Mmmm…curry for breakfast! Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and Sri Lankan breakfast has been the highlight of my early morning eating experiences over the 10 months of our nomadic travel adventure. (Read more about who we are, what we’re doing and why, here.)
Large amounts of delicious, gently spiced dishes always put a smile on my face in the early morning. A fine china pot of Sri Lankan tea to go with it makes me even happier. Luckily, my husband ( the Chef) and children share my enthusiasm for Sri Lankan breakfast, so we never had any demands for cereal or toast.
My second choice for breakfast excellence would be South Indian vada, dosa, idly and sambal, again, curry dishes with interesting carbs. You can read more about Indian breakfasts here.
What Goes into a Sri Lankan Breakfast?
Sri Lankan breakfasts vary, no two are the same, but mostly you can expect a selection of the following dishes.
Meat, Fish or Chicken Curry. Meat curries at breakfast didn’t crop up very regularly during our time in Sri Lanka, but we did see them included in set breakfasts in Kandy. I’m as vegetarian as I can be, so we normally go for meat-free dishes. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very keen on the fish curries I tried, too many bones and skins for me, the vegetarian curries suited us a lot better. ( We stayed in Kandy for 5 days and had a wonderful time, click here for things to do and see in Kandy)
Potato Curry. A mild, coconut-based potato curry, more like a soup, was often included in our Sri Lankan breakfasts. All of the ones we tried were superb, this was the dish that converted my kids to curry for breakfast.
Egg Curry. Hard boiled eggs in a similar mild coconut sauce. Another winner with the family.
Dahl. Sri Lankan dahl is denser than its Indian counterpart. At first we weren’t so keen, but once we got used to the differet texture and spicing we couldn’t get enough.
Coconut ( Pol) Sambol. The sambol was the star of the show for me. We’d watch our hosts shredding fresh coconuts to make the fine coconut base. To this they would add hot red chillies, a little lime and tamarind, salt and chopped onion ( find a recipe here). It’s more of an accompaniment really, but I couldn’t get enough of it. The finished dish is dry and must always be fresh.
String Hoppers ( Appam). These look like nests of spaghetti and are fine strands of rice flour batter pushed through a sieve and steamed.
Plain Hoppers. Bowl shaped pancakes of rice flour and coconut milk. You can find every possible hopper variation on the hopper theme in Sri Lanka. Egg, cheese and vegetable hoppers pleased my kids. Read more about hoppers in “What on Earth is a Hopper?” here.
Coconut (pol) Roti. Another bread type roti, this one is fairly thick and dense with coconut.
Finding a Sri Lankan Breakfast
One of the problems we had with food in Sri Lanka was the need to pre-order food, hours or days in advance. With breakfasts, we almost always had to order the night before. There were a few exceptions, in Kandy Devon Tea Rooms on the main street did a roaring breakfast trade and everything was ready, set meal or pick and mix from the menu. Likewise, in Mirissa ( our almost paradise) the roti shop on the main road served string hoppers, dahl and sambol to all comers. When we were travelling around it was, of course, difficult to specify where we’d be eating the next morning. That said, most guest houses that we used served breakfast, rarely included in the price.
In our previous incarnation as hotel package tourists in Sri Lanka we were served western style breakfasts, fruit, cheese and eggs. We really missed out!
If you’re off to Sri Lanka or have been, tell me what you thought of the breakfasts, leave a comment, I’m so in love with them I don’t think anybody could not like them. Could you?