Tasty Treats From Pettah’s Streets

Galle face might be your first inclination to look for street food in Colombo, but there’s a whole other world out there beyond its borders. Don’t believe us? Swing down to Pettah—the true ground zero for street food.

Pettah is the heart of the city. Workers, labourers, drivers, shopkeepers, and every other kind of denizen in the city will go through Pettah at some point during the day. And rarely do they have time for a leisurely sit-down meal, so street food here takes on an added importance. It’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner for many people, grabbed from the nearest vendor while they rush for their livelihood.

During daytime, hurried office workers and school children might grab a pol roti with lunu miris for breakfast. Come midday, a plain tea and vadai from a cart will be lunch for a tired nattami. And once evening falls, under the light of kerosene lamps, you will have crowds clamouring for a kottu to take home, or to eat over an evening sip of liquor.

All these delicacies are plied from small carts that are little more than planks of wood and panes of glass hastily nailed together. Or a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop that you barely notice amidst the chaos around you. You will pass by vendors selling everything from colourful fruits to spicy achcharu, from the baked maalu paan and patties to golden deep-fried manioc chips. Then, after the sun goes down, roti, kottu, and many other heavier fares come out to play. You could easily live off the street food in Pettah, and do it for next to nothing. Many do.

A grape seller on 3rd Cross Street in Pettah offers a juicy pause from the city centre’s hustle.

The Dimo Batta van with juice and short eats is as iconic as they come.

We owe the achcharu to Sri Lanka’s Malay community. This kadé in front of Pettah’s Red Mosque is one of many that keep this delicious gift going.

From the everyday mango, to the less common wood-apple, Pettah’s vendors serve up achcharu of all kinds.

Maalu paan is often triangular in shape, but this batch from Keyzer Street evidently decided to take on a different style.

Patties, going for Rs. 20 each on Prince Street.

Freshly fried golden manioc chips, another street food favourite.

The dragon fruit is a recent entry to Colombo’s street food.

Fresh fruits, chopped up and ready to be made into juice.

A fruit stall on Kathiresan Street, frequented by bus drivers and nattamis after a heavy lunch.

A roadside roti shop down an alleyway on Malwatte road.

Guava and mangosteen seller on Main Street.

Tea stall with bread and pol sambol for the workers down Prince Street.

Even on a dull Wednesday night, shops in Aluthkade are ready to serve up a feast.

Fried rice and kottu station in Aluthkade.

After the sun goes down, the food gets a lot more interesting.

Text by Dilina Amaruwan

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