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Indian Cookbooks


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Inspired by a similar thread under 'General Food Topics', I wanted to know how many Indian cookbooks we collectively own on this forum. I have 43 right now, but I'm sure more will turn up from under the bed etc. I'm particularly curious about your collection Vikram, because you seem to own every Indian cookbook under the sun. Here's a picture of my very modest collection (a few on the left haven't come in the shot)


This is in the kitchen, although there are not that many Indian books here ('Indian Everyday' is from the library) except the small booklets at the end.


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I have 60 Indian cookbooks. A few of them are on Ayurveda and only contain about 75% Indian recipes, but I counted them too.

I noticed on the photos of your sheves you have you that book "Indian Everyday". I had bought that book, but in the headnote for her sandesh recipe she claims that sandesh comes from Gujarat!! I could not help but to return it the next day.

Monica, 300 really! Just Indian...

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking


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405 already!

Those little hands belong to my 17-month old daughter, who justs insists on being in front of the camera/mirror all the time. Such vanity! Heaven knows she doesn't get it from her parents!

Monica, how can you resist opening the boxes? I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I had a few untouched cookbooks lying around like that. I even spent a whole day at the hotel browsing through my newly acquired cookbooks when I was supposed to be sightseeing in LA! I know, I'm quite insane....at least here on eGullet people understand my need to do such crazy things. :wub:

Edward, like I said, 'Indian everyday' is from the library. I tried a few recipes, but none of them were very nice, and not just from the absence of fat. I also got annoyed with the wrong hindi names of the dishes (there were many, but I can't remember a single one). If 'Paneer ka Mithai' (I'm not sure this dish exists in the book - I'm just giving an example) is correct then I must re-sit my hindi exams.


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I have 3 (out of close to 200). But I hope to increase that number.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Only two Indian cookbooks...Both Monica's

So many recipes online, that buying a cookbook is a bit of a luxury.

Has to save our book budget for computer books...Hopeless computer junkies, here...How fast they go obsolete :sad:

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19 currently. Still lacking Monica's books as well as Suvir's.


My first one was From Bengal to Punjab by Smita Chandra. Also note copious number of sticky notes hanging off the side of Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. :biggrin:


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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527! Sleepy dragon, it was great taking a peek at your collection . What is the one third from the top? What are Smita Chandra's books like?

The third one is The Essential Kodava Cookbook, by C. B. Muthamma and P. Gangamma Bopanna. It's part of the Penguin Books India regional series, recommended by mongo_jones here awhile back. Looks excellent, but I haven't tried to cook out of it yet.

As for Smita Chandra's books, I've only leafed through "Cuisines of India" so far. Seems good, even has a section with a few Indo-Chinese recipes too. The only thing that annoys me about it is she seems to go out of her way to try and tell some kind of story to preface every single recipe, and some of them are a real stretch in terms of relevancy.

"From Bengal to Punjab" I've cooked about 1/4 of the recipes. It was hit or miss, but mostly I attribute that to my lack of skill back then. I've been thinking about picking it up again just to see how age and experience has improved things. I hope!

I learned to make paneer from her book, and the kheer recipe was one I got lots of requests for. Mind, this was 11 or so years ago when people knew even less about Indian food, and so the combination of rice pudding with cardamom and rose water was wildly exciting. Straightforward stuff of the broad overview variety. I don't think this book is in print anymore, but by today's standards, it doesn't strike me as a must-have given the number of broad overview types of books out there nowadays. It will always have a special place in my library though.

There are notes I scrawled in the margins ages ago that are rather amusing to read now, stuff like "Use 1/2 amount of chili called for", or in one case, a line calling for "1/4 tsp cayenne pepper" scratched out and replaced with "Just a pinch!". Christ, I used to be such a wimp...


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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How do you like the Wazwaan book? I just ordered it a few days ago but I couldn't find any book reviews.

The word that keeps coming to mind is "sumptuous". It's a little book, but is jam-packed with carefully prepared recipes and nice photographs. It's also very heavy on the meat, which I guess is a given for Muslim feasting.

I haven't tried to make anything out of this yet because I've been putting off making my own ver.

I did try to make a Kashmiri kahdi recipe from the other Kashmiri cookbook in that stack, and didn't care for it, the combination of mint, yogurt and mustard oil just didn't interest me, and the fritters were bland. But, the peanut gallery would probably say that served me right given that publisher also came out with that Balti cookbook!


"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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How do you like the Wazwaan book?  I just ordered it a few days ago but I couldn't find any book reviews.

