HOPPERS, CURRY & SAMBOL – BREAKFAST IN SRI LANKA
WHAT IS A TYPICAL SRI LANKAN BREAKFAST?
If you are a big breakfast lover like us than you’ll be totally fine in Sri Lanka…actually you’ll be more than fine – you’ll be in BREAKFAST HEAVEN my friend! We usually couldn’t wait to climb out of bed in the morning to check what sri lankan delicacies our hosts had prepared for us again!
Even the very budget-friendly guesthouses (we’re talking those ones for 15 USD a night) usually offer a big yummy breakfast to their guests and for usually no more than 2 USD/person you should definitely include it. Some items might seem strange to you in the beginning but you’ll soon get T-O-T-A-L-L-Y addicted to it – guaranteed!
During our 1-month stay in Sri Lanka, where we had the chance to try more than 15 different Sri Lankan breakfast variations from the many different guesthouses we stayed at, we were never disappointed with the exception of only ONE single place! This guesthouse somehow got it completely wrong and we felt that even using the word breakfast was maybe a bit of an overstatement!
When sitting down for our breakfast we only got greeted by a odd looking fried egg on top of a wet, stale slice of toast on our plate (Learning number 1 – somehow most Sri Lankans are not familiar with a continental breakfast and think toast needs to be STEAMED rather than…aehm…..TOASTED!!??). Anyway, luckily we only had this experience in the very first accommodation of our trip so we knew it could only get better from there …and it DID! A LOT! Thanks breakfast gods!!!
Generally speaking, there is no such thing as a typical Sri Lankan breakfast and every guesthouse puts their own twist on it – from a more “Western-style”-type of breakfast which we were very familiar with including fried eggs, bread, jam, yogurt and pancakes to a more Asian approach to the whole thing – also known as the “typical Sri Lankan breakfast” with items ranging from flavoursome curries, exotic fruits, pastries with spicy sauces to fried noodles and rice dishes.
However, some dishes could be found again and again on our breakfast table at the various places we stayed at which seemed to be the local morning favourites so we decided to put together a little overview of what to expect for a typical Sri Lankan breakfast feast. You might not get them all at once but you surely will see them sooner or later if you’re traveling around Sri Lanka 😊
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THE TOP 7 BREAKFAST DISHES YOU’LL FIND IN SRI LANKA
Hoppers / Egg Hoppers
An all time favourite when it comes to Sri Lankan breakfast dishes as well as street food snacks are Hoppers.
These bowl-shaped pancakes are made of fermented rice flour and coconut milk. The edges are super thin and crispy while the middle part is much thicker and soft. You can get them plain or with toppings such as vegetable or cheese.
For breakfast we especially enjoyed a good old fashioned egg hopper which is basically a standard plain hopper with a fried egg in the middle.
Definitely on of our favourite Sri Lankan breakfast dishes are Coconut Pancakes also known as “Pani Pol”. as we both have a sweet tooth and pretty much love any form of pancakes for breakfast – from the thick banana pancakes in Asia to the thin Crepes in France to those fluffy Maple Syrup soaked American Pancakes!
When it comes to the Sri Lankan version of pancakes, you’d sometimes get these simple plain pancakes (similar to what we have in Europe) which you can then smother in jam or sprinkle some sugar and fruits on top or you get “Pani Pol”. This Sri Lankan classic are bascially soft and sweet crepes stuffed with a sweet brown paste made of crated coconut with palm sugar or honey. Sooo sweet, soooo much sugar, but ooh-so-good!! 😊
Curry – In all forms and variations
Being the kingdom of curries it is no surprise that the day already starts with a big bowl of some type of curry ranging from meat and fish curries to vegetable and potato curries.
However, the type of curry we got served the most was Sri Lankas popular Dahl Curry which is made with lentils, spices and coconut milk with a strong yellow colour that usually comes from saffron. You would usually eat it with your hoppers or your roti. That is if curries for breakfast are your thing. We admit it took us a quite some time go get used to a big serving of curry in the morning (especially when it included fish) but hey, it’s yummy in the evening so why not in the morning and we surely won’t let it go to waste, right?! 😊
We had the best “breakfast curry” in Udawalawe in our homestay called “Green Park Safari Guest House” – (a spicy Potato curry to die for) and in our homestay in Dambulla called the “A.I.O Home Stay” where we got this massive bowl filled with a mild and delicious Dahl curry.
A Coconut Roti, also known as Pol Roti, is made with coconut flour and is a rather dense type of flatbread which forms a thick disk. It can be found on almost every breakfast table as well as at little roadside stands throughout the day making it the perfect snack.
We loved to eat it plain or with jam or fruits but you can also use it as a little shuffle for your curry – the possibilities are endless!
