Final launch week giveaway: Worldwide ebook edition!


Okay, folks. So I meant to run giveaways on Sunday & Monday, but launch week is super-chaotic and the e-mails have been fast and furious, so I didn’t. For the sake of my sanity, let’s just say we’re doing one more monster giveaway for the run-up to launch week. Giving away 25 (!) copies of Feast.

AND out of that set, one lucky winner will ALSO be chosen to get a hardcover copy, no matter where in the world they live! I might even slip an extra little treat or two in there. Damn the shipping costs, full speed ahead. Details below!


A Feast of Serendib is my new Sri Lankan American cookbook, and the ebooks are perfect for referring to while cooking, using a tablet stand in the kitchen, or just browsing curled up on the couch. ($24.99 value!)

Just 3 days to launch! Tues / Wed / Thurs., March 3-5, ending at midnight CST.

We’re going to give you MORE chances to enter — you get entered once for each of the following:

– if you LIKE the post
– if you post a COMMENT
– if you SHARE it
– if you TAG in a friend!

So you can enter just once, or enter up to four times if you like! (It’s all about building visibility for the cookbook; people can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists…) 25 lucky winners (!) will be randomly drawn from the entries on this post.

AND we’re resetting the clock, so if you already won an e-book in the last month, it doesn’t matter — you can enter again between March 3-5; a fabulous gift for a friend or family member. Sounds great, right? Here we go!


TODAY’S QUESTION: What’s one dish or cooking technique you’d like to make, but are a little intimidated to try?

(Mine right now would include Sri Lankan kokis, a kind of deep-fried batter rosette cookie, made of rice flour and coconut milk, Dutch-influence. Roshani gave me a tool for it, and I have the batter, and I keep meaning to try it….but a little intimidated!)

If you don’t want to answer the question, it’s fine — any comment counts for entry!


Stephanie will be tracking, and will randomly pick and announce the 15 winners on March 6th.



1) ORDERING: You can order early copies of A Feast of Serendib (signed / personalized, if you like) directly from me right now, at, or from my publisher, Mascot Books:…/coo…/regional/a-feast-of-serendib/. The limited release paperback can only be ordered directly from my website. If you’re in the U.S., you can also add on my hand-roasted Sri Lankan curry powder.

A Feast of Serendib will be launching officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it now from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’ll also be available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can pre-order it now online. If you’re planning to order from Amazon, pre-ordering or ordering on launch day (March 6!) would be super helpful for boosting its visibility on Amazon. Thanks!

978-1-64543-275-3 Hardcover (distributed by Ingram)
978-1-64543-377-4 ebook (on Amazon, etc.)
2370000696366 (trade paperback; only available directly from me, at Serendib Kitchen site; you can also buy the hardcover or ebook there)

2) REVIEW OR BUY IT HERE (reviews are hugely helpful in boosting visibility!):



Barnes & Noble


3) JOIN THE COOKBOOK CLUB: If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: For $10 / month, you can subscribe for fabulous treats mailed to you! (US-only).

My personal FB page:
My Twitter:
Serendib Kitchen blog:
Serendib Kitchen Instagram:
Serendib FB Group:
Serendib FB Page:

5) PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY starred review: “Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes. Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes, as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes); and English tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and carrots).

With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily, with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”


Thanks so much for your support! Indie publishing is absolutely reliant on word of mouth and the support of friends, family, and friendly internet acquaintances. 

— Mary Anne

Goodreads giveaway for A Feast of Serendib

The new GoodReads giveaway (for 5 gorgeous print hardcovers of A Feast of Serendib) is live!

US & Canada folks are encouraged to enter! (We’d do it worldwide, but that doesn’t seem to be an option for GoodReads right now…)

A project that crystallized last week

So, I think I’m ready to talk a little about this new project that crystallized last week. (Photo of dragonfruit chocolate bars ‘crystallized’ for inspiration.)


There are multiple elements coming together in this, things I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m still not positive of what the final shape will be.

