Since the island is rich in coconut palms, it is easy to assume that there is a large influence of coconut in the traditional food. Both fiery and mild curries are equally famous as is the constant use of freshly grated coconut.
Naturally the local taste is an acquired one although there may be many local delicacies that you will enjoy right off the belt. Do be careful about picking the place you eat; a well-reputed restaurant is the place to go, and not a shack that seems to be selling something interesting… unless you are sure your tummy can handle it, that is.
Naturally with Sri Lanka being an island, a considerable variety of seafood is available here. Fish and rice is the staple diet of the locals in Sri Lanka.
There is 'pittu' which is a mixture of lightly roasted rice-meal powder mixed with grated coconut and steamed traditionally in a bamboo mold. This is served with a gravy dish of fish. Hopper or 'Appa' as they are known locally are made of coconut milk and also served with curries rich in coconut and chilies.
There is usually a choice of a less spicy version in most restaurants, so if you can’t handle too much chili and still want to enjoy the local fish and prawn curries do opt for that.
The first western food was brought in by the British, but as time went by these little twists in the cooking methods became normal and accepted as traditional cuisine in Sri Lanka.
Dutch and Portuguese influences are still prevalent with the sizable Burgher community making 'Bolo Fiado', a layered cake, 'Lamprais', rice cooked with stock and then baked after being placed in a banana leaf, and 'Breudher' which is traditional Dutch Christmas Cake.
Naturally, tourists can also head for the regular western fare of burgers and pizzas and pastas in most multi cuisine restaurants. A few multinational restaurants like Pizza Hut are also available for those who are are not feeling too adventurous.
Given the proximity of the island country to India and the long history of interaction between the two nations, it is easy to spot the Indian influence on Sri Lankan cuisine. At the same time, pure Indian food is also available in the major cities.
The South Indian versions of idlis, which is steamed rice and thick and lumpy pancakes and 'dosas', lentil-based crisp and thin pancakes, and this is all served with sambhar which is a lentil gravy preparation in which various vegetables are added.
North Indian food also is available such as parathas – leavened flour dough pancakes eaten with fresh yogurt and vegetables.
There are stands in the city selling what is known as the 'lunch packet'. This is a meal of rice and vegetables. It's quite filling and cheaper than eating at a restaurant.
Then there is also a range of what is known as 'short eats' which consist of snacks that are bread based or fried. Again, these are available in the streets at food vendors. They are even cheaper than the lunch packet.
Small bakeries also offer snacks which are good for a meal on the go. The most popular being roti stuffed with vegetables, eggs or fish. A roti is a leavened pancake made out of wheat flour.