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Gluten Free Travel in Sri Lanka

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Gluten Free Travel in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka checks all the boxes for an amazing tropical island adventure, from ancient temples, lush tropical forests and picturesque national wildlife parks to endless golden beaches. But, what about gluten-free meals?

A gluten-free diet means avoiding foods that have gluten in them. Gluten is a kind of protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. The good news is that most of Sri Lankan cuisine is gluten free and delicious.

Sri Lanka Cuisine 101

Many westerners may find Sri Lanka cuisine to be new and exotic. Here is a primer – many local dishes are based on coconut milk, vegetables, and gluten free grains like rice, millet, lentil and coconut flour. So there is a wide variety of gluten-free options. The island also serves up plenty of seafood and fruits.

Sri Lanka is known as the Spice Island. Naturally, spices mean many varieties of curry dishes. They should be gluten-free if the chef has not added any wheat flour, so ask before ordering the dish.

Parippu (dhal curry) – A common lentil-based curry in Sri Lankan, present in most curry platters.

Polos (jackfruit curry) – A curry of young jackfruit and coconut milk with surprisingly delightful flavors.

Wambatu Moju – A pickled eggplant dish.

To help navigate the local food, here are my three categories of dos and don’ts:

1. Enjoy

  • The excellent selection of fresh local tropical fruits – jackfruit, mangos, mangosteens, lychees and lots more.
  • Banana or mango lassi – yogurt fruit shakes
  • Seafood – fish, prawns, crabs, lobsters, etc.
  • Vegetables – okra, beans, eggplants, leeks, etc.

Seafood

Mangosteen fruit

2. Avoid

  • Roti or flat bread made with wheat flour
  • Kottu Roti – Stirred fried roti strips with vegetable/meat
  • Paratha – wheat-based flat bread
  • Poppadoms – a lentil or chickpea-based crisp that may contain wheat or be fried in wheat-contaminated oil

Roti served with curry. Cardamom, curry leaves and many other fragrant spices.

3. May Be!? Better Ask

These dishes below are normally made without wheat. However, some chefs add wheat flour to the sauce or rice flour mixture. Or they may use soya sauce in the marinade or finishing sauce:

  • Any curry dish
  • Appam (Hoppers) – Pancake made with rice flour and coconut milk.
  • Idiyappam (String Hoppers) – rice vermicelli noodles
  • Puttu – a steamed rice flour and coconut log
  • Panipol – Coconut Pancake

Egg Hoppers

Rice vermicelli noodles with chutney

Gluten Free Dinning Card

At restaurants away from the hotel, our driver and tour guide will advise you which menu items are gluten free.  At your hotel you should inform the wait staff and chef about your need for gluten-free meals.

Many Sri Lankans are not familiar with “gluten-free diet” or celiac disease. It is more effective to inform the chef and wait staff that eating certain foods will make you ill, instead of trying to explaining the meaning of gluten-free. Sri Lankan speak either Sinhalese or Tamil. It is important to convey your request in the correct language.

There are also many convenient explanatory cards available on the Internet which you can use to inform eateries about your allergy to gluten e.g. https://www.celiactravel.com/cards/english/

Below is an example “Gluten-Free Card” in English, Sinhala and Tamil (courtesy of Google Translate), the three languages needed for Sri Lanka.

English

– I am allergic to wheat, rye, barley, oats, soy sauce, malt, flour and gluten including sauces, gravies, breads, cereals and foods made with these ingredients.

– Does this food contain wheat, rye, barley, oats, soy sauce or malt?

Sinhala – තිරිඟු, රයි, බාර්ලි, ඕට්ස්, සෝයා සෝස්, මෝල්ට්, පිටි සහ ග්ලූටන් ඇතුළු සෝස්, ග්‍රේවි, පාන්, ධාන්ය වර්ග සහ මෙම අමුද්‍රව්‍ය වලින් සාදන ලද ආහාර වලට මම ආසාත්මික වෙමි.

– මෙම ආහාරයේ තිරිඟු, රයි, බාර්ලි, ඕට්ස්, සෝයා සෝස් හෝ මෝල්ට් අඩංගු වේද?

Tamil – கோதுமை, கம்பு, பார்லி, ஓட்ஸ், சோயா சாஸ், மால்ட், மாவு மற்றும் பசையம் உள்ளிட்ட சாஸ்கள், கிரேவி, ரொட்டி, தானியங்கள் மற்றும் இந்த பொருட்களுடன் தயாரிக்கப்படும் உணவுகள் எனக்கு ஒவ்வாமை.

– இந்த உணவில் கோதுமை, கம்பு, பார்லி, ஓட்ஸ், சோயா சாஸ் அல்லது மால்ட் உள்ளதா?