• the memoir: I’ve been working for a while on a project titled _Domestic Resistance_, a meditation on how we stay sane while under siege in the Trump presidency, how handwork and reclamation of heritage skills, appreciation of culture and diversity, celebration of community and the joys of making all came together to sustain me (as I worked on my Sri Lankan cookbook in the last few years) through intense work, deep political frustration, and occasional flailings of despair. Asking how we can work for change without exhausting ourselves.

• the makerspace: we may have found a place in Forest Park for the first stage of the writing / textile arts / tech makerspace that we started planning two years ago. Our hope is that it allows the community to share their knowledge, help each other over the initial humps of uncertainty and anxiety, finding our way to new skills and approaches that make our lives better in a host of ways. I have some legal and financial details to work out still, and then there’ll be a Kickstarter to help get us off the ground (looking for around $25K in initial funding, I think), but I hope we’ll be up and running soon, possibly by May.

(NOTE: the space won’t be wheelchair accessible, unfortunately; you’ll need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs to access it. My plan is that if people who can’t access it want to sign up for a class, we’ll find an alternate accessible location for that class. And then long-term, we’ll continue looking for accessible spaces in the area. Ideally, I’d eventually like to grow into a constellation of spaces in Forest Park, Oak Park, Austin, etc.)

• the magazine: this is the newest bit, and still a bit inchoate. For my memoir, I was already thinking that I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a traditional book — I was wondering what it might look like as a quarterly magazine, sort of a cross between Martha Stewart Living and Granta. Glossy, beautiful photos, a year in the life, combining running for office, the tail end of cancer treatment, the house and garden and parenting and engaging in local politics, and of course, cooking.

Last week, I realized that it would be SO GREAT to extend that into a broader publication. I’ve been increasingly frustrated by how balkanized communications media are becoming, and at least locally, we’re really splitting demographically, with some people reading the print Wednesday Journal, some people mostly on FB groups (often very private ones), some people mostly auditory listeners, and the kids are on TikTok and SnapChat doing god knows what…

If we had a publication that showcased progressive voices and conversations, in a variety of areas (garden, food, schools, etc.) and if we could push it out in multiple media (a print version, an online version, a podcast, TikToks, etc.), maybe we’d have a chance at actually talking to each other, actually listening.

So often when I was running for office, I found that with something as simple as getting rid of fines at the library, people I talked to were initially resistant, but all they needed was for someone to actually present the argument to them, and then they realized that yes, doing this would actually align with their values. And we could afford it too.


That’s where my head is right now. I have a lot more specifics, but I think the next stage is a whole host of conversations. I’m going to want to shape this very carefully, if it’s to do what I hope it’ll do, and I’m going to need a lot of community input.

But I think my own memoir would be interesting in conversation with a broader community magazine, and the magazine would be in conversation with what we do at the makerspace, and as Serendib Press develops, Stephanie and Heather and Darius and Emmanuel and Julia are learning more and more about the publication process, so we’re getting into a better position to do this well.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m about to go out of town, and much of March is super-absorbed with travel and Feast launch events. But I’m going to be talking to people, local and otherwise, about all of this. We’ll see where it takes us.

(We’re going to need a name.)

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek!

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek! I hope to see some of you there:

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Salon A/B “Food in Genre Fiction”
Inspired by Mary Anne Mohanraj’s latest publication being a cookbook, let’s think about food and its place in genre fiction! In stories where a stranger visits a new culture, we often hear about their food choices (Becky Chambers’s “Record of a Spaceborn Few” comes to mind). Food can be a marker of similarity or difference between people, and ultimately, it is a necessity. When our worlds change, what happens to the food in them?

M: Sasha Pixlee. Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tina LeCount Myers, Deborah J. Ross, Juliette Wade

4:30 PM – 5:45 PM, Salon C, POC Meetup
Social gathering for members who identify as people of color (only, please). We’ll share questions, experiences, and solidarity. Coffee and tea will be provided. Anyone who wants can also bring their own snacks, from the Consuite or elsewhere.
M: Abie Ekenezar

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM, Salon A/B, “Opening Ceremonies”
We’ll start the convention off with a brief gathering to meet the Honored Guests and hear some words from the Honored Ghost.

