Colombo, Sri Lanka is not popular hawker capital like Penan (Malaysia) or Bangkok (Thailand) but Colombo is not lack of food stall that moves on wheels. If you manage to hit the right place at the right time, you will see many dozens of hawkers selling various foods at an affordable price. Now you might be wondering where to find them? The simple answer is! Ask a local food connoisseur.
Ask any local food connoisseur Colombo, where their favourite food stalls are and everyone will give you vastly different options.
Local people are choosing restaurants as well as hawkers for dining. The best food can be found not only in restaurants but also with hawkers, sometimes the food variety that sold at hawkers are better than what its counterparts, big restaurants are selling. Most importantly the food that is been sold at hawker’s stall are cheaper than in restaurants.
Usually, the hawkers are gathering in places, where city dwellers come to have leisure like beaches, E.g. Galle face green, here you will see many dozens of hawkers selling various food items that have been passed down through generations in Sri Lanka. They are mostly selling fast-moving items such as Wade, Kottu, hoppers, chickpeas with chilli paste etc.
Sri Lankan is taken to eat at hawkers’ stalls from the time they are small kids and usually adopt their family’s favourite spots from a young age. When the people get older they look for some other options and foodies are in search of the places with old menus but with a twist of new flavours, like making a particularly delicious cheese Kottu or using crispy shrimps wade instead of plain dhal wade.
It can be a daunting task to find the best places to eat if you are a novice in Colombo, therefore ask those in the know, then check out the places that get mentioned the most. But ask any local food connoisseur in Colombo, where to find popular food stalls, you will get many different answers and everyone will give you vastly different answers.
“Some stalls are very popular and they have had that reputation for a long time. Those stalls have a set of regular customers. They attract very poor people, who are in the lowest step on the economic ladder while some other customers are representing the wealthiest people in society. Some of their customers walk into the stall while some others drive in Mercedes, However, every customer is served the same food and every customer gets the same service,” Piyasena Silva, foodie extraordinaire and hotel owner, said. “When you try the food perhaps you find it not as good as on the other place, but locals want to think it’s great because they’ve been lining up for it for years,” further opined Piyasena.
These hawkers attract a lot of local people, however, you will not see many foreign travellers among them. Most foreign travellers do not like to eat in these hawker stalls, in fear of food poisoning. But unless a place looks just too grungy or is located on a traffic-clogged curb, you should be fine.
“If the bowl is on the fire, like this, all the time and the food is fresh, then there is no chance that food is contaminated with Bacteria,” Gamin, who is selling hot and spicy chick peace in a cart, told me. “I’m selling more than 10 kg of chick peace every day. People never get sick from busy food stalls. You’re more likely to get something from a restaurant or food parcels.”
Hawkers are selling all varieties of food and each of them is specialized in a particular range of goods E.g. motored rickshaw or Tuk Tuk, which are selling bakery items are known as “Chunpaan”, Some of the hawkers are selling ice cream and some others are selling rice and curry, string hoppers, noodles, hoppers type of food. Hawkers offer a great opportunity to sample a wide range of dishes at an affordable rate.
Fried noodles with egg and sauce, a ball of deep-fried dhal, peace of milk rice with chilli paste, egg hopper with a bit of chilli paste and much much more. Most hawkers are selling lightweight food varieties, which are easier to digest and most food varieties sold by hawkers go down a lot easier than heavier Western foods.
If you are looking for typical local food varieties there are no better places to get typical Sri Lankan food that loved by local people. However, foods sold at hawker stalls can be a bit spicy because local people tend to eat a bit spicy.