Imagine if Alton Brown or Mark Bittman wrote an Indian cookbook
February 6, 2012 10:58 AM   Subscribe

MisterBen needs recommendations for a very specific kind of Indian cookbook – one that’s organized by technique, not by course or ingredient. Imagine if Alton Brown or Mark Bittman wrote an Indian cookbook. The idea is to learn reusable techniques and general concepts of what flavors are used together. What he already has: Madhur Jaffrey’s classics, Raghavan Iyer’s “660 Curries”, and Vikas Khanna’s “Flavor First”, which are used as bibles. Almost all Indian ingredients can be found in our area, and he is comfortable at making his own masalas, so feel free to recommend books you might think of as advanced.
posted by matildaben to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Like your Mister Ben, I would be thrilled to find a idea-based or Bittman-style Indian cookbook. I love the Jaffrey's book I own, but it doesn't really fit into that category. However, it might be of interest that Bittman himself, in his decade-old list of fifty good cookbooks, describes Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking as the "best introduction to Indian cooking". The book is wonderfully old-fahshioned (no photos) and comprehensive. It has a dozen of pages on the subject of making bread (ingredients: water and flour) alone - according to Sahni, it's almost a heavenly acitivity. Still, it's mostly a list of (good) recipes, which I think despite Bittman's description probably qualifies as "advanced".
posted by faustdick at 11:20 AM on February 6, 2012

I was just about to suggest Julie Sahni's book!
posted by spunweb at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2012

I bought this book hoping it would be something like what you describe, but honestly, I didn't think it was as good as I'd hoped it would be. For what it's worth, my family is from India, and my mom was a great cook, so it may just be that the recipes weren't like my mom's and I was disappointed by that. But, I'm recommending it anyway, just because it's the closest I've seen to what you describe. She goes into general technique, though it's not organized by technique. Hope to get some good recommendations from others in this thread!
posted by sa3z at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2012

I have Sahni's books and use them often but they are not organized in the manner you wish. They are arranged in the usual entrees/appetizers/grains/condiments etc way. The closest thing I can think to what you're looking for are the narrative introductions to the chapters in some of the Jaffery books.

You might also want to check out Yamuni Devi's The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:13 PM on February 6, 2012

Sorry that was Yamuna Devi.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2012

While not a perfect fit, Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking is your best bet out of the large pile of Indian cookbooks I've read. You can see the table of contents on Amazon, and it's broken down by food category (though maybe this is what you mean by ingredient?), so rice, dals, breads, vegetables (ten different categories of different preparations here), dairy products and dairy-based dishes, salads, chutneys, sauces and relishes, light meals and savories, and on and on and on. The book is telephone-book sized.

It's good (but not absolutely necessary) to have some previous experience with Indian cooking before diving into Devi's book, because it is Vedic and thus lacks onion and garlic. If you're used to cooking Indian food with them, you'll know where they should fit in, should you want to add them.
posted by jocelmeow at 6:10 PM on February 7, 2012

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