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British chef in the soup over Sri Lankan curry

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)


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