The first thing that comes to mind, when confronted with Dining with Dragons, is the assumption that it is a cook book, and then some. The main author is, after all, none other than world-renowned chef Carol Selva Rajah. Delving into its contents, however, reveals pleasant surprises—not only is Carol adept at whipping up delectable dishes, she is equally skilled at weaving tasteful yarns!
Dubbed ‘Superchef’ and ‘Queen of Nonya Cuisine’, Malaysia-born Carol, 75, is an authority on food history and culinary art. With over 40 years of experience under her belt, she remains an active food specialist, speaker, writer, chef, and educator. Her rise to fame began when James Beard—the ‘American Kitchen God’—savoured his ﬁrst spoonful of Carol‘s curry. Carol was soon rubbing shoulders with other culinary giants like Julia Child, Peter Kump and Margaret Fulton. Today, Carol is regarded as a pioneer who placed Asian cuisine on the global map, speciﬁcally Baba-Nonya delicacies, taught to her by her Cantonese amah, her Tamil Hokkien-speaking mother and her ‘Aunty Siok’.
In Dining with Dragons, Carol the chef and talespinner skillfully peels and unreels the multi-layered plots of her life, with a captivating and heady mix of personal history, secret recipes and spellbinding stories. The pages brim with an eclectic yet harmonious mélange of topics: memories of her fascinating life; food’s power as an agent of social change; the clandestine order of the amahsisterhood; the dowry system; British Malaya; Independence; the Communist insurgency; migration, and the pursuit of identity in modern-day Australia. Each chapter concludes with a charming heirloom recipe.
“These chapters tell of my journey, my highs and lows, tears and laughter, the sacriﬁces and victories,” Carol says. “I owe my life to these ‘Dragons’, generations of strong and courageous women. Their unwavering faith, indomitable spirit, sacriﬁces and unbending integrity made me brave in carving my own path.”
Dining with Dragons is co-authored by Carol’s brother, Dr. Abel Arumugam, a renowned surgeon.