The word that keeps coming to mind is "sumptuous". It's a little book, but is jam-packed with carefully prepared recipes and nice photographs. It's also very heavy on the meat, which I guess is a given for Muslim feasting.

I haven't tried to make anything out of this yet because I've been putting off making my own ver.

I did try to make a Kashmiri kahdi recipe from the other Kashmiri cookbook in that stack, and didn't care for it, the combination of mint, yogurt and mustard oil just didn't interest me, and the fritters were bland. But, the peanut gallery would probably say that served me right given that publisher also came out with that Balti cookbook!


Ver! I am not sure how many people make this anymore. Even the Kashmiris. :smile:

I have the book and you are right.. the pics are good.

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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hey: no-one else has "samaithu paar"?

(eng translation: cook and see)

as my dad says, why only cook and see?

why not cook and eat?

i have a wimpy 7-8 cookbooks total, but

lots of handwritten recipes from my mom.

do those count?



(ps: how do you attach pictures?)

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hey Rajsuman, sorry to log onto this topic so late. Been only skimming over the forum in the last ten days. Anyway, hate to disappoint you, but I really don't have that many Indian cookbooks - nothing like Monica! I did a count and came up with 47 give a take a couple that are lost or might be lurking in corners of the kitchen. Add about a dozen more for books on Indian food that aren't cookbooks.

I actually avoid buying most of the Indian cookbooks coming out now because they are so annoying. There's a huge flood of books coming into the market - Indian publishers seem to have convinced themselves that cookbooks and self helf books are the only ones that sell so they are overinvesting in them. And just like every second person you meet at cocktail parties seems to have a novel in them, every second housewife who can cook halfway decently is being told to produce a cookbook. And they do.

The result is a flood of copycat (literally sometimes), badly produced (though standards are rising) and profoundly uninteresting cookbooks. I don't doubt the cooking skills of the people producing them (though reading about the things they do to exotic vegetables makes me wonder about their morals), but there's some skill involved in doing a cookbook and since none of them seem to have looked at other cookbooks - other than Tarla-ben's of course, since she's the one who got them hooked on the idea you could make money from it - the results are floods of identical books.

Luckily its dawning on publishers that the market is not infinitely elastic for these books, so now more effort is being made to differentiate and come up with something new. More community cookbooks are coming out and these are the ones I really collect. Anything that gives some sign of having real authenticity behind it, anything that talks about ingredients or about how the food was cooked and consumed - competition is finally pushing publishers to realise the importance of all this. Even Tarla-ben, who I had long written off as too deep into mistreating babycorn in microwaves, has come up with a book idea like her "Achar aur Parathe" book, an idea that just instinctively feels good.

I'm going to put a list of my books, but in the next email since that will be loooong,


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Don't have a digicam, and contemplated twisting the bf's arm to photograph my book stash, but (a) I don't know if he has one either and (b) I get enough lectures anyway about the amount of money I spend on cookbooks (this is the common theme on this thread, right?), so I gave that a miss.

Instead I though it would hopefully not be too tedious if I listed them out, along with comments. I'd like to hear other people's remarks on what they felt about the books in their collection (helps me decide what to buy) and hopefully they might be interested in what I feel about mine. Here goes:

1) 30 Minute Indian - Sunil Vijaykar Nice book, lovely pictures (correction, probably the best Indian food photography I've seen recently), but the title should be '30 Minute Indian - If There's Someone To Do The Peeling And Chopping For You Or You Can Pick Up Most Of The Ingredient Ready To Cook'

2) 50 Great Curries of India - Camellia Punjabi Have been planning on stealing my mother's copy for ages, but finally did the decent thing and bought it. I really admire this book. It doesn't set out to be a comprehensive or even particularly representative cookbook - Eastern India, for example, is under-represented. But it gives the most thorough analysis of what goes into a curry. It dissects the steps. It investigates the ingredients, usefully dividing them into what they do for the curry - thicken, add spice, etc. It does what next to no other cookbook does - it acknowledges that chillies can vary widely and talks about the different varieties. It is also beautifully produced with good photgraphy. This one is a winner

3) Anglo-Indian Food and Customs - Patricia Brown In the Penguin series, quite nice book, though not much flair

4) Calcutta Cookbook, The - Meenakshie Das Gupta, Bunny Gupta, Jaya Chaliha The classic, though I really should buy Das Gupta's (the legendary Kewpie) Bangla Ranna

5) Chicken Cook Book - Rashmi Uday Singh I resisted this for a bit, since it’s a bit too obviously sponsored by a company, Venky's Chicken. But it has a good discussion on what chicken is like in India and the recipes are decent. Not only Indian though

6) Cooking of India (Time-Life Foods of the World series) - Santha Rama Rau Another classic, and this really is more a food book than a cookbook (especially since I don't have the accompanying recipe booklet). Its dated of course, but overall is really quite impressive.