8:00 PM – 9:15 PM, Salon A/B “Societal Defaults That Carry Into Genre”
Genre fiction allows us to imagine worlds and cultures completely different from ours, yet sometimes some cultural assumptions are so ingrained that we don’t consider them changeable. For example, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “The Stars Change” is a book that challenges the assumption of monogamy. What other assumptions do we see carrying into the new spaces and cultures we create? How can we break out of those?
M: Lisa Eckstein. Karen Brenchley, Garrett Croker, Alyc Helms, Mary Anne Mohanraj

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM, Salon A/B “Archives and Genre”
Archives are science fictional: archivists have to anticipate climate change, the evolution of technology, and how historians will view the present day. Archives are fantastical: they involve a deep encounter with the past, redolent of parchment, leather, and the dust of vanished information. This panel will explore archives as an SFF-nal phenomenon, as well as portrayals of archives and archivists in science fiction and fantasy.
M: Michele Cox. Marion Deeds, Bradford Lyau, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Norm Sperling

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Salon A/B “Genre Nonprofits With Mary Anne Mohanraj”
Mary Anne will share what she’s learned about nonprofits and the field, discussing con-running and organizations such as Con or Bust, Strange Horizons, and her own Speculative Literature Foundation. Topics may include succession planning, professionalization (and its hazards), organizational growth, fundraising, inclusiveness / exclusion, and realistic enforcement of convention codes of conduct.
Mary Anne Mohanraj (This description and title got fixed and updated in the app but not the printed version of the program; my apologies, but we didn’t catch it in time.)

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Santa Rosa “Honored Guest Reading”
Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nisi Shawl

Saturday evening: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Sunday morning: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Kale Sambol

Last curry bun experiment from Bite Nite. I ended up serving the regular curry buns (previous three posts) on a bed of kale sambol, which was beautiful and delicious and good. I’d do that again.

But as I was making them, I found myself wondering whether I could just add some kale sambol inside the bun, and make a more nutritious and even tastier curry buns. I’m honestly not sure whether to call this a success or not, because the kale definitely cooked while the bun was baking, so you lost all the green sharp freshness of it, and even the raw onions and tomato and coconut mellowed out. That was kind of sad, seeing what happened to the kale. The end flavor was much milder than I was expecting.

But that said — I might do it again, esp. if I was making curry buns to take to a picnic or some such. Get a little vegetable in there with your curry — can’t hurt, might help. And I do think it added a bit of interesting flavor contrast as well.

Kale sambol recipe from cookbook below. I recommend making some every time you make a curry — so good! 🙂


Kale Sambol

I had never been a big kale fan, but my friend, Roshani, completely converted me with her Aunty Indranee’s use of kale in this traditional sambol. In Sri Lanka, this would have been made with a native green, gotu kola, but kale is an excellent substitute (you can also try any other leafy greens, like beet greens, mustard greens, or rainbow chard).

For this preparation, kale is chopped small and tenderized with lime juice. When mixed with the coconut, tomatoes, sugar, and salt, the result is a tasty and addictive sambol that has become an essential component to many of our meals — if I make a meat curry now, I almost always make kale sambol to accompany it, and will often eat more sambol than curry. I’d have it with a little rice, but Kevin likes to just have beef curry and kale sambol together in a bowl, or with steak on a plate, which is also delicious.

1 bunch kale, leaves stripped off (stems discarded)
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
Juice of 2 small limes (about 2-3 TBL)
1-2 TBL sugar
1 tsp fine salt

1. Pulse kale in food processor until completely shredded into small bits.
2. Add onion, coconut, tomato, lime juice, sugar, salt. Mix thoroughly.

Can be served immediately, but best if allowed to sit and blend for an hour or so. Will keep in fridge for a good week—refresh with a little extra lime juice as needed.

