Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Birdwoman's Palate” as Want to Read:
The Birdwoman's Palate
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Birdwoman's Palate

2.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,444 ratings  ·  267 reviews

In this exhilarating culinary novel, a woman’s road trip through Indonesia becomes a discovery of friendship, self, and other rare delicacies.

Aruna is an epidemiologist dedicated to food and avian politics. One is heaven, the other earth. The two passions blend in unexpected ways when Aruna is asked to research a handful of isolated bird flu cases reported across Indon

Kindle Edition, 358 pages
Published February 1st 2018 by AmazonCrossing (first published November 13th 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Birdwoman's Palate, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Laura Danoff The food element is interesting for those who want to know a lot about southeast asian food, but the story isn't worth it
The food element is interesting for those who want to know a lot about southeast asian food, but the story isn't worth it

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 2.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,444 ratings  ·  267 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Birdwoman's Palate
The Birdwoman's Palate has an intriguing premise and for the first couple of chapters I was thinking this would probably be a four star book. It tells the story of Aruna, an Indonesian woman in her mid-thirties who's a bit of a foodie and is working for a government agency during an outbreak of avian flu.

As it became clearer that there was no real plot arc or structure to the book, and that the avian flu subplot was an odd McGuffin, I revised my opinion to perhaps a 3 out of 5. After all, there
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
I really do not understand the low overall ratings for this book. I guess, I loved it so much because I love food, don’t like people all that much, found the insight into Indonesia fascinating and I do at times really love a novel of ideas.
Oh how I very much wanted this book to be better than it was.

Note how that doesn't say I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but there's really no denying that it's a hot mess of a novel basically redeemed by lyrical and passionate food writing.

As other reviewers have mentioned, trying to tie a culinary road trip around Indonesia with a subplot about avian flu epidemiology and government corruption is weird at best, and never fully gels. At one point the characters take a detour for a luscious duc
Jan 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own, kindle, dnf_18
1 Star and a DNF designation (Did Not Finish).

I was drawn to the story line. I like epidemiological mysteries and I enjoy food writing. It seemed an intriguing combination.

I made it through 40% and could not read any more. The writing is good, but drawn out and laborious. There were several chapters that developed characters, which I thought could have been significantly condensed without losing the plot.

The author seems to be forcing together several disparate items together, i.e. champagne
Peter Baran
So my second Read Harder book and I am initially unsure of how to classify it. I think it would like to be literary fiction, and I initially thought it would be a culinary infected thriller about bird flu in Indonesia. It actually is a romance, both of the standard type and one of food - the heroine is a bird expert travelling Indonesia with her stuck up colleague trying to help cure or quarantine the 2011 SARS outbreak. Joining her are her best male and female friends, a chef and a food writer ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book was almost a "DNF" (Did Not Finish) for me. The English translation is solid. The tone is snarky, in fact, very snarky, but overly artificial and uncomfortable. Flippant but not witty. (Was the author or the translator trying to do a poor imitation of Carrie Bradshaw or Samantha Jones from "Sex in the City"?) Aruna, the main character, seems like an adolescent with displaced or misplaced anger.

The main reason I read this book and slogged through it was because of its focus on Indonesia
Paskalis Damar
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
I read ‘Aruna & Lidahnya’ in anticipation to the upcoming movie directed by one of the finest Indonesian directors. I had the pictures of the characters in my mind and I had known the synopsis a little before going through the book.

