My quest for authentic (i.e. ass-burning spicy) Jaffna cuisine in Jaffna itself took me to two other places worth mentioning.
The first was Thinkkural Rest, which came highly recommended by the editor of a Jaffna newspaper. Although it was a “reservations only” guest house, we were the only ones there, which was fine with me as it felt as though we were eating at someone’s house for dinner.
The dishes soon arrived on the table, fresh and hot from the kitchen: Pittu, a rice flour and shredded coconut-based concoction that is steamed in bamboo tubes; string hoppers, which are steamed rice noodles; kiri hodhi or coconut milk gravy; pol (coconut) sambol, a condiment made of shredded coconut mixed with chilies, lime juice, salt and Maldive fish; cuttlefish curry; prawn curry; and fried fish. Once again, everything tasted great, but really no different than food I would get anywhere else on the island. I was expecting that bite, that extra kick from a preponderance of chilies, and on this count I was again disappointed.
So we tried again the next day for lunch. Instead of going to a restaurant, we decided to eat at one of the many roadside boutiques or “hotels” as they are called. These places are frequented by everyone, and since I imagined that the typical Jaffna resident was accustomed to seriously spicy food, this would be the place to finally find it. Located on one of the main thoroughfares in town, Hospital Road, the Hotel Rolex seemed a likely contender. The food displayed behind the glass counters inside looked inviting, so we took a table at the back. We ordered a veritable feast of mutton curry, chicken curry, a dry prawn curry (without gravy), yellow rice and also several vegetables—eggplant, pumpkin, and some greens–which provided a welcome addition to the meats and starch.
Everything was decent except for the mutton, which was a bit tough and full of gristle. It made me appreciate the dry mutton dish at Cosy Restaurant even more. The food, however, was downright mild for my tastes. It was only when we inquired after the meal about the spice factor that the owner told us that many people in Jaffna want to eat ‘Colombo-style’ cuisine, which is generally less spicy. Just out luck! But the entire meal set us back only 1100 rupees (only about US$10), so we couldn’t be mad at that. The search for the real deal Jaffna cuisine would have to continue, however, and as it was our last day in Jaffna, it would have to continue back in Colombo.
Thinakkural Rest – 45 Chetty Lane, Nallur, Jaffna (94-021-2226476)
Hotel Rolex – 340 Hospital Road, Jaffna