This is your roving gastronaut Skiz reporting from yet another food adventure—this time in the place where it all began for me, Sri Lanka. My first trip back since I brought Tony Bourdain and the No Reservations crew here in December 2008, and I’ve got to say that a lot has changed, primarily the end of the conflict between the government and the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization that has wreaked havoc here for the past 30 thirty years. I remember Bourdain being more than a little freaked by the presence of so many AK-47 toting Sri Lankan troops on the streets of the capital, Colombo, but today he would find a much different place. A year after the Tigers’ defeat, there are far fewer checkpoints, and a return to normalcy from north to south has fostered a more hopeful mood amongst the populace. There is still much work, and healing, to be done, but I think everyone here is breathing a welcome sigh of relief that the fighting has at last come to an end.
Case in point: The Galle Face Green, a long strip of manicured lawn that unfolds like a picnic blanket in front of the stately Galle Face hotel, offering a stunning vista on the Indian Ocean. For years it has been closed, but on weekend nights the place is once again alive with families, groups of friends, and young lovers enjoying the cool ocean breeze. The promenade sizzles and pops with food vendors hawking barbecued chicken, buriyani, and my favorite, isso wade, topped with whole prawns.
In the northern city of Jaffna, once ravaged by the war, the streets are bustling with activity. While the military presence persists, market places, restaurants and guest houses are filled to capacity—mostly patronized by people from the south who haven’t set foot in this former terrorist stronghold for 30 years. On my very first visit here, I found the place to have a character all its own, while the people of Jaffna are as friendly and full of hospitality and good will as in any place in Sri Lanka. I went on a hunt for the real Jaffna cuisine, which is supposedly the spiciest on the island, and you might be surprised about my findings.
So stay tuned for some good stories and some good food because everytime I think I know Sri Lanka it surprises me with something new. Now that the war is over, one is free to explore the entire island and indulge in everything that paradise has to offer.