Two things, if you like coconut milk and have access to fresh curry leaves (likely at a local Indian grocer), you need this cookbook; secondly, even if you do not like coconut milk and can’t get curry leaves to save your life, you probably still need this cookbook. Go ahead and get it because even if you only read it it’s still worth the money.
Cynthia Shanmugalingam’s Rambutan is gorgeous. The photography is luscious. The writing is warm, funny, heartbreaking, and evocative. I can smell the spices and chiles through my ereader screen. I know it’s a cliché to say, but this is a love letter to Sri Lanka, it’s food and people. It’s a love that celebrates that despite everything, Sri Lanka is still here. This cookbook comes with content warnings.
In introducing the world to Sri Lankan food, Shanmugalingam brings in elements of memoir and history. She is the child of Sri Lankans who emigrated to the UK years before she was born. She has that insider/outsider view of her parents’ home culture and cuisine that I’m sure other 2nd and 3rd generations of diaspora would recognize.
Shanmugalingam asserts that Sri Lankan cuisine is one of the most underrated in the world. After reading this, I know I would like to know more. There are a lot of recipes in here that I can’t try because my digestive system and coconut milk don’t get along, but I have latched on to a few recipes that I can eat and I am dying to try (ok, more than a few):
- all of the spice blends
- Tempered crunchy fried potatoes with turmeric
- Shrimp and seafood kool stew
- a bunch of sambols (especially the seeni sambol)
- Cardamom fried chicken
- Potato and leek spicy stuffed roti
- Lemongrass and lime soda
I am so excited about this cookbook.
CW: civil war and it’s impacts, violence, state sanctioned violence, acts of genocide described, torture and threats of rape, refugees, references to child abuse, neglect, child labor, child soldiers, illness, death, grief.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Bloomsbury and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.