Since 2015, Eat Offbeat has employed immigrants and refugees from all over the world to arrange homestyle meals evoking their native cuisines—to the delight of New York Metropolis foodies. The meal supply and catering firm was established by 35-year-old Manal Kahi after she moved to the US from Lebanon and located herself on a quest to search out hummus that would rival her grandmother’s. 

Now Eat Offbeat has gathered one of the best of its recipes right into a cookbook, The Kitchen With out Borders, that includes dishes from Syria to Venezuela. For each cookbook copy bought, a donation* might be made to help the Worldwide Rescue Committee. The IRC has performed a key function in Eat Offbeat’s progress by referring resettled refugees to be employed by the corporate.  

Among the many contributors to the brand new cookbook: Shanthini Sivakumar, a local of Sri Lanka, who started cooking solely after she and her new husband have been compelled to flee their nation due to civil battle.

Chef Shanthini and her son, Sarujen, who manages Eat Offbeat’s supply service and digital content material, focus on their household story—and their favourite meals. As a particular deal with, Chef Shanthini has additionally agreed to share her celebrated recipe for fried eggplant curry. 

Chef Shanthini and Sarujen. The mom and son each work for Eat Offbeat.

Picture: Courtesy of Eat Offbeat

How did you discover ways to prepare dinner?

Chef Shanthini: Shortly after I married, my husband and I have been compelled to flee Sri Lanka due to the battle. We moved in together with his brother in Lebanon. That’s who taught me to prepare dinner. Sarujen was born in Lebanon, however one other battle compelled us to flee once more, this time to Turkey, the place I gained the boldness to prepare dinner by myself. 

As a result of alternatives have been scarce in Turkey, we utilized for refugee resettlement. With the assistance of the IRC, we have been in a position to transfer to the US in 2013. That’s once I began cooking professionally, for a catering firm within the Bronx, till the IRC linked me with Eat Offbeat.

Shanthi and her  husband Sivakumar, who is holding toddler Sarujen, stand in front of a sign that says Happy Birthday to Sarujen
Sarujen and his dad and mom, Shanthini and Sivakumar, at Sarujen’s celebration in Lebanon. Picture: Courtesy of Sarujen Sivakumar

What’s particular about your jobs at Eat Offbeat? 

Chef Shanthini: Once I used to work at a restaurant, I needed to observe a recipe and it was largely American meals, very totally different from what I cooked at house. Now I get to prepare dinner my very own meals.  

Sarujen: Everybody that is working right here got here to this nation in the same manner: we’re immigrants and refugees. All people’s studying English. Our favourite factor about Eat Offbeat is simply speaking to our co-workers, and studying their languages and their meals.

What’s your favourite dish?  

Chef Shanthini: Rooster biryani is my favourite dish to prepare dinner. With a number of veggies blended in with the rice, you get all these flavors in a single chunk. It’s scrumptious. 

Sarujen: My favourite, that my mother cooks, is crab curry. She prepares it in a different way than different dishes of hers, and likewise in a different way than different locations. I’ve tried crab curries from totally different eating places and I all the time get a style of one other curry I’ve tried previously. However my mother’s is exclusive.

Should you may select one dish to turn out to be extra in style in America, what would it not be? 

Chef Shanthini: Dosas! I don’t see these in plenty of Indian or Sri Lankan eating places right here. It’s very disappointing to me as a result of it’s such a well-known dish in our nation. I feel if extra individuals right here tried it, they might perceive our tradition extra.

Chef Shanthini, wearing her chefs coat, sits on a stool and looks at the camera.

“Once I used to work at a restaurant, I needed to observe a recipe and it was largely American meals, very totally different from what I cooked at house. Now I get to prepare dinner my very own meals,” says Chef Shanthini.

Picture: The Kitchen With out Borders by The Eat Offbeat Cooks. Images by Penny De Los Santos. Workman Publishing © 2021

What are your favourite components of dwelling in New York Metropolis? 

Sarujen: My first day right here, I spotted instantly how various town is. All people has their very own neighborhood; there’s house for thus many alternative eating places, meals, faces and folks. 

Chef Shanthini: It was my childhood dream to go to the US. I heard rather a lot about it rising up. So once I lastly arrived, it was very satisfying to see every part for myself.

Have you ever discovered about different kinds of cooking at Eat  Offbeat? 

