5 Essential Books on Indian Food and Cooking

Food presents a way to understand everyday INDIC culture. The cuisine of India is as ancient as it is varied. Indian cuisine that reflects a 5000-year history of intermingling of various communities and cultures, leading to diverse flavours and regional cuisines.

Stimulating, tasty and colourful, Indian cuisine draws inspiration from Ayurvedic philosophy. A therapeutic tradition that aims to make you stay healthy, feeding the body and soul. Vegetarianism has made a significant impact on Indian cooking.  Barley – as the Aryans’ initial staple food – is mentioned in the Rigveda. Later texts mention wheat, lentils, millets, and sugarcane. The most popular lentils used were red lentils, green lentils, and black lentils. Kichadi made from rice together with lentils or dal is highly nutritious. Herbs and spices, or masalas, play a vital role in Indian food. They have been used since ancient times and are mentioned in Hinduism’s oldest sacred scriptures, the Vedas. 

Some of the oldest cookbooks were written in India. Here we have shortlisted the best cookbooks about Indian cooking, book on history of Indian cuisine and Indic culinary journey. 

1. Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine by Sonal Ved

Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available spices / masalas, herbs, vegetables and fruits. The book – Tiffin 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine introduces you to the different strokes of Indian regional cuisine. Tiffin is a collection of 500 recipes, dishes that are usually sampled as school children when sharing each other’s tiffins during lunch break, a habit that continues into adulthood when sharing food with colleagues. Tiffin intends on celebrating this incredible richness of India’s regional cuisine from all 29 states of India and to create a repository of varied culinary traditions. This an award-winning cookbook is written by Sonal Ved – the author of a New York Times accredited, an accomplished food critic and the food editor at Vogue India.

2. Illustrated Foods of India – by K.T. Achaya – Food Historian

Historical incidents such as foreign invasions, trade relations and colonialism have also played a role in introducing certain foods to the country. The Illustrated Foods of India contains a wealth of information on the food materials, food ethos, cuisine, and recipes of India by K.T. Achaya – an oil chemist, food scientist, nutritionist and food historian – for most of us the last word in food history. Drawing up material from a range of sources – literature, archaeology, epigraphic records, anthropology, philology, and botanical and genetic studies – the book details the history of Indian food from the prehistoric times through British rule till date. While discussing the various regional cuisines, theories and classification of foods, the book also dwells on the customs, rituals, and beliefs observed by different communities and religious groups. Arranged in alphabetical order, the book is profusely illustrated with line drawings and photographs.

3. An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

The book – An Invitation to Indian Cooking introduced the rich and fascinating cuisine of India to America and a landmark work of culinary literature. In this book Madhur Jaffey- the “godmother of Indian cooking” (The Independent on Sunday) vividly describes the vast scope of Indian cooking, the regional differences in taste and method, and the special qualities of the food of her native Delhi; she provides a comprehensive list of the various herbs and spices used in India, a glossary of cookery terms and some suggested menus. The recipes range from soups to desserts, with meat, fish and egg dishes, vegetables, rice and bread, dal, chutneys and pickles, and a section on summer cooking and barbeques. The New York Times called it “the best Indian cookbook available in English”. The classic guide to the foods of India—and a James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame inductee—from the “queen of Indian cooking” (Saveur) and author of Madhur Jaffrey’s Instantly Indian Cookbook and Vegetarian India.

4. Eat – Taste – Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook

Ayurveda suggests that everyone has a dominant trait, or dosha. These traits are noted in our appearance, our personality and how we are affected by foods. Cooking and the time taken to cook can change the composition of a particular food and its effect on the body. An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living is based on the system of Ayurveda, an ancient system of Indian traditional medicine, that is gaining popularity and acceptance worldwide. Eat – Taste – Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook for Modern Living provides applications of the age old system of Ayurveda to the modern world of today. The first part of the book, called the Guidebook, condenses the wisdom of Ayurveda and offers an understandable yet complete overview of the subject. The second part of the book is called the Cookbook, which combines nutrition with healthy food and living. It introduces readers to traditional Indian dishes. These Indian dishes are low on calories but high in nutrition. Consumption of these food items on a daily basis keeps you fit, healthy. So incorporate Ayurvedic cooking in your lifestyle today.

5. Chai, Chaat & Chutney by Chetna Makan

Indian street foods are known worldwide for their taste, diversity and easy accessibility in various cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai to name a few. In Chai, Chaat & Chutney, Chetna Makan – passionate cook, creative baker and author has taken inspiration from the street and created delicious recipes that are simple to cook at home. The result is a completely fresh take on Indian cuisine – try Tamarind Stuffed Chillis, Chana Dal Vada with Coconut Chutney and Sticky Bombay Chicken from the South or let your senses venture to the North for Chole, one of the ultimate curries, sweet Carrot Halwa, Pani Puri and Cardamom & Pistachio Kulfi.

Posted by Meghadipa Roy Chowdury

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