7) Cooking with One Teaspoon of Oil - Tarla Dalal Tarlaben, with all her virtues and faults. This is decent

8) Curries & Bugles - Jennifer Brennan Another classic and probably better for reading than cooking from. But this is real culinary and family history

9) East Indian Cookery Book - East Indian Association, Ladies Committee Ladies Committees, don't you love them. I know one of the ladies involved and she is a fabulous cookbook, so I would trust this implicitly if… her daughter hadn't told me her mother always keeps some secrets to herself.

10) Epicure Cookbook, The - Ummi Abdullah Ummi Abdullah is the authority on Moplah cooking. This is a more general book.

11) Essential Andhra Cookbook, The - Bilkees Latif Part of the Penguin series, pretty good, though one better now even think of cooking from it unless you have a source for those pungent Andhra chillies

12) Essential Goa Cookbook, The - Maria Teresa Menezes I don't know why, I didn't like this much. Goan cuisine is really delicious and historically very interesting because of the fusion between so many cultures - Portueguese, Hindu, Muslim. There is a long and lively Goan tradition of appreciating and writing about food. Menezes somehow doesn't do this justice

13) Essential North-East Cookbook, The - Hoihnu Hauzel Very interesting, though it does induce that usual sense of guilt, "oh god, we Indians really know nothing about those Northeastern states, can you even name them all?" This is a nice book, but I have to say that while we do need to know about the Northeastern states, I'm not convinced we need actual exposure to their food that much.

14) Flavours of Delhi - Charmaine O'Brien Good book, wish there were more of this kind. Guide to Delhi, to buying ingredients there, eating there, cooking there

15) Flavours of the Spice Coast - Mrs.K.M.Mathew A classic, and this edition is well produced too. This is the standard book on Malayali (I REFUSE to say Keralan) food, perhaps with more of a Syrian Christian emphasis. Its known for its peculiar insistence on a dessertspoon as a significant measure. The recipes are good, but do take quite a bit of work

16) Fresh Flavours of India - Das Sreedharan A really beautifully produced book, this was a revelation to me about how Indian food could be photographed. I know the food he's talking about, I grew up eating this sort of Malayali food and I know its strictly OK, nout outstanding, but he had me salivating. Yet I feel the recipes don't entirely work. Restaurant owners writing books for home cooking doesn't always come off, and this doesn't.

17) Himalayan Recipes - Inner Wheel Club of Darjeeling Another ladies committee. I bought this book for its frank use of 'buff' for beef, acknowledging that most Indian beef comes from water buffaloes. Also got a recipe for momos that sounds worth trying

18) Home Encyclopaedia - J.B.Lobo This one is a trip! Its one of those Inquire Within About Everything volumes. So in addition to giving a whole bunch of Mangalorean recipes, you can also learn the best way to polish brass, raise chickens, deal with menstrual pains and fight depression.

19) Indian Cooking Mrs.Balbir Singh - One of the first Indian cookbooks published abroad and still sound, though of course it seems dated now. But that's part of the interest with it

20) Indian Delights Zuleika Mayat - The classic South African Indian cookbook. Interesting variations on Indian recipes, with some SA ones. Also meant for large community bashes, so if you want instruction on how to make biriani for 150 people, this is the one to buy!

21) Indian Food Sense - Ruth N.Davidar The best book on Indian food from a nutritionist's angle. Its not a fancy book - no pix - but its laid out in a calm and reasonable style. You don't get that faintly manic eat-20-figs-a-day-and-your-life-will-be-perfect feeling that some nutritionists give you. The recipes are simple but good

22) Indian Kitchen, The - Monisha Bharadwaj The essential book on Indian ingredients. It’s a good looking book, covers nearly all ingredients competently and gives a couple of recipes for each. A little more scientific information would have been welcome, but this is still a must buy.

