A glimpse at Jaffna's Gastronomy


A glimpse at Jaffna's Gastronomy


Jaffna's cuisine primarily embraces the peninsula's limitations and evolves in glorious isolation from the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Sri Lanka. Accordingly, Jaffna food is very different from the rest of Sri Lanka's and it is unique style of culinary dishes is one of the most important thing which a visitor should not miss when they visit Sri Lanka. Moreover, Jaffna cuisine is above all famous for its use of the fresh seafood that abounds along the coasts. 

Likewise, the soup known as “Kool” is among the region’s signature dishes. Thus, it is quite famous among both Jaffna people and foreigners. In fact, its unique flavour results from a slew of mouth watering ingredients such as Crab, fish, cuttlefish, prawns and crayfish creating  a seafood broth with the addition of long beans, jak seeds, manioc and spinach . Hence, with hints of tamarind, the entire dish is practically thickened with the help of palmyrah root flour.

Another famous authentic Jaffna dish is “Jaffna crab curry” which is a juicy sweet meat and spicy curry prepared using special Jaffna curry powder and aromatic herbs. Hence, it can be considered as one of the best treat to try on a rainy afternoon. Other curries such as “fish sothi” (fragrant coconut milk curry with turmeric) tender and tasty mutton “paal poriyal”(mutton cooked in dry gravy with cumin, chilli and curry leaves), and “brinjol poriyal” are also some of the notable dishes specially dedicated to Jaffna.

As for the dessert, the “Sweet Apam” is one of the famous dishes which a tourist who visits Jaffna definitely needs to try. It is a unique style of dessert with a soft centre made of sweet coconut milk giving it a mouth watering smooth texture. Thus, it can also be prepared plain or with brown sugar sprinkled on top upon request.

One of the most common layouts of meal for lunch is red rice which accompanies a set of curries that appear to conform to the standard rice and curry menu.  A side dish which looks like clear liquid known as “Bone Rasam” is also very famous in Jaffna. It is a light, peppery broth prepared from mutton bones which goes excellently with rice and fried fish and is often drunk plain to clear the nose and the sinuses. Hence, the broth can also be prepared using chicken. In fact, many Jaffna chefs prefer to use boneless chicken to prepare spicy chicken rasam by giving it an aromatic flavour. The consistency often decides the category of the dish. Likewise, a curry is typically thicker than a kulambu, and a kulambu is thicker than a sodhi. 

Moreover, a more adventurous gourmands might be drawn to the range of dishes known as “Varai”.It is basically a mix of finely chopped or minced ingredients tossed with coconut, green chillies, mustard seeds, red onions, turmeric powder and curry leaves to create a distinctive dish. For instance, a perfect varai is usually light and flavourful, with each ingredient providing a distinct flavour. 

Though finely minced the primary meat or vegetable remains firm on the tongue and is never reduced to mush. Shark meat varai uses the tough, distinctive meat in a dry mix, but you can also use prawns, drumsticks, leeks, drumstick leaves and even plantain flowers to create the same dish.

Nonetheless, another dish known as “Pulich Canji” or sour porridge which is a refreshing drink made of mustard seeds, mint leaves, salt and a little of pinch chilli which is quite good for those burdened with a cough or cold.  Apart from this, the “fried brinjol” is a favourite among Jaffna schoolchildren which goes quite well with another signature dish called as “pittu”.  

It is traditionally made with rice flour and scraped coconut through steaming by separating the small flakes and nodules of the rice flour. Unlike the school children, the combination of brinjol and pittu does not seem to be common among Jaffna adults due to its dry combination. Hence, majority of them prefers to eat pittu with curry or perhaps laced with fish as in shark pittu. Pittu can also be made in several variations. For instance, it can be made like a sweet milk pittu.  

There are several restaurants in the island where a visitor can taste the traditional cuisines of Jaffna. Here are some places we found for real deal of Jaffna Foods, are Green Grass Hotel and Restaurant( off Hospital Rd),Cosy Restaurant (off Stanley Road),  Thinakkural Rest (Chetty Lane, Nallur) and Hotel Rolex (Hospital Road). Hence, most of the dishes are quite affordable with each dish offering a unique taste unique to Jaffna. For instance, Jaffna style crab curry is (RS. 200), kanawa (cuttlefish) curry (Rs.180), Odiyal Kool (Rs.200) and Thirukkal Pittu (Rs.150) which is made using the flying fish found in Jaffna. Hope you have a great time when you visit Jaffna.

Note: I have to thank my “Little Kokee”, who helps me a lot on this post.

Posted by Muhunthan Murugaiah at 1:47 PM

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