Monday July 22, 2019

British chef in the soup over Sri Lankan curry

Mar 03, 2018 21:35 PM GMT+0530 | 7 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT, A British chef who claims to be the first from her native island to popularise Sri Lankan food has brought out a cookbook that has left even non foodie locals hopping mad.

The social media backlash to "Weligama: Recipes from Sri Lanka" was so intense that even the author's local host, Barefoot Gallery, scrapped a book signing scheduled for March 9.

"This event has been cancelled. You cannot share this event, but you can still post," Barefoot said on its facebook page. 

Among the tasty morsels in Emily Dobbs' book are "singing hoppers," or "sangeetha aappa" and "Buddhist monk beef curry -- Bhikshuvak mus curry," readers said.

Dobbs' claim to fame is starting a pop-up stall called "Weligama" at the Druid Street Market in her native country where she sells hoppers. 

According to her recipe collection, one could try an equally intriguing "lime cream cheese with icing and priest topped with papaya cake." It is not clear what denomination the priest should be for the recipe to work its magic.

In her book, rice has become "kadala", or lentils, while jaggery is "suduru", or cumin. Turmeric is "kurundu," or cinnamon. Buffalo curd is "umbalakada", or Maldivefish.

Emily's fascinating collection of unconscionable errors were grist to the social media mill. 

Posters had a roaring time lampooning a woman who had been introduced at the Galle Literary Festival as the Queen of hoppers -- in itself an unfortunate description given the sexual connotation in local slang.

Dobbs blamed the publishers of the book for the mistakes and hit back at her detractors in an online statement announcing a reprint to correct the gravy, sorry, grave errors to be issued later this year.

"I'd appreciate those who have been posting deeply upsetting comments refrain from continuing to do so and receive this information gracefully," Dobbs said.

But it was not just the translations that got many Sri Lankans fired up. 

"Ms. Dobbs also has a recipe for making gotu kola using parsley. Gotu kola is a vegetable. It's like a recipe for making a potato out of something else entirely," wrote Indi Samarajiva on twitter.

Author Dobbs says she was inspired to write her first book by her uncle Geoffrey Dobbs, an Australian national of British origin. She says her uncle had become "very influential in the tourist industry in Sri Lanka."

However, she does not mention how Dobbs was kicked out of Sri Lanka in 2013 after he caused offence by deliberately flying the Sri Lankan flag upside down at his hotel in Galle.

He argued at the time it was a tit-for-tat after Galle municipal workers had mistakenly placed the Australian flag upside down while decorating the city for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting.

Dobbs returned to the country after some time when local anger had cooled down.

While English speakers might pay 25 pounds sterling to buy the hardcover and eat some interesting mistakes, Sri Lankans may pay for a cheaper paperback edition to enjoy a hearty laugh. (COLOMBO, March 3, 2018)




  1. Authentic Foodie April 16, 08:07 AM

    Has anyone seen the other Cookbook by some ex model. She sits on a kitchen benchtop posing in her Lingerie. She obviously did not do her research, she is alienating women and those who take cooking seriously.

  2. Daniel Roth March 05, 11:10 AM

    Some in Sri Lanka love to call themselves the first sri Lankan to do this or that, when in reality these are non events Some adore to add titles and make mountains out of molehills. Some are made world famous only in Sri Lanka
    This author is another First Sri Lankan To dip her pen when the head was empty However she certainly got her share of publicity

  3. Susa March 05, 11:02 AM

    This is a very cheap, unbalanced way of reporting something economynext. This article doesnt meet the standard of other articles I guess. Its not only the economy which should be open and free...

  4. AK March 05, 09:40 AM

    Well said The controversy here is not just the ludicrous translations , which are forgivable I guess , and hilarious, but its the recipes themselves And its not about using substitutes but the utterly ridiculous recipes which bear absolutely no resemblance to the genuine article Like Indi S says, you cannot make a parsley sambol and call it a gotukola sambol And you cannot make that strange concoction and call it a Love Cake Its like giving a recipe for a Wattalappan and calling it a Creme Brle And incidentally , to those who have commented above... there are PLENTY of Sri Lankan cookery books written by actually excellent cooks available for sale freely. We dont need an Englishwoman to make a mockery of our cuisine in this manner. This book must be totally scrapped

  5. Asiri March 05, 07:35 AM

    I have visited her excellent restaurant in London. Lot of innovation in local Sri Lankan cuisine, this is what we want. Local Sri Lankan Appa ladies can't take our cuisine global. Emily Dobbs can.Bravo dobbs, more power to you. Poor editing job however is inexcusable.
    However her overall project is laudable and shame on this website for picking on a young entrepreneur playing into the Sinhala buddhist mentality of only Sri Lankans should be cooking sri lankan food.
    This is ridiculous.
    Indi samarajiva is no food expert.In fact around the world there's there are substitutes for ingredients that are not easily found.

  6. BW March 04, 03:59 AM

    Yes. It is written from an outsider's point of view, to benefit people abroad who will find it difficult to get ingredients.It is a good thing she has done.
    In many other countries foreigners write books in their language and that is why their recipes are popular.
    I hope, Germans, Italians and so on will also write books about SL recipes in their language just like an English person.
    Sad about Sinhala translations. That is where she has got into trouble. There were couple of factual errors also. She should have got someone to edit it for accuracy.
    Most of our food (and most of us also) are products of Indian colonization if Mahawamsa is to be belived. Kerala appam, (appa), indi appam/nool appam, puttu (pittu) etc. Our appam is crispy at the edges and there are a couple of differences in the recipe as a result.

  7. Sunil March 04, 03:51 AM

    Poor girl. This is sloppy procedure. She should have got someone who knew Sinhala to check it out. This is a basic precaution.
    Also you have to proof read after typesetting.The transposed diacritics is a problem when writing unicode as anyone who typed these Sinhala (Southern pallava style scripts) would know.
    Otherwise she has done a creditable job in helping British resident people, who are not of Sri Lankan origin, enjoy cooking some SL stuff.

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