Chilaw is a town smack dab in the center of Sri Lanka’s west coast–maybe 2 1/2 hours north of Colombo. It’s known for coconut estates and crabs and really any type of seafood since the town sits on a large freshwater lagoon. I have been there several times to see Leela, my aunt’s former cook, and once, I even brought Anthony Bourdain here for an episode of No Reservations, when he proclaimed Leela’s home cooking as “the best meal” of the trip.
I had never been to the fish market, however, and this video captures the sights and sounds of one of the busiest markets on the island. Usually peak hours are at about 4 or 5 in the morning when the boats are just returning with the day’s catch. Though we arrived late–at about 10 am–the market was still buzzing with activity, and ordinary people as opposed to wholesalers and hotels, were buying seafood for their evening meals. Unfortunately, the massive lagoon crabs that are available here were long gone–mostly snatched up by wholesalers who sell exclusively to Singapore (for their popular Chili crab and Pepper Crab dishes). Therefore, we only see small ocean crabs left. The strange looking stuff at the end of the video are actually fish that are spiral cut and dried in the sun since dried fish is popular in Sri Lanka.