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sonya

quest on indian cookbooks and non-indians cooks...

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just joined the forum and have a question on indian cookbooks and non-indian cooks that i have been mulling over for years....

has anyone else had the following experiences?

i have had several white friends over the years who are home cooks, i.e. have not taken professional cooking courses and don't seem to any idea of the techniques of indian cooking....

they seem to like indian cookbooks that i find totally bad...once i went to an american friend's house for an indian dinner he cooked and i could not recognize the dishes at all, which were channa daal, rotis, and some vegetable....it was very embarrassing for me...

i have noticed this trend on amazon reviews too. it has gotten to the point where i now try to figure out if the poster is s. asian or not and if not, then i disregard the review and in fact not buy the book at all if recommended by a non-s. asian.

and, sometimes it doesn't seem to matter even if the non-indian poster claims that he/she has been cooking indian food for years, i''m quite amazed at the cookbooks he/she seems to find good because typically i will own the cookbook and know that the recipes were not tested enough etc.

sp

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I abstain from cook books please :o but its ok forother reasons to inspire people to create their own.. no one can even tell any one any philosophy let alone suggest a recipe..

So I believe that is why there are forums like these for inspiration :biggrin:

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they seem to like indian cookbooks that i find totally bad...once i went to an american friend's house for an indian dinner he cooked and i could not recognize the dishes at all, which were channa daal, rotis, and some vegetable....it was very embarrassing for me...

i have noticed this trend on amazon reviews too. it has gotten to the point where i now try to figure out if the poster is s. asian or not and if not, then i disregard the review and in fact not buy the book at all if recommended by a non-s. asian.

I am not disagreeing with you, but I don't think what you describe is a bad thing.

The way I look at it, if someone attempts to learn about the food of a different culture, is excited enough about it to seek out cookbooks, and attempts to make the food described in the cookbooks, it is a great start. I can see someone seeking a more "Americanized" Indian cookbook if they happen to live in the US and are trying Indian cooking for the first time because it may appear to be less intimidating to them. Eventually they will seek out other sources of information (friends, other cookbooks, egullet, etc.) to learn more about it.

While this process could result in "totally bad" cookbooks getting positive reviews, if they like what these cookbooks give them, the books deserve a positive review. This may make some of the recommendations on Amazon useless for you, but now that you have discovered egullet, you don't need those reviews anymore! Just ask Monica, she has a bunch of Indian cookbooks and I think she would gladly offer recommendations if you ask nicely. :biggrin:

Your post did make me take a look at the top 20 bestselling Indian cookbooks on Amazon as of August 26 2004.

1. Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey, Philip Salaverry (Paperback -- June 1, 1996)

2. From Curries to Kebabs : Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by MADHUR JAFFREY (Hardcover -- November 4, 2003)

3. Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey (Hardcover -- September 1, 2003)

4. Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing (2nd Edition) by Usha Lad, Vasant Lad (Paperback -- October 1997)

5. Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni (Hardcover -- October 1, 1980)

6. Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan (Paperback -- September 1, 1999)

7. 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra (Hardcover -- September 24, 2002)

8. Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi (Hardcover -- September 1, 1987)

9. The Indian Grocery Store Demystified (Take It with You Guides) by Linda Bladholm (Paperback -- August 12, 2000)

10. An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey (Paperback -- July 1, 1975)

11. Easy Indian Cooking by Suneeta Vaswani (Paperback -- February 1, 2004)

12. Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni (Hardcover -- November 1, 1985)

13. Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala by Maya Kaimal, et al (Hardcover -- August 1, 2000)

14. Indian Home Cooking : A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes by SUVIR SARAN, STEPHANIE LYNESS (Hardcover -- August 31, 2004)

15. Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking by Raghavan Iyer (Hardcover -- April 1, 2001)

16. Savoring India: Recipes and Reflections on Indian Cooking (Savoring ...)

by Julie Sahni (Hardcover -- March 1, 2002)

