Five Cookbooks for a Taste of Regional Indian Cuisines
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It seems a little ironic to me that one of the most popular cuisines in the world is also one of the most misunderstood. As an Indian, I'm not sure what bothers me the most. Perhaps it's the fact that everyone associates Indian cuisine with fragrant curries and roasted meats and breads fresh off a tandoor, without realising that there is so much more to one of the greatest cuisines of the world than a few stereotypes (delicious as they may be). Perhaps it's the fact that nobody seems to understand that Indian cuisine is so vast and varied that it differs greatly between regions within India itself. Perhaps it's because everyone chooses to overlook the fact that Indian cuisine has been vastly influenced by various external factors such as invasions, colonialism, and ancient trading routes between India and the rest of the world.
It is only by familiarising oneself with Indian cuisine that one can truly learn about the subtle and the overt differences from region to region. This is not a journey that one can undertake as a consumer alone; of course, one may become mildly acquainted with a culture simply by paying for it in supermarkets or restaurants, but to truly understand you need to pick up a book or two, or a series of books, and you need to know which spices go into what; you need to know how to make basic pastes for the curries you are so fond of eating; you need to feel the smooth dough in the palm of your hands before you roll out your naan, paratha, thepla, or chapathi.
If you've never cooked mildly spiced Kashmiri saag, or gently but firmly hand stretched rumaali roti, holding your breath so it doesn't tear; if you've never made spicy mango pickles like they make in the desert state of Gujarat, or cooked macher jhol, the fish in mustard sauce recipe from the eastern state of Bengal; if you've never stirred moong dal ka halwa, the lentil pudding that hails from central India, over a low flame until your arms ached, or made the spiced zingy tamarind rice from south India, with the slow heat permeating your taste buds as you eat it with cooling yoghurt, the following books are great places to start.
I've come to the end of my list, and I realise there's so much more I want to include, so this list may just be the first in a list of lists. What's your favourite Indian cookbook? Let me know in the comments!