Please Suggest An Indian Cookbook

johnliu_gwMarch 13, 2011

I have decided it is time to learn something about Indian food. Presently I know nothing whatsoever about this cuisine. Well, I used to eat curries at this dive place called the Calcutta Cricket Club on Santa Monica Blvd in L.A. It was sort of Indian food as a junior and not particularly adventuresome British subaltern might have experienced it in colonial times. As a result, I don't really love curry. I'm not all that interested in making curry. I'm not looking for a curry cookbook.

What I'm looking for is an Indian equivalent to Marcella Hazan or Shuizuo Tsuji, or the Larousse Gastronomique. An author who has written something quite fundamental and even encylopedic, that starts with the basic ingredients and flavours of India, the typical cooking techniques, the key tools, then covers the mother dishes, in all their original complexity and with every bit of fat, salt, or other no-no.

Can anyone suggest some possible titles? I have a list of titles from melaska, she of the magic purse, but I'd like to have several options in hand before I go off to Powell's Books. Because it is a City of Books, and I'm easily led down the wrong street and into the wrong neighborhood. Without your help, I will be cooking from ''Indian Food For A Bikini Body'' or a similar classic. (And I wear a one piece.)

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There are many good Indian cookbooks but one of the best is Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. If I could only have one of my Indian cookbooks it would be this book.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:01PM
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I second the suggestion of Julie Sahni, but also Madhur Jaffrey is very good and worth taking a look at. She's won a James Beard award I think five times now, from 1973-2003, so she has a long history in Indian cuisine.

I'm linking to the wikipedia on her because there's a list of titles at the bottom that's worth perusing.

I'm guessing Powell's will have a good number of Sahni and Jaffrey's books both new and used.


Here is a link that might be useful: Madhur Jaffrey Wiki

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:40PM
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I could move into that place and be happy for the rest of my life.

As long as I could sneak out for Stumptown coffee, Voodoo donuts, and the food trucks. And the beers.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 10:18AM
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I think I have the Julie Sanhi book, and I've never found it all that useful. I'll find an interesting recipe and read along to the point where it says "first make your own raw cheese using the following process..." or "now simmer for 24 hours" or "cook outdoors in a clay oven" and decide to veer off in my own direction.

However with that said it may well meet your criteria of "fundamental and even encylopedic" very well. Let me check this evening whether that is actually the book that I have, and if so, I would probably be interested in swapping it to you for something.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 5:32PM
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Okay, I am the proud owner of ''Classic Indian Cooking''. And I have found a hole in the wall Indian restaurant near my house, so that I can try a dish, go home and make it, and taste my results with some frame of reference. The project begins. I made a chicken curry tonight. I know what I said above, but daughter-san requested it so . . . all I will say is, I have much to learn.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 12:11AM
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I second Classic Indian Cooking for knowledge and a historical background to Mughal cookery.

I can also recommend Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India: The definitive guide to regional cooking. In it, Jaffrey describes the different regional cuisines of India, with recipes. There are lots of photographs, so there is never any doubt as to what the dishes are supposed to look like.

However, my favourite Indian cookbook is Charmaine Solomon's Indian Cookbook. I have cooked a number of recipes from it and never been disappointed. It has a section on tools and ingredients, but no historical background like the others.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 6:46AM
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Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain was my first encyclopedic Indian cookbook. When I started eating meat again, I bought the other Classic. The book I pull off the shelf most often (I have about 10 Indian cookbooks) is Yamuna Devi's Best of Lord Krishna's Cuisine. It is a distillation of the larger book and I often wonder what I am missing in the original volume.

Here is a link that might be useful: maybe I should add this to my collection...

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 5:22PM
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no idea about cookbooks but my son returned today from a 2 week business trip to india. says he's tired of indian food and their versions of mc donalds, subway, and try to imagine all of beef, and made with chicken with indian seasonings.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 6:35PM
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The Time-Life Cooking of India and Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff's Flavors of India are two very good and very accessible Indian cookbooks. When I first started cooking Indian food for my ex 35 years ago, Indian cookbooks were few and far between, and many of them were really geared for a British (eg not very authentic) Indian cuisine. Now it seems like there are hundreds out there, LOL!

Yamuna Devi's recipes are really fusion rather than an authentic Indian cuisine. Which is fine, if that's what you want.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:18AM
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I lived with an Indian for a year once... very authentic curry. I was stunned when I ordered a "curry" in a nice restaurant and out came this delicious but mild and sweet dish. Ahhh.... the adventure of it all!