Chef Shanthini: Sure, the opposite cooks are from all around the world and all of us should be taught one another’s dishes. My favourite to date is hen cilantro created by Chef Mariama from Senegal.

Chef Shanthini and Sarujen, in front of a brick wall outside, look at each other and smile while holding a sign that says "Happy Holidays" in Tamil.

Chef Shanthini and Sarujen in a vacation photograph for Eat Offbeat in December of 2018. The signal says “Blissful Holidays” in Tamil.

Picture: Courtesy of Eat Offbeat

Sarujen, do you prepare dinner? 

Sarujen: Some straightforward issues. I’ve helped at work typically with my mother giving me instructions over the telephone. 

Chef Shanthini (laughing): He fries eggs!

Sarujen: Sure, I make scrambled eggs rather a lot.

How does it really feel to be within the cookbook? 

Chef Shanthini: Very completely happy! 

Sarujen:  It’s very transferring to see the issues we eat at house, as a household, within the guide.

Wearing an apron, Chef Shanthini stands behind a table in a kitchen with many plates of a salad.

Chef Shanthini has discovered to prepare dinner dishes from all around the world whereas working with different Eat Offbeat cooks.

Picture: Courtesy of Eat Offbeat

Chef Shanthini’s fried eggplant in creamy curry leaf, fenugreek and tomato sauce

 Serves 4 to six as a primary dish

This eggplant curry is a crowd favourite at Eat Offbeat. The eggplant slices have to sweat a bit previous to frying, which helps them crisp up higher. If in case you have further arms within the kitchen, the 2 elements of this dish could possibly be made concurrently. Like most curries, that is greatest served over contemporary basmati rice.

Chef Shanthini’s fried eggplant curry in a white dish on a red placemat.
Picture: Excerpted from The Kitchen With out Borders: Recipes and Tales from Refugee and Immigrant Cooks by The Eat Offbeat Cooks. Images by Penny De Los Santos. Workman Publishing © 2021


  • 2 medium eggplants (about 2 kilos), reduce into 2 x 1-inch planks
  • 2 teaspoons floor turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 2 pinches, kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds 
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 10 curry leaves 
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon floor cumin
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly floor black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving
  • ¼ cup contemporary cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. Sprinkle the eggplant planks with 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 tablespoon of salt. Let the planks relaxation on a paper towel–lined plate for quarter-hour.
  2. To fry the eggplant, pour vegetable oil to a depth of at the very least 2 inches into a big stockpot or Dutch oven and clip a sweet thermometer to the facet, ensuring it doesn’t contact the underside. Warmth the oil to 375°F over excessive warmth, then decrease the warmth to medium to keep up that temperature throughout frying. Whereas the oil is heating up, line a big plate with paper towels.
  3. Working in batches and utilizing a slotted spoon, place the planks within the oil. Fry till all the edges flip golden, gently stirring, 2 to three minutes, after which shortly take away them with the slotted spoon. Place on the towel-lined plate. Put aside.
  4. Warmth the fenugreek seeds in a small dry skillet over medium warmth, simply till they turn out to be aromatic, about 2 minutes. Take away the seeds from the warmth and grind in a meals processor or spice grinder. Put aside.
  5. Warmth 2 tablespoons of oil in a big pot over medium-high warmth. As soon as the oil is scorching, add the onion and sauté till calmly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the curry leaves and garlic and sauté for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and prepare dinner for five minutes. Stir within the chili powder, cumin, and remaining 1 teaspoon of turmeric, then gently fold within the eggplant planks. Stir in 1 cup of water, one other pinch of salt, the tomato paste, black pepper, and floor fenugreek seeds, and proceed cooking for five minutes extra.
  6. Take away the pan from the warmth and stir within the sugar. Serve over rice, garnished with cilantro.

Assist refugees

Make a present to the IRC to help refugees in the US and all over the world.

*From March 1, 2021, to March 1, 2022, (together with any preordered copies that ship throughout this era), Workman Publishing will donate 2% of the quilt value for each copy of The Kitchen with out Borders cookbook bought in the US and its territories, the UK, Canada, Australia and European Union member states, to the IRC, a not-for-profit group devoted to offering humanitarian support, aid and resettlement to refugees and different victims of oppression, battle, or catastrophe, with a minimal contribution of $25,000 USD. For extra info, go to and No portion of the acquisition value is tax-deductible. For added details about the IRC, see


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