© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

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Dried Fish

Along the coastal fishing beaches several families dry fish. The gutted fish are laid out on racks in the hot sun and are left to dry out in the hot sun. Drying fish was the way of preserving surplus catches during bountiful fishing seasons and ensuring that fish would be available during the non-fishing seasons when the storms prevented fishing. (The fish are only able to be dried during the non-monsoon seasons.)

Drying fish does however have a strong smell that permeates the air and according to some ancient  legends, when coastal villagers learnt the art of preserving fish for the non-fishing season by drying them, this smell was so distasteful to Deities like Kataragama who had settled in these areas, that they relocated well away from the smell to inland abodes! (See Sections on Deities for further information)

Although refrigerated storage is now widespread, dried fish are still a very popular ingredient of Sri Lankan curries.

Fisherman’s wife, gutting fish and laying them out to dry in the sun (Northern coast of Jaffna Peninsula)

Buying dried fish at roadside stalls on the Jaffna Peninsula