In the following years I've learned that India is a huge country with regional variations as different as our southern cooking is from our western styles. You will need to hunt out places to buy items for your dish. In the USA we have lentils... in India they have several kinds of lentils. Cumin is a loser until the US makes more friends in the middle east... they got the good stuff. Tamarind can also be found in Mexican food stores... I've found canned tamarind juice in a large grocery store.

I've posted a link to the best canned curry I've every had... authentic Indian flavor. Keep in mind that in India the women start cooking dinner in the morning and cook all day long to get that authentic taste. Not a fast food style at all.

: )

Here is a link that might be useful: some recipes online

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 11:34AM
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I love Indian cooking. I highly recommend buying a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey. An Invitation to Indian Cooking is a classic. If you want an internet source, I really enjoy Manjula's Kitchen. Manjula is coming out with a cookbook soon, but you can access her recipes on her site for free and watch her prepare them. She does use asafetida frequently which can be hard to find. If you can't find it, just substitute some garlic.

Here are a few dishes I've made from her recipes. The first one is called Palak Paneer, it is a spicy spinach stew with homemade cheese. The bread is a basic paratha and the little balls are called Gulab Jamun. They are sort of like dense donuts that have been soaked in cardamon syrup. You can also stuff them with saffron paste and pistachios.

This is a caulflower and cilantro stuffed bread called Gobhi Paratha.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 12:41PM
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I lived in India, Pakistan and Nepal for a while and love the food that are either family recipes or street food. I have a couple of Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks but I have to admit that I have not used them too much. While I was there my favorite cuisine was the southern now Mumbai, a lot of delicious fish recipes. And they really can take vegetables to the next level. I will be interested in your new Indian cuisine adventures...


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:41AM
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There are a lot of fabulous Indian cooking videos out there on the Web. I second Charcuterie's love of Manjula's Web site but she is strictly vegetarian so not for everyone. Great for me! There are also a lot of great Indian food blogs. I haven't been able to splurge for Madhur Jaffrey's books yet so I have done most of my Indian cooking so far from Web sites. Both BF and I like Indian food but can't really say that we LOVE it so my progress has been slow to develop recipes. I like palaak paneer and other vegetable curries, and lentil soups. I haven't had good luck with the breads and paratha's, even though they look fabulous and the restaurant versions I've tried are delicious. Me and dough just don't get along!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:06AM
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I used to post on another subcontinent, and there are a lot of Indian natives there who are helpful with recipes. There are also a lot of members in the L.A. area, and we did a tour of Little India once, stopping at several restaurants/food shops. Anyway, the people at that forum are very friendly and helpful.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 11:43AM
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I ended up buying the Classic Indian Cooking book and was happy with it. An interesting read, I felt like I was learning why certain ingredients and techniques are used, not just what to use. We'll be doing more Indian cooking this winter.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 1:49PM
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Do post what you cook. Most of the books posted are focused mostly on northern Indian food. Southern india is a whole different set of techniques and use of spices and fresh herbs. Until the British rule started, india as a country did not really exist.. It was a bunch of different kingdoms with the north having unified somewhat due to the Mughal rulers who conquered from persia. Southern india has completely different languages, culture and cooking styles... More like Thai cooking with curries made with fresh ingredients like coconut and green chillis and mostly rice based cuisine. I haven't really looked for a south Indian cookbook. I will look to see if I can find anything that is worth it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:28AM
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I will watch for your posts of your Indian cuisine cooking.

And I will watch for your post of a recommended south Indian cookbook. We do own the Sahni cookbook and the Time Life cookbook. (I have mostly read them, not cooked from them so far). I am very interested in your recommendation for a book that focuses on southern Indian cooking.

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Wed, Feb 6, 13 at 11:46

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:52AM
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I am just now getting into Indian cooking, so I am enjoying this thread and soaking up all the info.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 4:54PM
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In Julie sahni's book there is a recipe for a eggplant raita that is to die for. Raita is a yogurt dip similar to greek tzatziki or middleeastern mint yogurt dips. The smoky eggplant pairs beautifully with the thick yogurt.

I am south indian and my go to south indian cookbook is a dogeared copy of a old classic called "cook and see" or I just ask my mom or sisters. On amazon, Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by chandra padmanabhan sounds promising. It is mostly vegetarian I think.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 4:58PM
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