Definitely the winner when it came to appearance! 😊 String Hoppers look like little pancakes made out of thin noodles. They are actually made of rice flour pushed through a hopper press to get the typical “nest-meets-noodle-type-of-pancake-look” and are later steamed. String Hoppers are pretty much tasteless, however they do make a great base for your curry or coconut sambol.
Coconut (pol) Sambol
We liked to call it the Sri Lankan Jam as you wouldn’t really eat it by itself but rather use it as a topping for your hoppers, rotis, omelettes or whatever else you could find suitable as base on your breakfast table that needs a bit of spicing up. Coconut Sambol, or Pol Sambol, is basically made of freshly shredded coconuts with chillies, lime, onions and sometimes tamarind added to the mix. It’s usually super spicy so don’t go too wild with your first serving.
Tropical Fruit Plate
Who doesn’t like some fresh’n’sweet exotic fruits in the morning for your extra vitamin boost? We absolutely love tropical fruits and were more than excited about our giant fruit plates we’ve got served in almost every guesthouse in Sri Lanka which typically included bananas, passion fruit, watermelon, mangos and/or papayas. So damn good!!!! We’d love to add them as topping to our coconut roti or pancakes.
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Feeling hungry already? Which of these dishes would you like to try or if you’ve been to Sri Lanka, what was your favourite breakfast dish from the local cuisine? Let us know in the comments below!
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ACCOMMODATIONS WITH THE BEST BREAKFAST IN SRI LANKA
As mentioned before, guesthouses are your best bet when it comes to experiencing a typical Sri Lankan breakfast with Hoppers, Roti, Curries and Sambol. We met some people that only stayed in hotels and never had a single Sri Lankan breakfast dish. What a shame!!! So make sure to go the local route if you want to try some of these Sri Lankan morning treats and add breakfast for a few dollars to your stay. Not only the owners of the guesthouse but mostly your little hungry stomach will thank you for it! 🙂
One of the best breakfast experiences we had in Sri Lanka was in our cute little guesthouse in Ella called: Rest Full Homestay which was located up on a little hill a few minutes walk from town with stunny jungle views and the most delicious Sri Lankan breakfast!
For more information about this hotel and rates click the button below.
Also highly recommend when it comes to getting a typical and super delicious Sri Lankan breakfast served come the following two guesthouses in Sri Lanka: Green Park Safari House & A.I.O. Home Stay
Green Park Safari Guest House is located just 500 m from the famous Udawalawe National Park and Elephant Transit Home. The owners are super friendly and can help you organize a Safari through the Park. We even got fresh Woodapple juice served as well as a tour through their own little garden. What we however loved the most was their super delicious potato curry for breakfast.
This small budget-friendly guesthouse close to the town of Dambulla is ideally located for your visit of Sigiriya and Pidurangala Rock.
You can also rent bikes and motorbikes here to explore the surroundings. We especially enjoyed the big breakfast feast we got served every morning including a massive bowl of Dhal Curry, Rotis, Pancakes and more.
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Toast, Cereals and Avocado Mash? Sorry, you won’t find it on most Sri Lankan breakfast tables. Instead you can expect a selection of the following dishes:
- String Hoppers
- Coconut Sambol
- Meat, Egg or Patatoe Curry
- Coconut Roti
- Plain or Egg Hoppers
- Pani Pol
- Fresh tropical fruits
Our Breakfast Rating
- Coconut Pancakes 100% 100%
- Egg Hopper 95% 95%
- Coconut Roti 85% 85%
- String Hopper 65% 65%
- Dhal Curry 50% 50%
What’s the Sri Lankan name?
Aappa = Hoppers
Pani Pol = Sri Lankan Coconut Pancakes
Indiappa = String hoppers
Pol Roti = Coconut flatbread
Pol Sambol = Coconut Chutney
Pol Sambol recipe:
Mix your own spicy coconut chutney!
– 100g grated coconut (fresh if possible)
– 1 small tomato
– ¼ tbsp curry powder
– 2-3 small red chillies
– 1 lime
– 1 onion (red) – diced
– 1 tbsp sugar
– ½ tbsp salt
1. Grind the dried red chilies with the salt and sugar into a fine paste
2. Add the freshly shredded coconut to combine with the paste.
3. Add the diced red onions and keep grinding until paste has a nice texture
4. Add the lime juice and mix well
Best Breakfast in Sri Lanka
We had our best breakfast at the Rest Full Homestay* in Ella.
This small and cosy guesthouse offers a huge variety of typical Sri Lankan breakfast items for the perfect start of your day in Ella and enough energy to explore the beautiful surroundings.
* = Affiliate links.