Sri Lanka

Bourdain’s Field Notes

The first time I went to Sri Lanka, 10 years ago, nobody talked—not about the important things. Not about the elephant in the room; what was obvious everywhere you looked: roadblocks, armed soldiers, a machine gun emplacement at the hotel.

There was a war going on, a long, bloody, incredibly cruel ethnic war with unspeakable acts of violence and terror on both sides. But I saw only one side. My crew and I were restricted to the south, to the area controlled by the Sinhalese majority.

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Travel like Bourdain

“Ask anyone in Sri Lanka where to find the best food and they’ll say nobody cooks as well as “aunty.” And it’s true—trust me. Often possessing the strength of 10 men, Sri Lankan aunties are a force to be reckoned with.”

Know Before You Go

Don’t order from the Western menu. Glass-fronted stalls (kades) serve breakfast, snacks, and lunch, but there isn’t a big restaurant culture outside the larger cities. Guesthouse and hotel menus often offer a strange mix of local, pan-Asian, and Western staples, with menus that can include both croque-monsieur and Chinese fried rice. The Sri Lankan menu will be far superior in freshness and in execution. In Colombo try the food court at Salaka Senkada for basic, cheap, and good buffet-style Sri Lankan food.

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