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The Top 15 Must try Street food in Colombo Sri Lanka

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

The street food culture in Sri Lanka is a world of its own; the colours are vivid and the flavours pack a punch. Whether it be savoury or sweet, Sri Lankan street food will definitely give your taste buds an unforgettable experience! Check out the full video experience now live on Youtube.

You may be spoilt for choice, so here’s our list of the top 15 street foods in Sri Lanka and where you can find them in Colombo:

1. Kola Kenda

Street side Kola Kenda (Green Herbal Porridge) in Sri Lanka

Long before green juices and smoothies were a thing, Kola Kenda (which literally translates to Green Porridge) has been a traditional breakfast staple for Sri Lankans for as long as we can remember. It is a herbal porridge made with nutritious greens (Gotukola and Mukunuwenna are the most commonly used leaves), coconut milk and red or brown rice, making it a healthy and filling breakfast. You could even call it Sri Lanka’s version of the "Breakfast of Champions"! Google Map Link - 2. Boiled Manioc 

Noiled Manioc (Manyokka) in Sri Lanka

Another hearty, nourishing breakfast you can get from almost any street food vendor in the morning, is Boiled Manioc. 

Part of the yam family, Manioc is a great source of dietary fibre, and boiling it is one of the healthiest ways to consume it as it retains more nutrients that way. Pair it with lunumiris (a type of spicy onion sambol) and freshly grated coconut, and you’ll have yourself a delectable Sri Lankan breakfast.

Alongside some other local favourites including string hoppers and short eats, you can find Kola Kenda and Boiled Manioc on Marine Drive at a frequently-visited food truck, just opposite the fuel station. If you’re in a rush, you can get your breakfast to go, but if you’ve got some time, have a seat at their lovely little beachside restaurant and enjoy your meal while taking in the morning sea breeze and watching a few trains zoom by. Google Map Link -

3. Achcharu

Achcharu in Sri Lanka

Achcharu is one of Sri Lanka's most popular street food snacks and any time you’re on the streets of Colombo you’ll see at least one vendor walking by with either a huge bowl containing the goodies, masterfully balanced on their head, or pushing a cart displaying the array of fruits they have to offer. 

These pickled fruit mixtures put a spicy, zesty twist on any type of fruit such as mango, pineapple, and veralu (Ceylon olive), to name a few. It can be quite spicy, but it is such a truly Sri Lankan food, making it a must-try.

If the bustling city of Pettah is on your list of places to visit, we’d highly recommend swinging by the Achcharu Man located on Main Street.

4. Thambili (King Coconut)

Thambili (King Coconut) In Sri Lanka

If it’s a particularly hot day, or you’ve just indulged in some spicy Achcharu, hydrate with a drink of Thambili! This bright orange-coloured fruit is well known to give the drinker quick relief from the tropical heat and is one of nature's energy-boosting, electrolyte-packed drinks. 

While we see the green version of this (Kurumba) in a lot of other parts of Asia, Thambili tastes much sweeter and is native to Sri Lanka, making it one of the island nation’s unique specialities. 

If you've got some time after you drink up every last drop and you're feeling adventurous, ask the vendor to cut your Thambili open so that you can scrape up the sweet, jelly-like flesh on the inside and enjoy everything your thambili gediya has to offer! 5. Boondi

Although this is an Indian sweet, Boodi is quite popular in Sri Lanka as well and can be found in every Muslim-owned “Bombay Sweet” shop located all over Colombo. Made from gram flour, these are expertly shaped into small balls using a ladle with holes, deep fried and bathed in a succulent sugar syrup. The most commonly seen colours are yellow, red and green. 6. Muscat

Another sweet meat popularised thanks to the Muslim community is Muscat, and can be made with coconut milk and coconut oil or ghee and vegetable oil. It is soft and chewy, yet not too sweet, and not unlike Boondi, comes in a variety of colours. Each differently coloured bite of Muscat has subtle, but varying flavours.

