The Birdwoman's Palate

Narrated in Aruna’s unforgettable, hilarious voice and peppered with mouthwatering dishes, The Birdwoman's Palate begins as an escape from reality and ends up being a journey to connection and self-discovery. 


In The Birdwoman's Palate (Publication Date: 1 February 2018), Aruna is an independent, sharp-edged epidemiologist dedicated to food and avian politics. To her, one represents heaven, the other earth. The two passions blend in unexpected ways when she is asked to research a handful of isolated bird flu cases reported across Indonesia. While the virus has adversely affected the farm of an aunt of Aruna’s in rural West Java, and made her own confit de canard highly questionable, the investigation does provide an irresistible opportunity.

It’s the perfect excuse for Aruna to get away from corrupt and corrosive Jakarta and explore the spices of the far-flung regions of the islands with three friends: a celebrity chef, a globe-trotting foodist, and a coworker, Farish.

From Medan to Surabaya, Palembang to Pontianak, Aruna and her friends have their fill of local cuisine. With every delicious dish, she discovers there’s so much more to food, politics, and friendship than she had realized. Now, this liberating new perspective on her country—and on her life—will push her to pursue the things she’s before only dreamed of doing.

Praise for "The Birdwoman's Palate":

  • “Who better to write a book about a culinary tour through Indonesia than Laksmi, whose passion and knowledge of the local cuisine is unsurpassed. I still remember when she took us around Jakarta on a local food tour 18 years ago. This book brings me back to the street satays and sit down feasts we experienced together”

    - Jean-Georges Vongerichten

  • A beautifully-written novel: humane, humble, passionate, and ripe with culinary interactions ... a fitting tribute from the author of Indonesia's first independent good food guide.

    - William Wongso, Indonesian culinary guru

  • ... redolent, peppery, silky come to mind. Running through the novel's riot of textures, smells, tastes, is the closeness of disease and death, with lust, self-discovery and love. The novel has an aura of a dream, too, a little shimmery - it's in the idiom of 21st-century text speak, and yet, as I was reading, I thought of Dutch still lives, with their artfully perfect fruit, flowers, fish and meat, reminding us of mortality and decay amidst beauty. The Birdwoman’s Palate for me is an incitement to take time to savor the present from the endless protocols that mask and organize human frailty.

    - Margaret Cohen, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Literature, Culture and Civilization, Stanford University

  • Laksmi Pamuntjak's second novel, The Birdwoman's Palate, is her delicious love letter to the culinary world. The author, who made her name writing the bible of Jakarta's food scene, takes us on a fascinating journey through the far-flung spots of the Indonesian archipelago, diving into the wealth of local cuisines but also the complexity of regional politics with her signature wit and wisdom.

    - Yenni Kwok, journalist

When history and climate change threaten to overpower us we need books like Laksmi Pamuntjak’s The Birdwoman's Palate to remind us that it is through love, friendship, culture, and sharing the good things nature has to offer we will find solace and the solutions for moving forward. It is a well-told, affecting tale that brings us closer, over time and space, in the hour of need.

- Sjon, author of Moonstone: The Boy who Never Was

See Also