‘Aruna & Lidahnya’ revolves around a gastronomical journey around the most exotic cities of Indonesia, which goes hand in hand with an expedition to unravel a strange Avian flu epidemic—with a hint of conspiracies. Aruna, the main protagonist, mostly becomes an observ
Erika Miller
This is a painstakingly told tale of one woman eating her way through her own country. She does this while acting as a consultant epidemiologist, trying to prove that an outbreak of the avian flu is actually occurring. As she journeys through her homeland...accompanied by her two best friends, we see her grow professionally and romantically. By the end of the book, she has found a balance between real-life, where relationships feed us and her tendencies to isolate herself, only finding joy from ...more
Did not finish. While some reviewers indicated that this book would be enjoyable for non-foodie's, it is way to heavy on detailed descriptions of food dishes to keep my interest. Maybe if I had a better sense of the dishes described, I would be more interested, but mostly, I'm not interested enough in food culture to invest more time in a book I didn't connect with 2 hours into an 11 hour audiobook.
Patricia L Kerr
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Too much food

Seriously, the characters should weigh 300 pounds with all the food they eat. Got tired reading about it. I had hoped to learn about their culture but they sound more like Americans obsessed with food and sex.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I made it about halfway through this one. It's not terrible but feels like an absentminded conversation between friends or being able to read someone's self-absorbed thoughts. There wasn't enough plot to keep me motivated.
My Indonesia Book Around the World.

This felt like it took a lot longer to read than it actually did. The plot was...confusing and not really linear. BUT the writing was pretty strong and pretty.
May 30, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, read-in-2019
I probably didn't "get it". The book moved back and forth from dream sequences to the story and I sort of got lost in all the back and forth.. I somehow could not warm up to the main character.
Viki Holmes
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Laksmi Pamuntjak's trademark lush prose and sparkling dialogue shine in this culinary journey through Indonesia from the perspective of epidemiologist Aruna. It's no surprise that the author of Jakarta's Good Food Guide should produce a novel suffused with the love of intense flavours and dishes, but it is Pamuntjak's discipline as a poet that makes the depictions of her home country so vivid and enticing. A novel to be savoured!
Amy Jones
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it

The descriptions of food are transporting, especially as someone who has never been to Indonesia. The gradual blossoming of the protagonist simmers through the book and the ending is both a shock and comforting.
I wanted to like this. As other reviewers have said, the plot just falls apart. The food descriptions were interesting but I would have gotten more out of an illustrated cookbook. I liked Aruna at the beginning, but then the relationships between characters just made less and less sense. I kept on until the end, but can't say I recommend.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Love Letter to Indonesian Food!

I started this novel believing it was going to mostly be about food and a bit about avian flu and possibly the conflict between being a “foodist” (nod to Nadezhda) and the dangers the food industry presents. I was wrong. There’s only a sprinkle of avian flu in this novel- it’s at least 80% food and travel, so that assumption was correct. That said, I was blindsided by a book that is a lot about food (the food porn!!!) but also a lot about an imperfect protagonist
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wish I liked this more. Not enough bird flu in the plot. Reading this book was similar to being at a dinner party where everyone speaks another language and you know no one.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have a lot of ambivalence about this book because I think that if I were more familiar with Indonesia (geography, food, culture), the book would hold more resonance for me. Importantly, I don't think that it is necessarily a novelist's job to familiarize me with a new place; writers are perfectly free to write from within a culture to readers within that culture, and such work is quite often beautiful and powerful. As an outsider, though, reading this novel felt like "looking through a glass d ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I usually enjoy books about traveling, love books with food and different dishes but I really struggled to connect with this book. Food references were too deep and as I've never traveled to Asia, I found all names of the dishes blending into one. It was really really full of food, which made me hungry at times, but mostly just pages and pages of dishes, which sounded good, but contained so many ingredients and so much information, it became tiring. 

Subject of avian flu sounded also very interes
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I liked the "tour" of Indonesia and the epidemiology aspect of the story (b/c I once worked in Epi). A true "foodie" would love this book because the primary topic is Indonesian food. I found the story a bit lacking. It wasn't compelling enough for a light read and wasn't complex enough for a deep dive read. Meh.
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book!!

Such an interesting read on so many levels!
Food, work, politics, corruption, world health, love , friendships, family relationships, travels, egos... Beautifully written and very insightful. I looked forward to spending time in this book and as with all good reads I was sad to come to it's end. Delightful book that you will want to devour.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In one word... yummy.

