For these Sri Lankans, whose lives have been coloured by war and tsunami, the longing is understandable.
Braver diners should ask for the chilli and coconut condiment pol sambol. So the next morning we sped up the coast in a small launch with captain Raj, bouncing through the chop on our way to Pigeon Island to see octopus and shark.
The deserted white-sand beach stretched for miles, deep palm groves right up to the surf.
Our toothy tuk-tuk driver, Suresh, greeted us enthusiastically. Suresh's three-wheeler protested at the steep climb.
At last we reached the venerated Koneswaram temple, perched on a cliff-top 400ft above the waves and home to the lingam – a Hindu holy phallus.
Her husband was a businessman in the northern Tamil city of Jaffna, who died in the war – she makes a trigger shape with her hand not holding the ladle.