7. Vegetable Roti (Elavalu Roti)

Vegetable Roti is a staple Sri Lankan savoury short eat that is usually munched on while having a cuppa tea in the afternoon, or even as a quick breakfast snack. This triangular or rectangle-shaped short eat usually envelopes veggies including potato and leeks cooked in delicious spices, which are then charred or grilled. 

8. Samosa

We all know that Samosas are famous for being an Indian delicacy and are prepared in several ways with different fillings. Nonetheless, being its neighbouring country, alongside the Muslim community's influence, Sri Lanka’s take on this South-Asian snack is right up there.

Usually filled with minced chicken or beef, this crispy short eat can be found in nearly any Muslim-owed street food cart, snack shop or eatery. One bite in, and you’ll be reaching into the little brown paper bag for more!

9. Faluda

Sheneller have Faluda in Bombay sweet at Pettah Colombo Sri Lanka

One more delight we get to enjoy thanks to the introduction of it by the Muslim community, this time in the form of a drink, is the famous Faluda! A concoction of rose syrup, milk, basil seeds (locally known as kasa kasa), small cubes of jelly, tiny strips of cooked vermicelli, and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, this cold drink is a sweet delight for a hot day. 

You’d usually find the best ones at one of the many Bombay Sweet Marts in the country.

There are several "Bombay Sweet" shops in Pettah itself, but this one was the best in our books:

10. Manioc Chips

We talked about the healthier way to consume this vegetable early on in this article, but here’s how we Sri Lankans make it our guilty pleasure! Manioc Chips (locally referred to as mañioca bedala) is the Sri Lankan version of potato chips. 

Deep-fried crispy slices of fresh manioc are coated in a blend of chilli powder and salt, which you can purchase by the gram from what locals call “Gram Stores”, at which you can get all sorts of bites such as varieties of murukku, fried sweets, peanuts and more!

Gram store in Pettah Sri Lanka

If you’re in Pettah, swing by the Gram Store located here: 

11. Isso Waddai

Isso Waddai is one of the most popular versions of Parippu Waddai, which is a mixture of lentils, onions, curry leaves and an assortment of spices, topped with a few prawns. This is then deep-fried and served with a topping of curry and an onion sambol.

This snack is yet another truly Sri Lankan one, that is sought out by many, far and wide, and is almost synonymous with the country’s name. Need we convince you more?

12. Betel Leaf Mix

Now this is quite the infamous one. If you’ve been in Sri Lanka long enough, you’ve surely seen some locals with very stained teeth, randomly spitting out something bright red on the side of the road. It’s not one of the most redeeming qualities you see in the country, but it is due to the very widely practiced act of chewing betel leaves. Vendors usually sell this as a mixture of areca nut (known locally as puvak), a betel leaf, a white paste, and a small piece of tobacco. It doesn’t taste the best, but it can give the eater a high, which is why you’d find a lot of people chewing on it.

13. Crab Waddai

Isso & Crab Waddei in Galle Face Sri Lanka

This is basically the crab version of the Isso Waddai we spoke of earlier, the main difference being that it’s topped with a small, soft-shelled crab. 14. Egg Roti with Curry

A local star, freshly made egg roti, diced into large squares, bathed in curry (usually chicken curry and/or dhal) and sometimes comes with a side of sambol, is a frequently sought-after meal come dinner time. 

While this is similar in certain ways to the better-known Kottu Roti, it’s different as the roti itself is wrapped and cooked with an egg in it, and then the chopped-up roti isn’t usually mixed and cooked in curry, unlike it is with Kottu Roti. You could also always opt to just have a plain Egg Roti if you’re craving a milder flavour.  15. Condensed Milk Tea

Sri Lankan Condense milk tea

Last but not least, we have Condensed Milk Tea. A speciality in roadside shops (locally known as cyver kades), this is a rich, sweet take on the more popularly consumed Ceylon milk tea. Locals usually end their late nights with friends at one of these small shops where you can have a seat and ruminate on life.

And that’s a wrap!

If you’d like to see a more in-depth tour into Colombo’s street food culture, check out our full video here:

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