By Marianne David

Wherever you go in Sri Lanka, you can always find some roti—for example, on the “Kos Kele” stretch of the Dambulla-Kurunegala main road stretch in Melsiripura, where food is available at all hours. Located in the Kurunegala District in the North-Western Province of Sri Lanka, the Kos Kele food outlets stretch is the perfect place to stop for a filling meal or quick bite and a hot cup of tea, for example, on the way from Colombo to Habarana, Dambulla, Anuradhapura, or Trincomalee, and back. The stretch features just over 50 shops – some of which have been there for more than three decades – and most are open around the clock, serving up sustenance to weary travellers. 

The food is cheap, filling, and tasty and the experience itself is also special: sitting on the side of the road, sheltered by trees, sipping on a steaming hot cup of tea while watching out for monkeys who might swoop down and steal your food – all this makes for memories of an authentic Sri Lankan travel experience.


Shop No. 21

Heading out of town recently, we got to the Kos Kele stretch around 9 a.m. and stopped for a quick bite at outlet No. 21, one of the last on the stretch. Run by Malani and her husband Sarath, both of whom are warm and welcoming, this little place is purely vegetarian. Open 24 hours a day, Malani runs the shop from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. while her husband does the night shift.

The sign board depicting the shop no.21 in the Kos Kele stretch

The Food

The day’s menu on the morning we dropped by comprised hot pol roti, polos curry, lunu miris, and tea with jaggery. A pol roti comes with different accompaniments – the day’s prepared vegetarian curry and lunu miris or nai miris sambol. Malani serves up a stack of roti along with generous portions of the curry and sambol and brings over steaming hot cups of tea within minutes too.

Food options which are available on rotation these days are mushroom curry, polos curry, pol roti, vadai, olu dalu, lunu miris, nai miris sambol, and plain tea or beli mal tea with jaggery. We dug into hot roti with a tasty polos curry and chased it down with tea on our first visit. The moment our attention shifted from the food to the tea, a monkey ran up, grabbed a roti off our plate, and scampered up a tree clutching it gleefully.

Returning from Habarana the next day, we stopped by once again, to find Malani frying up some vadai while that afternoon’s available curry was a spicy mushroom dish that paired well with the roti. We also scooped up some curry with the just-fried vadai and it hit the spot perfectly.


Pol roti, mushroom curry and lunu miris

Monkey Business

While we were chatting to Malani about the business, a monkey swooped in and grabbed a hot vadai, only to quickly drop the steaming hot treat onto the ground and run off. Within minutes another monkey peered over the tin roof, tapping on it for our attention and looking at the food eagerly. A fellow dinner bought some roti and fed it, attracting more monkeys to the stall. We finished off our meal and left with Malani’s blessings for our journey onward and promised to stop by again soon for more of her polos curry. Most of the stalls had vehicles stopped alongside that afternoon and were busy providing hot and filling meals for travellers along this road. Tip generously if you are able to, this is a pit-stop you’re sure to enjoy.

A monkey with a grabbed pol roti


Month Reviewed : March 2023