March 2010

Jaffna Kool: a sea of flavours
March 2010

Jaffna is a land, which is rich in colour and spices. The fragrance and tastes are numerous and represents the personality of the people and the land. Jaffna Kool is one such dish, that has originated from the Northern Peninsula and is a concoction of a variety of ingredients that when combined result in a nutritious seafood broth.

Words: Maria de Saram | Photography: Mugunthan Balakrishnan

Jaffna Kool is also known as Odiyal Kool due to its defining ingredient - odiyal flour; odiyal being palmyrah in English. It is no surprise that palmyrah flour is used in this recipe as palmyrah trees are in abundance in the Jaffna Peninsula. Odiyal flour is made from tender dried palmyrah roots. Since palmyrah flour has a bitter taste that becomes more intense with time, the flour needs to be prepared a couple of hours prior to the preparation of the dish. In order to reduce the bitterness of the flour, it is soaked in water for approximately 10 minutes and then drained, after which the flour is ready to use.

Although a very simple dish, Jaffna Kool consists of all the nutrients required. Nutrition for the family is key in every Jaffna household and as such, meals are simple, made using a few key ingredients that give flavour, substance and nutrition. The ingredients for Jaffna Kool include crabs, prawns and fish, which are found in abundance in coastal areas. Long beans and jak fruit seeds give the required flavour and nutrition. Rice and jak fruit segments, while being the carbohydrates of the dish, also contribute to its thickness. Tamarind gives a slight sweet and sour tang that enhances the flavours of all the other ingredients and also softens the meat of the seafood.

Dried chilli in the form of chilli paste gives a spicy flavour to the brew while palmyrah flour is added to thicken the broth to the required consistency. 

One would expect Jaffna Kool to have a very strong taste of seafood, however the combination of ingredients is such that it results in a wholesome dish that is not only spicy but also brings out the unique flavours of each ingredient equally. The broth has a grainy consistency, however, it is smooth on the palate.
Jaffna Kool is ideal for lunch and should be served on its own.

Photographs taken at:
The Lagoon, Cinnamon Grand Colombo, Sri Lanka.


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    1. Rice, 2. String beans, 3. Palmyrah flour soaked in water, 4. Crabs, 5. Fish, 6. Tamarind, 7. Drumstick leaves for garnishing, 8. Jak seeds, 9. Prawns, 10. Chilli paste, 11. Dried chilli, 12 . Salt

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