It is very easy to be vegan in Sri Lanka. With 79% of Buddhist Sinhalese and 21% of Hindu Tamils, vegetarianism is anchored deep into the culture of the country. Sri Lankans always ensure that vegetarians are catered to at any function. There is always a separate buffet or meal arrangements for vegetarians in most hotels.
The parameters of vegetarianism do vary from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Vegetarian will usually mean no meat or eggs, though use of fish and milk (sometimes honey) can vary. Some variations of Buddhism and of Hinduism will advocate complete veganism.
These restrictions, even if partial, are of a huge help when it comes to finding food and explaining that you are a vegan. Since almost everyone in Sri Lanka speaks English, it will be easy to explain the additional items you refrain from. No point using the term “vegan” here, better to explain the things you do not eat.
Once you have made clear that you do not use milk, fish or honey, there are still some questions to ask about ghee (clarified butter) since it is not always classified in the milk category. Even in the Pure Vegetarian Tamil restaurants or food stands, milk and ghee are served. As in Asia, fish sauce and flakes are considered more like condiments than animal food, so mention to keep those out too. The food resembles South Indian cuisine, with curries, dosas, chutneys and roties, the traditional coconut-based sauces and dishes. see LOCAL FOOD page.
Rejoice, you are in fresh fruit juices country! Mangoes and pineapple juices are served everywhere when in season. But it is only once you will find yourself in a hammock and fresh green coconut water served in the husk in your hands that you will truly be in paradise. In Sri Lanka, fresh coconuts are cheap and very common so prepare yourself for a great burst of happiness.
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