17. The Curry Secret: Indian Restaurant Cookery at Home by Kris Dhillon (Paperback -- October 1, 2000)

18. Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi (Hardcover -- October 1, 1995)

19. The Nepal Cookbook by Association of Nebalis in America, et al (Paperback -- June 1, 1996)

20 Cuisines of India: The Art and Tradition of Regional Indian Cooking by Smita Chandra, Sanjeev Chandra (Hardcover -- July 24, 2001)

While I am not familiar with every one of these books, I do own quite a few of these books and they are not all bad. Most of these books got 4 and 5 stars and I think that's what I would give books by the likes of Madhur Jaffrey and Julie Sahni.

rkolluri

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For those of you who use amazon skip this post - this list posted changes on a daily basis based on the sales numbers. Both my books were in the top ten for a few months.. just so you know. :laugh:. The numbers get affected by what is new and how much publicity its getting - so these numbers change.

The best thing to do - borrow a book from a friend, print a few recipes from the net, ask questions on forums like this and soon you will find someone who's work you identify with and whose recipes work for you.


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Sonya, welcome to the forum!

I, as a paleface, really think that its neat that your friend is interested in cooking other cuisines. It is a passion of mine. If your friends are missing the mark, perhaps you could help them out? I would probably be lost if some friends had not taken me under their wings and into their kitchen. I also get such valuable advice here from everyone in the forum.

You could gift your friends with some cookbooks that you personally like, or even a little book of your own recipes, and offer to teach them how you personally make them. Then, you could educate them in a positive manner, and eat food that you enjoy at their home!

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This Is great if you ask me .. that s

You are willing to take any enthusiast into your "wing" Im repeating ofcourse.. I Love This Team of Diligence..

I see you care love geetha

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The way I look at it, if someone attempts to learn about the food of a different culture, is excited enough about it to seek out cookbooks, and attempts to make the food described in the cookbooks, it is a great start. I can see someone seeking a more "Americanized" Indian cookbook if they happen to live in the US and are trying Indian cooking for the first time because it may appear to be less intimidating to them. Eventually they will seek out other sources of information (friends, other cookbooks, egullet, etc.) to learn more about it.

Another non-S. Asian chiming in here. I love what you said. This is how it is happening with me. I was raised on a very American midwestern, bland, diet. My mom wouldn't cook any food with fresh onions or garlic in it! I was afraid to try curry powder until I came across a recipe in a Mark Bittman book. I'm sure the recipe isn't authentic in the least, it was chicken with onions and coconut milk and tomatoes and curry powder. But I loved it! It was my first time using coconut milk too. So now I have decided to try to learn some Indian dishes on my own, because I am bored with the same old thing.

I'm ordering The Everything Indian Cookbook based on reviews from Amazon.com. To me it sounds like a good starter book to get my feet wet--the reviews say that the ingredients are easy to find and the recipes aren't too complicated. If I didn't get an Americanized cookbook to start, I'd be afraid there would be too many ingredients that were unfamiliar that I couldn't find,

and the cooking processes might be too difficult to understand, and I wouldn't know how to put a meal together. I personally need to learn things in baby steps, or I become too intimidated and give up altogether.

Now, I wish I had an Indian friend who could teach me! Maybe after becoming very comfortable with Monica's book, I will branch out a little bit.


Rachel Sincere

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Everthing Indian is indeed baby steps for someone to learn Indian. I hope it will get you comfortable with the basics. In fact many of the recipes have been tested by a large eG crew! I hope you enjoy it and thanks :smile:


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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How is THIS for serendipity? I *just* got an invite from an Indian coworker to come over to her house this afternoon and cook with her! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO excited!! Now, where is my notebook.......

It must be fate.

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I was raised on a very American midwestern, bland, diet.  My mom wouldn't cook any food with fresh onions or garlic in it!  I was afraid to try curry powder until I came across a recipe in a Mark Bittman book.  I'm sure the recipe isn't authentic in the least, it was chicken with onions and coconut milk and tomatoes and curry powder.  But I loved it!  It was my first time using coconut milk too.  So now I have decided to try to learn some Indian dishes on my own, because I am bored with the same old thing.

