You Must Try

  1. I lived off of street samosas in Sri Lanka! So cheap but so tasty and filling. As I’m veg, I didn’t try a lot of what you mentioned, but it certainly looks delicious!
    When I first bought some mangos from a street vendor, he asked if I wanted chilli powder on it, but his English wasn’t great (and my Tamil and Sinalese is non-existent) so I had no idea what he was saying. I just said yes, thinking it was cinnamon or something. What a lovely surprise for my tastebuds that was!

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    1. Haha yes samosas are quite cheap and so filling and delicious the same time. You come across a lot of veggie samoas. Haha, we literally add chilli to everything. Everything! 😀

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  2. Yummy food! Many have very similar counterparts here in Tamil Nadu in India.
    Hoppers? I went to a hotel called Hoppers in London. I didn’t know they were called Hoppers in Srilanka. In TN we call it Aappam!
    Achaaru sounds so yummm. Fruits with chilly powder would be just divine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, TN is basically a lot similar to Sri Lanka in many aspects. We call it Aappa. Hoppers is the English name and Hoppers London is I think owned by a Brit Lankan specializing in Sri Lankan cuisine.

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  3. I made the mistake of reading this while I was hungry! I would love to have some samosas right about now! We don’t have a big street food scene where I live in the USA, and I feel like we could benefit from having something as amazing as it is in Sri Lanka!

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  4. I really must visit Galle Face Green in Colombo, it must be a foodie heavy, all the street food. For me I’d love some fresh juice or freshly opened coconut! I love freshly cut yellow mango, but I think I’d ask for it without the chili powder.

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  5. There looks to be so many delicious options here, I enjoy Indian food and I’m sure it is just as good in Sri Lanka. The one from here I am most familiar with and enjoy are the samosas. I would love to try everything you have included and look forward to that one day.

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  6. Love all the different types of foods here! Super bummed I didn’t get to try most of it when I was last in Sri Lanka but I’m definitely on the lookout for things like Saruwat, Bombai Mutal and Achcharu next time. Agreed that Sri Lankan may seem like the little sister to Indian food but there’s plenty of uniqueness I enjoyed in the local cuisine that leaves you wanting more.

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  7. Actually, I have not read much about the street foods in Sri Lanka. The foods that you have featured are similar to other Asian foods too. I would like to taste them all. The one that stood out for me was the hoppers. They look delicious and crunchy. It is probably not that easy to make this food.

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