3 dishes you shouldn’t leave Jaffna without trying: Peter Kuruvita

Learning traditional recipes is part of the culinary experience with Peter Kuruvita
Learning traditional recipes is part of the culinary experience with Peter Kuruvita

Sri Lanka is emerging as the island country to visit, especially after being named as the number one country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

Among some of the unmissable experiences are the tea trails, the gorgeous surf spots, the game reserves, the spectacular birdlife and of course, the food culture – we’re talkin’ food, spice and everything nice.

While civil conflict made certain areas of Sri Lanka off-limits to tourism in the past, travellers are turning to the regional parts of the country, including the stunning north-west area of Jaffna.

“It's an undiscovered area that's still opening up and I think now is the perfect time for anyone to visit,” says TV chef and award-winning restaurateur Peter Kuruvita. “The flavours of Jaffna cuisine are different; they're very spicy compared to the rest of the country.”

Kuruvita, who will be returning to the far north and east coast of Sri Lanka when he escorts a culinary tour, is putting Jaffna in the spotlight and recommends these three must-try foods when in the area.

Jaffna kool

“For me, one of the stand-out dishes of Jaffna would be the Jaffna kool.”

“Made with all the amazing seafood that's pulled out of Jaffna Lagoon, it's thickened with something very unique, which is palmyra.”


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Palmyra root flour, which is a bit like arrowroot, gives the seafood soup a beautiful, silky feel which Kuruvita likens to a bouillabaisse of Sri Lanka.

Palmyra palm treacle with buffalo curd

Palmyra palm trees are synonymous with Jaffna and the treacle from this variety of palm offers the perfect amount of sweetness when served with silky, smooth curd made from buffalo milk.


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“Now the buffalo curd comes from down south, from Hambantota, but the palmyra palm is endemic to Jaffna area.”

“You can get treacle out of the coconut palm, or you can get treacle out of the palmyra palm. The flavours are incredibly different, so make sure you have a little scoop of palmyra honey as well.”

Ice cream from Rio’s

One point of difference between Sri Lanka’s south and the north are the milk bars which are popular in the north. Families, teens and couples on a date will treat themselves to a visit to a milk bar, so, when in Jaffna, a trip to Rio Ice Cream is a must.


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“[It] has made it through the war years… so a scoop of ice-cream at Rio's is a bit of an institution.”

Located near the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Hindu temple, the well-known ice cream parlour is a pleasant treat to help you cool off from the heat, especially after taking in the local sights of the town.

Sri Lanka’s other half: why you should visit Jaffna

According to Kuruvita, Jaffna and the east coast are relatively empty of tourists, with a few new hotels starting to open. The main part of Jaffna town still has its original little market that’s bursting with exotic produce, as well as street stalls run by friendly locals who welcome visitors to the area.


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There’s even an incredible strip where old British cars are parked. “It's kind of like a small Havana, except that all the cars are not Chevrolets,” says Kuruvita. “They're more like Austins and Morrises, and most of them operate as taxis.”

“There are very noticeable differences between the country's south and the north: the produce, the landscape, the food and the people, so it's an important part of any visit to Sri Lanka,” he says.

Temples adorned with colourful statues in northern Sri Lanka. Photo: Peter Kuruvita

While many people may think they’ve seen Sri Lanka after visiting the southern areas, the northern half of Sri Lanka is definitely a place to add to your adventure list.

Want to spice up your Sri Lankan adventure? Travel with Peter Kuruvita and open your taste buds to the delectable cuisines of Sri Lanka, as well as experience the amazing wildlife and cultures of remote villages rarely visited.

culinary tour, food tour, foodie, jaffna, peter kuruvita, Sri Lanka

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