I am glad to hear that you decided to try Indian food. I did chuckle a little when I read about your first Indian curry. Your ingedients list (without tomatoes and with soy sauce) sounds a lot like what I used for my first attempt at Thai food. I think I got the recipe out of a newspaper or magazine, it looked simple enough, and I thought I was having Thai food and I even kinda liked it. This was before I had ever eaten any Thai food (restaurant or home-cooked) and I had no basis for comparison. I have figured out now that what I created was not exactly Thai food, but I am glad I did it because it prompted me to seek out and learn more about Thai food.

I guess I could have hated what I made and made a generalized assessment of all Thai food, but I don't think people usually do that based on their own cooking attempts.

Getting back to Sonya's issue, I would second what had already been said here. If you feel that your friends are being misled by poorly written cookbooks, you may want to consider tactfully suggesting other options.

rkolluri

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Of all the books in that amazon list, I would recomend No 18. Great curries of India By Camellia Punjabi.

The recipes are well written and not too complicated, well explained and the results are good. There are also wonderful photos to compare your end product with that produced by the author. Great cookbook.

Another person whose first book I really liked for its simplicity and pretty good results was Sanjeev Kapoor's Khazana Of Indian Recipes. While not the greatest cookbook I think it is exellent for someone just starting.

Julie Sahni, in her Indian Veg Grains & cereals cookbook has done a wonderful job of describing Indian techniques. Its a good read, just borrow from your local library.

The major problem a newbie has is understanding terms that most of us Indians take for granted simply because of our heritage. A handbook is comming out soon that describes ethnic restaurant and culinary terms to help people demystify menus and cuisine. Its amazingly put together by a patron at my restaurant whose bussiness is home inspections. I helped him with some of the Indian terms and think it will be out early next year.


Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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...once i went to an american friend's house for an indian dinner he cooked and i could not recognize the dishes at all, which were channa daal, rotis, and some vegetable....it was very embarrassing for me...

Sonya,

Let me, please, just say it once: Perhaps your friend couldn't boil water! :biggrin:

Seriously, do you think one basic problem is that your friend wasn't too skillful in the kitchen, and that possibly the same results would have arisen had the food been Italian, Chinese, or other?? Some people just aren't meant to be cooks.

As to Amazon, I never thought about the idea that the most popular Indian Cookbooks are bad. Yes, Jaffrey's and Julie's are popular but I think they are popular for a reason: they are good cookbooks (I assume, not having any). Many here also praise them. Jaffrey and Julie possibly cater more to non-Indians, as that is the niche they created living overseas and cooking there. Since they are often mentioned on EG too, I trust they must be somewhat worthwhile books regardless of who does the reviewing.

I (Italian-American, who at one time didn't know the difference between a samosa and a ravioli) enjoy reading the Amazon reviews. I think you have to take some with a grain of salt, but I think there are people (yikes, even Americans too) who are taste-savy enough to know a good bowl of daal to a plate of canned beans. So, I value all the opinions and filter out those that to me seem suspicious. The more reviews the easier it is to make a purchase decision.

I have been really good not to collect too many cookbooks; that's why I have none of Jaffrey's or Julie's. But temptation set in. I went overboard this weekend and actually bought TWO!! The Great Curries of India book that gets constant raves. And how could I resist our own Monica's latest, the Everytihng Indian Cookbook, which I trusted from reading Amazon reviews is the type of book that will help me cook better, and one that I will make must use of and treasure.

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Very interesting topic.

I shall work on the several books I recently added to my library.

Two happen to be Indian.

And both from stars of this forum.

Watch out for my findings.

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Very interesting topic.

I shall work on the several books I recently added to my library.

Two happen to be Indian.

And both from stars of this forum.

Watch out for my findings.

Welcome to the India forum. Where are you posting from?


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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