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Book Review: Raghavan Iyer’s “660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking”

660 Curries

Any fan of the Chile Underground knows I love curry. I use Neelam Batra’s 1,000 Indian Recipes and Nancy McDermott’s The Curry Book as resources, as well as whatever I find in my travels to Asia. I was psyched when I saw that Ragha Iyer, IACP Teacher of the Year, would be releasing a book devoted to curry.

The week I ordered my copy, I also found out I would be spending the month of September in India! A chance to learn about curry (and all the supporting cast of food) “on-site,” as it were. I could hardly wait for the UPS truck to drop off my order.

My first-pass assessment: A Great Recipe Book! Not because it’s large enough to use as a weightlifting tool, although it certainly is that; the bloody thing weighs several pounds! It’s heftier than Batra’s substantial volume.

So if only weight matters, then Iyer wins. Fortunately, that’s not the only way (or even the best way) to measure the quality of a cookbook…

When you first open the book you see colorful pictures of curry dishes of all types, from Punjabi to Pakistani; Bengali, Gujurati, Goan; Kashmiri, Keralite and more. These pictures look so good you’d swear you could smell the spices. (Ben Fink is credited with the food photography; kudos!)

After the pictures, this massive tome settles in to discussion and recipes. Mr. Iyer talks about his “Curry Quest,” and the difficulties with defining what curry really is. He then takes off into spice blends and pastes, the flavor packets that deliver most of the flavor in curry dishes. Some great tips are shown here, and if you have any experience with making your own spice pastes, you’ll appreciate the detailed techniques and the variety of flavor options.

Next up are Appetizer Curries, one of my favorite types of dishes using curry. The next three chapters cover the non-vegetarian entrée curries: Poultry, Game & Egg; Beef, Lamb & Pork; and Fish and Seafood. Then Paneer curries are presented. Paneer is India’s only domestic cheese, and it can be made into a wide variety of wonderful dishes.

By this time I was tired of turning pages; but I was only about 300 pages into the manual, so I manfully pressed on. Legume and Vegetable curries occupy another 340 pages or so, and they’re fascinating. Had I known as a child that vegetables could look this good, I might have eaten more of them. (Probably not, but it’s a good thought.)

Raghavan spends some time exploring modern, or fusion, curries. He caps that with Biryani curries, which are casseroles to us. He closes with a fine survey of all the condiments and sides that go with traditional curry dishes.

I’ll pick a dozen or so recipes I think showcase this impressive collection and upload them for your enjoyment. So plan on a week of curry recipes!

As I write this review, I’m not near my home kitchen (and won’t be for a few days). As soon as I get home I’ll try some of these dishes on my unsuspecting victims family and friends before I get off to India to taste-test The Real Thing.

If you love curry like I do, get a copy of 660 Curries soon; in the meantime,

Enjoy the (Spicy Curry) Heat!

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2 comments to Book Review: Raghavan Iyer’s “660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking”

  • This book looks awesome, though ingredients are damned hard to get around here.

    Curry. TC loves curry…

  • TC,

    Actually, many ingredients are getting easy to get in stores all across America. I realize that may not include Your neighborhood grocery, given your exotic and remote location.

    Oh, and now there’s the Internet, which can supply most anything to most anyone, anywhere. Excepting you, I suppose…