Food, friends and love... all intertwined and wrapped up like a ... yeh, that’s too easy! 😉 Insatiably lovely and thoughtful.
Lee Hunter
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Now I need to cook

Great plot, never predictable, and such a great storehouse of ideas for what I now must try: cooking Indonesian style!
Jun 16, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book started off with so much promise. A quirky scientist foodie sets off on an adventure combining her two loves: avian flu and eating to the point of exhaustion.

I've read many books with meh plots and characterization that I still enjoyed because of the food descriptions (but then I'm someone who reads cookbooks for fun). Unfortunately, the food part just wasn't there.

In large part this is because I'm coming to it as an American, reading the English translation, and completely unfamiliar
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novela, kindle-first
I am not sure what this novel is: A travel journal, a soul search, a love story.
Aruna, works for an NGO that consults with a Ministry in Indonesia. Her description of the work there is one anybody working on a Ministry in Bolivia or any other developing country will make.
I enjoyed the way Aruna describes the food. Although most of the names sound strange, it is interesting how the author is able to convey the pasion Aruna feels for the food.
And yes, it is a love story that, as in real life itse
Erin Quinney
This is an odd book--avian flu, relationships, politics, religion, a little Indonesian history a and a lot of food. A lot of food. The avian flu almost acts as a MacGuffin. The characters need to have a mission in order to eat their way across Indonesia and "Birdwoman" sounds interesting in a title, so...let's see...avian flu! Oh, and lets throw in some political conspiracies about big pharma so we can comment on the abysmal state of medical care, religion, and government corruption. It's an odd ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle-first, fiction
I am not sure if something was lost in the translation, but I felt the entire time I kept waiting for something to actually happen, when nothing ever really did, and the few things that did were just... anticlimactic as could be.

I enjoyed the character or Aruna, but I wish she'd been given something to do other than wander from restaurant to restaurant (literally, the second half of the group's journey is truly going from one to the next, like... don't they ever get full?). At the outset, the j
Sandra Wagner-Wright
This is the story of a young, professional woman in a conservative culture as she comes into herself. We meet her as an insecure, lonely epidemiologist working for an NGO in Jakarta. She has a new assignment to investigate cases of avian flu and determine if they are an epidemic. But she also wants to sample regional cuisine. Aruna invites her friends Bono, a chief, and Nadezhda, a food writer, to come along for the food. Aruna’s colleague, Farish, joins the avian flu investigation.

From here the
Overall this didn’t really come together for me. The premise sounded interesting enough. Aruna is an epidemiologist who has to travel around Indonesia investigating some cases of bird flu. Except that part of the plot never really develops. For some reason she takes three friends with her and they spend all their time checking out local cuisine. Her food writing is excellent and had me licking my lips and feeling hungry. But there was just so much of it and it dominated the book to too great an ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Laut Bercerita
  • Tiba Sebelum Berangkat
  • Gadis Kretek
  • Aroma Karsa
  • Wesel Pos
  • Orang-Orang Oetimu
  • Filosofi Teras
  • Go
  • In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos
  • Man Tiger
  • Drupadi
  • Resign!
  • Perjamuan Khong Guan
  • Ganjil-Genap
  • 9 dari Nadira
  • Jakarta Sebelum Pagi
  • Corat Coret di Toilet
  • Katarsis
See similar books…
Laksmi Pamuntjak is a bilingual Indonesian novelist, poet, food writer, journalist and co-founder of Aksara Bookstore. She works as an art and food consultant and writes for numerous local and international publications including opinion articles for the Guardian.

She is the author of two collections of poetry (one of which, Ellipsis, appeared in the 2005 Herald UK Books of the Year pages); a trea

Related Articles

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
51 likes · 14 comments
“In the end we all must return to the earth, so is there any greater act of devotion than surrendering your entire life to it? And is there anyone more shameless than someone who kills innocent creatures?” 0 likes
“How does it feel living life every day with such attractive faces in a place where women are forced to take responsibility even for the worst outcomes that spring from other people’s lusts?” 0 likes
More quotes…