11 street treats to try in Colombo
Pepper’s local host in Colombo talks us through 11 of the city’s best street treats. For the best introduction to the capital’s food scene, join him on Pepper’s popular Colombo Street Food tour...
This is a type of chopped flatbread, mixed and mashed together with vegetables and meat and lots of aromatic spices and even cheese (and whatever else you can imagine), made with a rhythmic sound. Heavy metal!
AKA ‘appam’, or crispy pancakes, which were baptised and re-named Hoppers. These thin, bowl-shaped pancakes are prepared with a fermented batter composed of rice (or rice flour) and coconut milk. Serves the sweet tooth and the spicy tongues. There are three varieties: honey hoppers, egg hoppers and plain hoppers.
3) Isso wade
A crunchy, deep-fried affair of prawns in a patty. Oval in shape, red in colour and made from a mixture of gram flour, chilli and spices, these prawn cakes are flat and round and usually have two or three long prawns on them.
This is Indian ‘paan’, which eloped and found a home in the streets of Colombo. It’s a curious concoction of betel leaf and magic elements. It’s a powerful trinity: age-old aphrodisiac, mouth freshener and digestive aid.
5) ‘Babath’ (beef tripe)
This food staple is popular with Sri Lanka’s Malay community. The dish is typical of the Colombo region, still known as ‘Slave Island’. It was the Dutch settlers who provided these less expensive cuts of beef tummy to the population.
6) Arrack Obama (arrack sour)
A local gin and tonic made with one of the oldest naturally fermented alcoholic beverages known to the world.
7) Kanji (porridge)
Consider this the local firepower (non-alcoholic, of course). It’s served throughout the day as a source of energy for the supermen of Pettah (who have to do a lot of labour-intensive work). One version is made from sago and coconut milk and the other is made from green gram (mung bean). Sugar isn’t added to the porridge; porridge is added to the sugar!
Only for the brave! This is a staple food for every kid walking the streets of Colombo. A mix of local fruits have chilli flakes and salt and pepper added; the nice, tangy overtones are apparent. It’s also super spicy! The best substitute for nasal decongestants.
9) Masala chai
Power tea of the South Indian settlers in the country. A blend of a few highly classified spices in milk tea, made with condensed milk to hit every note.
10) Badam milk
Spinach to Popeye! Badam milk travelled from Persia in the pockets of the sailors. It’s a delicious, sweet drink of fresh milk, beaten together with almonds – perfect for any rendezvous.
11) Narag juice
A tangy drink to beat the heat and punch the thirst burst, made out of pomelo and bitter orange. Grandmas always say: ‘It’s good for the phlegm!’
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