Sri Lankan Trains and Wadi Wadi

We loved it in Sri Lanka when we were on the trains and the carriage door would open and the wadi wadi man would bustle through with a huge basket crying “wadi wadi“!

Well, it always sounded like “wadi wadi“. It would depend on what he was selling.

We never bothered eating before getting on the train in Sri Lanka because wadi wadi was always one of the journey’s highlights.

What is Wadi Wadi?

Wadi wadi is what Toni and I called all the delicious snacks sold by hawkers on the trains in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, there isn’t much of a street food culture like in other Asian countries and these snacks sold on the train were as close as it got to street food.

Actually wadi wadi is a deep-fried lentil patty that is crispy on the outside like a biscuit, but soft in the middle. The guys selling this might not even have been saying wadi wadi, but that’s what it sounded like to us.

wadi wadi

Wadi wadi by Sean O’Connor

In fact there were lots of delicious snacks available on the train. Our favourites were the incredibly spicy samosas and the filled veggie rotis.

The man would carry a huge basket around with his wadi wadi in it and would serve it up for 30-50 rupees (0.20€-0.30€) per unit.

The wadi wadi on the train was always presented to you in the pages of a school textbook or worse, someone’s hand-written homework! This was something that I didn’t get and, according to what I’ve read, which other travellers didn’t get either.

wadi wadi train

On the Trains by Michael Bainbridge

My favourites were the spicy samosas

As well as perfectly fried samosas, fresh filled rotis and lentil patties – quite easy things to transport, serve and consume on a moving train – there were other, more elaborate offerings too. And many things that I have absolutely no idea what they were: goats toenails and squirrels ears if I have to hazard a guess.

The most elaborate thing I saw someone buy and eat on a crowded train in Sri Lanka was rice and curry. Also served in homework. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he held his makeshift plate in one hand and used the other to scoop up first rice, then curry, and shovel it in without spilling a drop. When he finished he neatly screwed the paper into a ball, splashed some water onto his hands from a bottle, took a swig of the same and then sat back, closed his eyes and snoozed for the rest of the journey.

Now, I’m not suggesting you attempt anything as ambitious as rice and curry on a train, nor the goats toenails, but seriously: don’t even think about eating before you get on a Sri Lankan train. There’s a whole wadi wadi adventure waiting for you onboard. Make sure you dive in and take part; don’t just stay on the sidelines watching. Because wadi wadi is one of the most fun parts of Sri Lankan train travel.

Let me know how it goes.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedfood and drinkSri LankaSri Lanka Hill CountryStreet Food


About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

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