Jaffna Cookery

Those who are interested in Jaffna cooking may find the following two books useful.  If anyone knows of any other books on this essential subject, please inform us.  The second book, although it has the title 'Jaffna Cookery,' purports to have recipes from the East.  If anyone knows a cookbook of eastern recipes, please let us know. -- Editor

Introduction to Jaffna Cookery
By Sathanithi Somasekaram


ISBN: 955-9276-01-8

Published and distributed by:
Arjuna Consulting Company Ltd.
60, School Avenue, Station Road,
Dehiwela, Sri Lanka
Tel: (94-1) 738803 or 077-312110
e-mail: arjunaco@slt.lk

A recipe from the cookbook:

Chicken Kulambu

1 1/2 kg chicken

100 g onions, sliced

4 cups thick & thin coconut milk

1 tbsp Jaffna curry powder (see below)

1 sprig curry leaves

1 lime

500 g potatoes

5 green chilies, slit

5 cm pieces of rampa & lemon grass (see below)

2 tsp fragrant powder (see below)

1 tbsp oil

salt to taste

1. Skin, clean & cut chicken into pieces

2. Peel and cut the potatoes

3. Fry the onions, green chillies, curry leaves, rampa and lemon grass in a pan until the onions are browned.  Stir in the chicken, potatoes and salt.  Cover and cook for five minutes.

4. Pour in the coconut milk with the curry owder.  Stir, cover and cook till the gravy is thick.

5. Stir in the fragrant powder.  Cook for one minute.  Remove from the heat and add lime juice.

Notes:  Jaffna curry powder is 500 g chillies, 100g pepper, 200 g cumin, 10 cm powdered tumeric, 500 g coriander, 100g fennel or sweet cumin, 50 g fenugreek (optional) 3-4 sprigs curry leaves.  Roast seperately in a small frying pan until fragrant, mix and grind to a powder.

Rampa is panadus or screw pine.

Fragrant powder is the equivalent of 'garam masala' from north India, i.e. a mixture of cinammon, cloves, cardamon, nutmeg & fennel (optional).


The following two books are probably the same because they have the same ISBN number.-- Editor

Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils: Odiyal Kool, Kurakkan Puttu, and All That

By Rani Thangarajah

148 Pages  / Orient Longman  / January 2003  / 8125025022


From the Land of the Yaal Padi

REGIONAL cooking is unique as it blends the distinctive features of the land and its people together, making the experience of eating an enriching one.

And so does this book too Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils written mainly for the Tamils from Jaffna and the eastern part of Sri Lanka who are scattered across the globe. But it moves beyond its regional contours to beckon all those who love cooking.

The housewife of Jaffna, being thrifty, makes minimum use of ingredients to turn out simple, wholesome fare. Nutrition for the family is the keyword rather than gourmet for a sophisticated palate. And the pictures reflect this quality aptly with no frills, the food is served as it is on the family dining table.

As any self-respecting cookery book would do, Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils runs through the list of basic recipes, but with the flavour of Jaffna spicing it.

Breakfast dishes begin with the simple string hoppers and tomato sothi and move on to a rather exotic string hopper biriyani. Even the mundane puttu is transformed into ragi, spinach, and tapioca puttu.

The rice section is no exception. Among the curd and the tomato rice recipes you will find mango rice and the tangy tamarind porridge a must during the monsoons.

Excerpts from "Letters from Jaffna" dot many a page to bring one closer to the aromas from a Jaffna kitchen: "Ah," said Appa "The rain and the puli Kanchi... " We said nothing as we allowed its warm, spicy, sour, hot comfort to warm our throats.

"Pachadi, Chambals, Chutneys" offers a wide variety of recipes. What with green banana skin pachadi to hibiscus flower and yoghurt pachadi, the combinations are mind-boggling. The home garden dominates the vegetable section. Pumpkin, yam, jackfruit seed, hibiscus flower and leaves figure largely in the recipes and they tend to lean rather heavily on coconut.

Jaffna, being a peninsula, has an abundance of seafood. The author has spared none whether it be crab, shark, fish, prawn or squid. Meat dishes have their own niche.

A range of achars, pickles and vadahams follow to tease the appetite. Snacks and sweets border on the "homemade rustic" variety relying on jaggery, sesame seed, coconut and gingelly oil, to give them their distinct regional flavour.

From the fan-shaped leaves to the root, the palmyra palm forms an intrinsic part of the life and cuisine of this region.

The snacks, savouries, sweets and porridge produced from the Palmyra form a separate section in this book.

The simplicity of the recipes, the availability of the ingredients, the footnotes, index and the useful glossary make the experience of cooking enjoyable.


Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils, compiled by Rani Thangarajah,
Edited by Nesa Eliezer, Orient Longman

-- review from The Hindu, July 20, 2003












Posted September 23, 2004