23) Invitation to Indian Cooking, An - Madhur Jaffrey I think many of us started with this one and it is excellent. The recipes are north Indian-Delhi style and feel really authentic (something that can't be said of Ms.Jaffrey's more extravagant excursions to the Far East). She also demonstrates that she can write well about food and her family - I like the story of her grandmother's lime pickle

24) Jamva Chaloji - 1 - Katy Dalal A good compilation of Parsi recipes from someone who's a famous cook in Bombay

25) Jamva Chaloji - 2 - Katy Dalal More interesting. In this book Ms.Dalal set out to resurrect the recipes of the Parsis in the villages on the Gujarat coast, a way of life that largely disappeared as most of them moved to Bombay. So this has a historical value the first book didn’t have.

26) Joy of Vegetarian Cooking - Jasleen Dhamija Just picked it up, decent book

27) Landour Cookbook, The - Ruskin Bond, Ganesh Saili This is interesting for a rare example of American recipes cropping up in India. Landour was a base for several American missionary families and this book has been put together from their recipes and those of others who lived in this North Indian hill station.

28) Lean Cuisine - Karen Anand Karen's recipes are reliable and she is one person who has bases both in nutrition and in gastronomy. Her second book is about international recipes, but this is solidly Indian. She has a useful discussion on ingredients. I also very much agree with her extolling the benefits of Maharahtrian cooking, both of the Konkan coast and the interiors near Kolhapur. Its great and healthy food and too often overlooked.

29) Life & Food in Bengal - Chitrita Banerji This is an absolute must have. Chitrita Banerji is one of the few real food writers in India and this book combines her excellent writing on food in Bengali culture, and across the seasons in Bengal, with serviceable recipes. It is currently out of print but happily a friend at Penguin tells me they will probably be taking it up

30) Low Calorie Recipes - Nita Mehta Nita Mehta is a Tarlaben without the hype and occasional excesses that surrounds that lady now (like you're less likely to find Ms.Mehta doing cruel and unusual things to broccoli and babycorn). She done a whole series of small and useful books and I'm sure there are several others at home, lost somewhere in the kitchen

31) Malabar Muslim Cooking - Ummi Abdullah This igives all the classic Moplah (Muslim Malayali) recipes including some rather over the top ones like muttamala - sort of a garland of fried sweetened eggs, or at least that's what I've understood from the recipe!

32) Monsoon Diary - Shobha Narayan Indian girl grows up in Chennai, goes to study in the US, wants to discover her roots, has arranged marriage, etc etc all accompanied by recipes. The recipes work, the writing is sound, this is all good food writing. So why did I end up feeling the writer was just that little bit too smug for her own good?

33) Parsi Food & Culture, The - Bhicoo J.Manekshaw Another compilation of Parsi recipes, even more voluminous that Katy Dalal's. I really quite like this book, though it couldn't be plainer. There a brisk no nonsense air about the recipes that inspires confidence. With Katy Dalal the recipes sound great, but rather daunting, here they don't

34) Prasadam: Food of the Gods - Nalini Rajan Good explanation of religious rituals and the role food plays in them. This seems to have been commissioned as a fairly quick and cheap book, so the author, who I think is a sociologist, doesn't have that much space or resources so there's always this sense of a more interesting book inside this one

35) Prashad Jiggs Kalra - A classic, though of a particular kind. Jiggs' strategy to preserving Indian food traditions is to get five star hotels to develop ethnic restaurants or food festivals where the food can be cooked and experienced. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand the recipes are being preserved and hopefully appreciated. The system also rewards the cooks, generally overlooked otherwise in India. This is seen at its best with the revival of the whole Dum Pukht tradition with Chef Imtiaz Qureishi. Nonetheless I still feel that something goes wrong with doing this in the five star hotel framework. Its artificially preserving a tradition, and at a costthat takes it away from its roots. There is also an element of hype here that I don't like. Anyway, those general quibbles aside, this is a very valuable volume and covers a pretty huge territory. But it really is directed at professionals more than home chefs - just the way the recipes are written indicates that.

36) Raj at Table, The - David Burton A very good book. Raj history and food is done professionally, but with a light touch. Not personal like the Brennan book, but in some ways better for that.

37) Rasachandrika - Sarawat Mahila Samaj A community classic - this is the cooking of the Saraswats of Mahrashtra, maintained and updated by a ladies committee. This is a very functional book - the recipes could not be stated more tersely. But it has immense authority.

38) Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils - Mesa Eliezer An interesting book, both for highlighting the cooking of a diasporic community that is so close to India, yet in many ways so far. But its also interesting for another reason. Tamil cooking is dominated by the vegetarian food of the Tamil Brahmins. Recently the rich and hot non-vegetarian cooking of the Chettiars is also making an impact. But in between is the ordinary non-vegetarian cooking of the bulk of Tamilians and that isn't highlighted much in India. But the Tamilians who went to Sri Lanka were neither Brahmins nor Chettiar traders and this is what their food reflects.

