Kitchen Diaries: Community cookbooks and a lesson in the delights of diversity

From Memni Kebab to Palanpuri Jain cuisine, explore the beautiful world of Indian cuisine through these cookbooks.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Updated: October 8, 2017 2:09 pm
Maharashtrian cookbook. (Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

Indian Muslim Recipes: Memon, Kokani, Bohra and Kashmiri
Revolutionary Books (Inquilab press), 2010
Featuring recipes for community-specific delights like Memni kabab and tabak ma’az, these bilingual (Urdu and English) booklets open up a world beyond jaded restaurant menus. They are not exhaustive, and neither are the dishes strictly authentic, but they do offer a fascinating glimpse into under-explored culinary traditions.

The ZSM Cookbook
The Zoroastrian Stree Mandal, Secunderabad-Hyderabad, 2015
If the latter part of this community book lists recipes for preparations like canton soup, paneer makhanwala and mangsher kosha as a call for cosmopolitanism and adaptability, the first part is testament to the deep sense of cultural rootedness in the Parsi community through recipes for flagship dishes like patra ni macchi and sali boti.

Isn’t This Plate Indian? Dalit Histories and Memories of Food
WS 10 Class of 2009, K Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies CentrE, Pune
Noting that most cookbooks tend to address “the urban elite, the upper caste and the vegetarian public”, the students of the course ‘Caste and Gender in Modern India’ at Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre in Pune University conceived and produced this book. It focuses on “Dalit” foods such as chunchuni (made from the skin and meat of pig), rakti (goat blood cooked with onions and red chillies) and kandawani (onions fried or roasted with red chilli powder and salt) — all of which speak of how a cuisine was shaped by denial of access to resources.

Rasachandrika: Saraswat Cookery Book
Saraswat mahila Samaj, Bombay, 2001
Adapted from the original Rasachandrika, the landmark Marathi cookbook by Ambabai Samsi (1943), this book reproduces recipes for classic dishes of the Saraswat Brahmin community, such as patrodo, geen (colostrum pudding) and snacks such as kadboli, shankerpali and phenori. The range of fresh ingredients is inspiring — tender bamboo shoots, colocasia leaves and banana stem — and a reminder of a time when our tastes were shaped by what grew around us.

The East Indian Cookery Book: Old and Revised Recipes
Published by The Bombay East Indian Association, 1996
The rich, inventive cuisine of the East Indians, the original inhabitants of Mumbai who converted to Christianity and aligned themselves with the East India Company, is not often encountered in cookbooks. This collection of tried-and-tested recipes feature classics such as fish moile, guisad of chicken and fugias as well as recipes for making wines from currant, beetroot, ginger and rice.

Flavours of Sind
Bangalore Ladies Chapter, 2012
this crowd-sourced collection includes basic recipes such as dal pakwan and Sindhi curry as well as lesser known dishes such as rabaile jo sharbat (jasmine flower sharbat) and kunne ja beeya (lotus stem cooked in earthen pot). “Fusion” dishes such as Sindhi lasagna (featuring lotus seeds and stem) and dabal jo dhai bhallo (with bread replacing the original bhallas) add a contemporary touch.

Dadimano Varso
Rachana Group of Women, 2015
Written in Gujarati and English, this is practically an encyclopaedia of Palanpuri Jain cuisine. Despite their highly restrictive diet, the culinary creativity on display here is impressive. The sheer variety of rotlis, rotlos and bhakris alone is a delight, as is the way in which fruits are used in savoury curries.

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