Jackfruit and chickpea curry

For the jackfruit curry buns, I sprinkled them with hemp seed. I’ve never used hemp seed before, but I hear it’s good for you? The exciting part of this, though, were the chickpeas. When I asked around, it seemed like jackfruit buns are a thing in Sri Lanka, and also jackfruit and potato buns.

But I really wanted to amp up the protein in these for my vegetarian friends, so I thought, why not chickpeas? And my peoples, it was good. Make a jackfruit curry, cook it down, add a can of drained chickpeas, simmer away the sauce to a nice, fairly dry curry with concentrated flavor.

You know what made it even better? I wanted just a little more flavor oomph, but without adding a meat product. How to get that umami? I researched what vegetarians use, and it seemed like mushroom powder was a popular option, coming out of Japanese cuisine. Didn’t have that on hand, though. (Recommendations for brands welcome, as I’d like to get some and try playing with it.) Another option, though, was liquid smoke….and I had a vague memory that Kevin had used that at some point.

So I asked him, and yes, we actually had some. I added a bit to the curry, somewhat hesitantly and dubiously, I admit, a little worried that I was going to ruin a big batch of jackfruit and chickpea curry, and I’d have to start all over. I put in maybe 2 tablespoons? But people, it really was good. It felt very weird, deliberately adding smoke to a dish, but on the other hand, traditionally, this kind of curry would be made in a chatti clay pot over a wood fire, so probably you’d get some smoke infused into the dish that way, so one could argue that the liquid smoke is actually *more* traditional than not including it…well, I don’t know if I’m confident making that argument. But I will note that it was good.

I don’t have a fully written out recipe for this yet — I’ll want to make it again with measurements. But this is the jackfruit curry recipe, so you could start with that, double it, add a can of drained chickpeas, add a few T of liquid smoke, and put it all in the buns from the mas paan recipe in my cookbook, and you’d be good to go. 


Jackfruit Curry / Palakai Kari
(30 minutes, serves 6)

Young jackfruit has a texture similar to meat, though softer; it’s more delicate, as is the flavor. It’s easy to find online in cans, packed in brine; it’s also often available at grocery stores, especially ones that cater to vegetarians. This savory curry sauce is identical to what I’d use for beef, but gives a notably different (and delicious) result when cooked with jackfruit instead. I’d serve this with rice, a green vegetable, and chutneys, pickles, and/or sambols.

2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
3 TBL vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
1 lb young jackfruit, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 TBL lime juice
1 cup coconut milk + 1 cup water

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and lime juice.

2. Add jackfruit and stir on high for a few minutes. Add coconut milk and water, stirring gently to combine. Turn down to medium, and let cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally; add water if needed. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Production cooking for Bite Nite

I definitely need help if I’m going to be doing more production cooking — for Bite Nite, we made several hundred curry buns to give out (all of which went that night! and fast!), and even though we used pre-made dough, I was pretty tired by the end of the cooking, even with Kevin‘s help. It was a good thing Heather was able to come in from Ann Arbor to help with staffing the event, because even if you can’t tell from the photo, I was about ready to fall over from exhaustion that night.

Mas Paan from Bite Night back in January

I am *finally* getting around to posting some of the curry bun experiments from Bite Nite (back in January). I made three different kinds — the first was traditional mas paan. Make a beef and potato curry, cook it ’til dry, wrap in bread dough, brush with egg wash, bake. Except I was worried that I’d get the three types of buns confused at a hectic event, so just in case, I sprinkled them with different kinds of seeds. Which also means, hey, added nutrition + extra pretty. Win-win-win.

Chia seeds on the beef and potato buns. Yum. Recipe from Feast below.


Mas Paan

Mas Paan is literally ‘meat bread,’ and is a favorite snack sold at roadside stands, hotel cafes, and transit stations across Sri Lanka. The yeast bread may be filled with whatever curry you like — fish and vegetarian options are also common. This batch, I made with some leftover pork and potato curry, but most often, I would make this with beef and potato curry. Regardless, having thirty mas paan in my fridge and freezer means that I’ll snack happy for a few days, take them with me while traveling — they’re great to have on the road — and be able to pull some out of the freezer to toast up when I get home again. It’s best piping hot, but may also be happily eaten at room temperature.