39) Rotis & Naans of India - Purobi Babbar Quite interesting, covers all the usual Indian breads and quite a few unusual ones. As always I have my usual dilemmas with bread - should one go to trouble of making them so one can have the delight of having them fresh? Or should one just acknowledge that breads are too tricky to master easily and who has the time when there are people making perfectly good versions round the corner?

40) Samaithu Paar - 1 - S.Meenakshi Ammal The TamBrahm classics. Of course one must have all three, though the versions I have are the modernised ones, so none of those old measures like ollocks, visses and seers. More practical, I guess, but something is lost

41) Samaithu Paar - 2 - S.Meenakshi Ammal

42) Samaithu Paar - 3 - S.Meenakshi Ammal

43) Taste of India, A - Madhur Jaffrey A must have, the counterpoint to her earlier book, where she does a good job of covering most Indian regions and as always her writing is good and the recipes entirely reliable.

44) Taste of the Raj - Pat Chapman From the founder of the Curry Club in the UK. He has a long family history with India and snippets about that provide the main interest in this book.

45) Udipi Cuisine - U.B.Rajalakshmi Another community cookbook, the Mangalorean Hindus this time. This has slightly more than community interest because Mangaloreans have come to dominate a segment of the restaurants business - all those excellent Udipi places serving South Indian food at cheap prices and hygienic surroundings. We tend to think of this food as vaguely "Southie", presumed Tamilian, but in fact Mangalorean/Mysore Tamil is more like it.

46) Ultimate Curry Bible - Madhur Jaffrey A really interesting book, I'd say Ms.Jaffrey's masterwork, if her Invitation and Taste of India books weren't more likely to be used. The main interest in this is cultural because its her investigation of the food of the Indian diaspora. So you get interesting and moving stories, along with their recipes and discussions about how they adapted Indian recipes to their new homelands.

And I'll add the food books. Just remembered I have a photocopy of the Khare book "The Hindu Hearth and Home" which I am still struggling through - its formidably academic! :

1) Anthropology of Sweatmeats A.K.Sinha Rather dry and occasionally a bit weird as in his attempt to do a classification of sweets. Also its mostly focused on the sweets of Bengal and Bihar (which the writer states upfront). But it is a valuable effort in doing fieldwork about Indian food and we need many more such projects like this.

2) Brahma's Hair Maneka Gandhi Its really a book about Indian plants and their mythological significance, but many of the plants covered are edible that's why I'm including it.

3) Curry in the Crown Shrabani Basu OK attempt to cover how curry achieved its status in the UK. I think this is a very good magazine article that didn't quite work in the conversion into a book, but its very readable

4) Historical Dictionary of Indian Food K.T.Achaya This is the more concise version of Achaya's masterwork and in fact probably the more useful book. Organising his work in a systematic way doesn't seem to have been Achaya's strong point so the Companion can be a rather baffling book to read. This book gives the same information in a tighter format.

5) Hour of the Goddess Chitrita Banerji Excellent. Essays on Bengali food, the book's only fault is that it is too short!

6) Indian Food: A Historical Companion K.T.Achaya As I said, Achaya's masterwork, and I crib about his lack of organisation and the writing is not of the best, but really where would we be without this book. No one put in the sort of effort Achaya did in researching the origins of Indian food, and since no one seems to be doing it today either, his work is all that more important.

7) Myth of the Holy Cow, The D.N.Jha The controversial book that had the Hindu right up in arms for stating that ancient Indians used to eat beef. The evidence is pretty conclusive and the book is an important one.

8) Spices & Condiments J.S.Pruthi Government of India publication, TERRIBLE printing quality, but useful facts

9) Story of Our Food, The K.T.Achaya Achaya's short and sweet version, meant for children I think. Its OK, covers all the main points rapidly

10) Three Fs of Life, The Gul Anand Gul Anand was a well known film producer and food entrepreneur who died a couple of years back. This is anecdotal stuff about his encounters with food. To use a Bombay term, its quite time-pass.

11) Travels With the Fish C.Y.Gopinath Slightly better version of the above, since Gopi is a better writer. His life and times and travels accompanied by recipes

12) Vegetables Bishwajit Choudhury Another Government of India type publication, good facts on Indian vegetables.

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