Jaffna is more than just a northern point with a rich heritage and diverse history—it’s a stop for delicious Sri Lanka food as well! Budget travelers can still get their fill on yummy rice and curries dishes, or those with a broader wallet can soak up the ambiance of such a beautiful city while enjoying the best culinary delights Sri Lanka has to offer.
Best Food Experiences in Jaffna
As we said before, Jaffna is a bastion of Hindu tradition, art, and creative culture. And it is reflected in the food.
Highly inspired by the Tamil culture, most restaurants here serve Northern Sri Lankan cuisine as well as South Indian cuisine. Although both styles of cooking are largely similar, the food of Jaffna has its own distinctive taste.
Here we list a few of our favorite food experiences for the foodie in you:
1. Jaffna mutton curry
When people think of Jaffna food, the first dish that usually comes to mind is the celebrated Jaffna mutton curry.
This traditional curry holds true to the characteristics of Jaffna cuisine with its heavy spices and delectable flavors.
The mutton curry is essentially succulent chunks of mutton swimming in a gravy that is a delicious combination of fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, fennel seeds, cloves, coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric, curry leaves and of course, cinnamon.
Prior to indulging in this dish, you will breathe in the rich aroma of all these spices which alone leaves your mouth watering.
For an amazing experience of the mutton curry, head to Green Grass restaurant that cooks up a storm with their mutton delicacy. Even better with a side of steam or fried rice.
2. Mattu (Egg) Thosai
Although the thosai (dosai) is popular throughout the island, this one’s a little identifiable to the Hindu tradition, thanks to the large influence of Tamil cuisine in Jaffna.
The addition of ghee when cooking it is a slight alteration that leaves you with an amazing aroma when served. Jaffna’s take on the thosai is based on a fermented batter made of rice flour and coconut milk with spices.
It comes in various shapes, sizes, and varieties but the classic thosai of Jaffna cuisine is the one with mattu (egg) and is a bowl-shaped crisp pancake with a soft center.
Served with a combination of sambol this traditional thosai leaves an after taste thanks to its deliciousness.
3. Jaffna cuisine at Green Grass restaurant
To get a taste of the best of both Jaffna and South Indian cuisine, head to the restaurant at Green Grass Hotel and dine under a mango tree.
A good spot for a Northern Lankan meal, Green Grass offers the best Jaffna special crab curries at fairly affordable prices.
Their best dishes include the crab curry and mutton curry. Both are rich in spices and delicious.
These curries are way different than the ones you’d have had in the South or the Eastern coast of Lanka. That’s the significance of Jaffna cuisine – it comprises of age old recipes loaded with heavy spices and delectable flavours.
4. Pittu at Kumarapavan Restaurant
This one’s another typical Jaffna specialty. A dinnertime specialty, pittu is majorly made of wheat flour or red rice-flour and is infused with desiccated coconut to add flavour.
The preparation involves steaming a mixture of ground rice with water that is layered with grated coconut, and sometimes also layers of shrimp or fish.
The classic Pittu is when meat and seafood are stirred in with the dish to make a type of pittu kotthu. This is the Jaffna style of taking leftovers and making it into a signature lip-smacking dish.
To get your hands on the best authentic Pittu, head to Kumarapavan restaurant where you will get different varities of Pittu. Try their Special Keeri (Spinach) Pittu and the Popeye lover in you will thank you for it.
5. Ice creams at Rio Icecream
The Jaffna weather is extremely dehydrating and what’s better than super cool ice cream in this weather.
Rio Ice Cream is a real stalwart of the North, and possibly one of Jaffna’s most famous culinary exports along with the Jaffna crab curry.
Before you think of images of a Brazilian fiesta or a seedy cinema, it turns out Rio actually stands for the Rathinam Industrial Organization. Rio is located next to the sprawling Nallur Temple making it a perfect destination to pop in for a sundae in the scorching mid-day heat after a tour of the temple.
Try their exotic flavours of ice creams from the usual fruity ones like mango and blueberry to a mix of all frozen cups packed into a sundae.
1. Jetwing Jaffna ($$$)
37, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Jaffna | + 94 21 2215 571 | www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingjaffna/dining
Eating at this luxury restaurant is truly a cultural experience and must not be missed if you want to feel the essence of Jaffna in food. Serving authentic Jaffna and south Indian food, this restaurant is relaxed in a way that is both traditional and contemporary. For the adventurous eaters out there, their fiery red Jaffna crab curry is a must try.
2. The Valampuri ($$$)
148/10, Station Road, Jaffna | +94 21 222 0111 | www.valampurihotel.com/dinning
Famed for being a fine dining restaurant that serves the most succulent seafood dishes, The Valampuri is an alluring meal destination for a vacationer in Jaffna. This bright, cheerful restaurant is the perfect place to have a decadent meal and wind down in comfort after a hot day out gallivanting around town.
3. Fort Hammenhiel Resort ($$$)
40000, AB17, Kalapoomy | +94 11 381 8215 | www.forthammenhielresort.lk/restaurant
It’s not everyday that one gets to dine in a manmade fort a hop and a jump away from the mainland. After getting off the jetty into your own paradise, you can also enjoy a gastronomical journey with flawlessly cooked meals and views of the endless sea and sky. For regal hospitality and traditionally cooked meals, this is the place to eat at.
Family and Casual Dining
1. Mangos ($$)
359/3, Temple Road, Jaffna
This simple Indian restaurant caters only to vegetarian customers. Mangos is a perfect eatery if you are the lover of reasonably priced vegetarian food when travelling. Wildly popular in the locality, Mangos is known to serve the best kind of South Indian dishes.
2. Green Grass Hotel & Restaurant ($$)
33, Aseervatham Lane, Jaffna
Green Grass is the perfect place to have a meal under the swaying trees and gentle breeze. The food is exquisite, the cost caters to a basic budget, and the staff are amicable and charming. Their most raved about dish is their crab curry.
3. Cosy Restaurant ($$)
266/1 Stanly Road, Jaffna
This restaurant is well known for its comfortable furniture, friendly service, and overall warm ambiance. The foods you must try are their Jaffna specials. Their open courtyard seating and amazing food only adds to the delight of a vacationer.
Budget Friendly Dining
1. Malayan Café ($)
C Ponnampalam Road, Jaffna
This charming cafe offers a clean and perfectly delectable variety of authentic dishes. Their dosas and coffees are greatly loved. This is the ultimate place for you to hog and chill without burning a hole in your pockets.
2. Nallur Bhavan ($)
250, Temple Road, Jaffna
A family restaurant with an amazing ambiance and delicious food, the Nallur Bhavan is a must visit if you want to try a variety of food for very little cost. This cozy nook has a warm ambiance an is a good place to stop by if you want scrumptious vegetarian food.
3. Hotel Rolex ($)
340, Hospital Road, Jaffna
This hotel fames itself on serving the best kothu rotti in town. And if reviews are anything to go by, they stand right! Enjoy your meal with simple décor and high quality food.
Jaffna offers many historical delights with cultural variations thanks to the Dutch, Portugese, and British. But it’s the food that is the greatest delight of all! From Firey Red Curry to simple beans and rice, the authentic Sri Lanka food is a flavor you can’t get anywhere else. Budget eaters, and those who want a little more to experience in their dining, will find somewhere perfect to eat.