Note: If you don’t want to make the dough by hand, and your grocery store carries frozen loaves of bread dough, I’ve thawed and used a pair of those for this recipe to good effect. This recipe adapted from Charmaine Solomon’s _The Complete Asian Cookbook_, with very little change.

Note 2: Minal Hajratwala has a fascinating chapter that explores the political significance of similar buns in South Africa, in her book on the diaspora, _Leaving India_. Highly recommended.

Mas Paan
(about three hours + currying time, makes 30)

1 batch meat and potato curry (about 2-3 lbs. meat, 3 russet potatoes)
1/2 c. milk
3 t. sugar
2 1/2 t. salt
3 oz. butter
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 packet (about 2 1/4 t.) active dry yeast
5 1/2 – 6 c. all-purpose or bread flour

1. Make curry, if needed; it’s tempting to make it while the dough is proving, but the timing can be tricky, since the curry needs to cool down, and your dough may overprove, turning yeasty. (I admit to risking it on occasion, though, for efficiency’s sake.) The curry should be cooked until it is very dry, and then cooled down to room temperature.

2. Make dough: Scald milk, stir in sugar, salt and butter and cool to lukewarm. Measure warm water into a large bowl; stir yeast into water until dissolved. Add milk mixture and 3 c. of flour; beat until smooth. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board, and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Grease a bowl with butter, then put the dough ball in, turning it to make sure it’s all greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and allow to prove in a warm place until doubled in bulk (inside a turned off oven works well), about 1 – 1.5 hours. (This recipe is also used for making breudher in Sri Lanka.)

3. Divide the dough into 30 equal portions, flatten each portion to a circle and put a spoonful of meat and potato curry in the center. Bring the edges together, pressing to seal. If you keep the dough thinner at the edges when you’re flattening it, that’ll help keep it from being too bready at the bottom.

4. Grease baking trays and put buns with the join downwards on the trays, leaving room for them to rise and spread. Cover with a dry cloth and again, leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until nearly doubled in bulk.

5. Brush with egg glaze (egg whites or even heavy cream may be used instead) and bake in a hot oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Lovely with hot, sweet, milky tea.


Dragonfruit Nebula Bars: Recipe

Recipe below. But first: In the far reaches of the galaxy, the Dragonfruit Nebulae lie. Amid rocky crags, the gilded dragons guard their gemstone horde. Sparks of citrus and pepper dance in dark caverns. Once you taste their seductive wiles, you may find yourself unable to resist returning, again and again.

Heh. If I were going to work with dragonfruit, I knew I wanted to do a diamondscale bar (along with a scattering of gemstones), and gild it — I love how the combo of dragonfruit powder and edible gold came out. Gorgeous.

But what about the taste? Dragonfruit itself has a surprisingly delicate flavor, and while the concentrated powder is lovely to the tongue, once you mix that powder with white chocolate, it fades to just a hint of fruitiness. It needed something more.

A dragon-themed bar had to have some kind of heat, and while I do cayenne chocolates, cayenne would overpower the dragonfruit here. White pepper is perfect, a subtle heat that lingers on the tongue. And the citric acid doesn’t dissolve into the melted chocolate — instead, it dances on the tongue, little pinpricks of tang amidst the sea of fruity sweetness.

My test for a sweet, deciding whether it deserves a name, is whether it’s sufficiently ‘more-ish’. Do I find myself coming back to my island counter, breaking off another little bit to pop in my mouth again and again? This one definitely qualifies. 


Dragonfruit Nebulae Chocolate
(makes two bars)

2 c. white chocolate, melted (1/2 power in microwave, 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice)
2 t. dragonfruit powder
1/2 t. white pepper
1/2 t. citric acid
additional dragonfruit powder and edible gold dust for decoration, optional

1. Combine ingredients, stirring. Pour into mold and let set for a few hours, until firm.

2. Unmold, and if desired, gild with dragonfruit powder and edible gold dust. Eat and enjoy!