Vegan breakfast in Sri Lanka has to be one of our favourite mealtimes because there are so many options, which all just happen to be incredibly delicious as well as being 100% plant-based. There are a few vegan breakfast staples that make us fall in love with Sri Lankan cuisine all over again: hoppers, string hoppers, milkrice, coconut roti, sambols, kiri hodi, curry and dahl mmm delicious. Here’s our Vegan Food Quest lowdown on breakfast ‘must eats’ for vegans (& non-vegans too).
Possibly one of the healthiest foods you’ll find in Sri Lanka, this thin herbal soup / porridge is made from medicinal green herbs used in Ayuervedic medicine, rice and coconut milk. It’s very light and plain, with a subtle green pea flavour (although this can change with the different herbs used). Kola kanda is served with a cube of jaggery which should be nibbled on after the soup is eaten, but this sweet treat is often no ordinary sugar cube, if you can find ‘kithul jaggery’ you’ll be eating a sugar that has health benefits that put refined cane sugars to shame. Kola Kanda with Karapincha (we know them as (‘Curry Leaves’) are excellent to protect against diabeties, are rich in anti-oxidents, are good for your hair, they’re high in vitamin A and calcium, they aid digestion and can be used to treat stomach upsets, ulcers and digestive problems. We’ve also come across ‘kurakkan kanda’ made from healthy red millet, it’s a thicker texture and doesn’t have that ‘green’ flavour but it’s equally as good, it’s soothing and creamy, high in calcium, iron and fibre as well as being very yummy indeed.
We love string hoppers. String hoppers are rice noodles, steamed and piled up in little ‘nests’ just waiting for you to drench them in creamy coconut milk based ‘kiri hodi’ curry, they can be made from red or white rice (both varieties are delicious) and are surprisingly light. Delicious.
Kiribath (Milk Rice)
Red or white rice cooked in coconut milk and left to set into cubes of rich, soothing soft creamy loveliness, served with sweet caramelised onion chutney ‘seeni sambol’ or spicy chilli based ‘lunumiris’ it’s a tasty start to any day. The rice grains stay whole and the coconut cream sticks them together producing a soft, moist cake of milkrice.
Wheat flour unleavened breads, mixed with coconut and curry leaves and then griddled before being served with seeni sambol or lunimiris.
Sri Lankan Dosai tend to be thicher and softer than their thin, crispy Southern Indian counterparts. Made from a fermented rice batter, they are cooked on a griddle and go perfectly with coconut chutney, pol sambol, dahl and vegetable curries.
This steamed rice flour and coconut cake originated in Southern India (where they call it ‘puttu’). It’s very dry on it’s own so we recommend finding some kiri hodi or dahl to go with it… and don’t forget the symbol to spice it all up.
Another wonder made from fermented rice flour batter, these bowl shaped pancakes are cooked in special pans by pouring in the batter, swirling it around and then steaming them by putting the pan lid on. Cooked well, they’re crispy and toasty around the edges and soft, light and spongy in the middle. Yum. The other amazing thing about some of these dishes is that you can find them being served at other times of the day (especially hoppers which seem to make another appearance at teatime) so if you don’t manage to get our fill early on in the day, you always have another chance. Bonus.