A Visual Tour Of Bourdain’s Sri Lankan Food-Odyssey On ‘Parts Unknown’

As this season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown rolls along, we’re met with some hard truths about our society, existence, and planet. Last week we saw Bourdain in Pittsburgh asking how a blue collar working class, built around industries that no longer exist, can transition into the future. This week saw Bourdain traipsing into the northern reaches of Sri Lanka to get the Tamil side of the nearly three-decade-long Sri Lankan Civil War.

The episode dealt with a conflict few (if any of us) register on our collective radar. The battle between the Hindu Tamil Tigers — who win the best army name ever contest — and the Buddhist Sinhalese majority government forces ended up killing 100,000 people by 2009, when the war finally ceased.

It’s been eight years and it would seem that Sri Lanka is putting itself back together and starting to take a sobering look back on the last 40 years of its history — which feels like the perfect time for someone like Bourdain to show and start talking to people.

The episode wasn’t all history. As per usual, there was an exciting snapshot of Sri Lankan cuisine from the island nation’s capital and a segment up north, around Jaffna, where the Tamil majority makes their home.

Along the way, Bourdain learns a solid truth about Sri Lankan food. “Ask anyone in Sri Lanka where to find the best food and they’ll say nobody cooks as well as ‘aunty,'” Bourdain decodes. “And it’s true — trust me. Often possessing the strength of 10 men, Sri Lankan aunties are a force to be reckoned with.” But more on that later.

So let’s dive into where Bourdain ate, drank, and conversed in this illuminating episode of CNN’s ‘Parts Unknown.’

Nelum Kole, Colombo

Bourdain kicks off his culinary and history lessons by chowing down on some chicken curry, spiced potato, beetroots, and plenty of rice at Nelum Kole. This hole-in-the-wall in Colombo — on Slave Island — prides itself on super traditional Sri Lankan fare done classically. And, by the looks of it, deliciously.

The whole meal is a great insight into the vibrance of color and flavor that epitomizes Sri Lankan food.

Nana’s Street Food, Colombo

Next, Bourdain heads down to Colombo’s seaside to rampage across a smorgasbord of delights hauled from the sea. Bourdain and TV host and chef Dharshan Munidasa chowed down on Nana’s fried and curried seafood dishes as they talked the state of Sri Lanka and its food scene.

Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

A short walk away from the all the food stalls on Galleface Green where Nana’s Street Food sits, is the trendy Galle Face Hotel. Bourdain met artist Tracy Holsinger there for some drinks to talk the art scene in Sri Lanka.

The hotel itself has a strong colonial vibe going on. And the drinks looked on point, especially sitting alongside some high-end and enticing food.

Point Pedro Beach, Jaffna

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Jaffna. Photo by @DavidScottHolloway

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Bourdain got to head north to the previously restricted area around Jaffna. He wandered around the area eating food and chatting to locals about their experience with the war and thereafter.

A Point Pedro Beach, Bourdain met with the local fisherman. They feasted on freshly caught grouper and squid as Bourdain listened to the fisherman impart the realities of their day-to-day lives. There was, as always, plenty of beer to wash everything down.

Home cooked Meal, Jaffna

In keeping with Anthony Bourdain tradition, a home-cooked meal was in order. Bourdain met up with some of those “aunties” he eluded to earlier. They showed him the finer arts of making crab curry in the backyard. It was a great lesson in executing a great dish with homespun flair.