Throughout May, chef and hopper-queen O Tama Carey of Sydney's Lankan Filling Station will be serving a cashew curry special, with $5 from every sale to be directed to a charity in Sri Lanka.
The curry, which has never been offered on the Filling Station's menu before, is the chef's culinary response to the devastating April bombings in Colombo. Her mother, born in Colombo, is of Burgher heritage, and the chef has friends and family who live in the country. Although they were unharmed, Carey was deeply saddened by the attacks.
"It's sad when this stuff happens anywhere in the world," she says. "But the fact that Sri Lanka had a civil war that lasted for so long, and had a brief period of peace… it feels even more tragic."
The cashew curry is distinctive to Sri Lankan cuisine. The country has a healthy agricultural production of cashew nuts – though the cashew tree is an introduced species – and in curry form, the nut produces a smooth and creamy result.
"It's quite a rich curry, but it's also very gentle," says Carey, who cooks the nuts with cumin, white curry powder, and the usual flavours found in Sri Lankan curries: onion, curry leaves, ginger, garlic and chilli. "When you cook the cashews, they soak up the juice and give a soft and nutty texture. It's complementary to the other curries and hoppers we have on the menu."
The cashews have been donated by produce suppliers Two Providores, who Carey initially approached to acquire the nuts at cost price for her Cashews for Charity campaign. Instead, they agreed to provide the nuts free of charge.
As for her chosen charity, Carey is still researching an appropriate organisation to direct the proceeds of the curry sales. She already sources the restaurant's red and samba rice from Rural Returns, a Sri Lankan not-for-profit organisation that helps farmers grow crops, connect with international markets, and earn a sustainable income. For her May cashew curry project, she's mindful of selecting a charity that similarly supports the Sri Lankan community through long-term solutions. "I don't want to pick just any charity – I want to pick someone who we can have an ongoing affiliation for possible future projects," she says. "That's important to me."
The Cashews for Charity cashew curry will be available at Lankan Filling Station throughout May. The menu price of the curry is $15, with $5 to be directed to a Sri Lankan charity chosen by O Tama Carey. 58 Riley St, East Sydney NSW 2010, (02) 8542 9936, lankanfillingstation.com.au