Critical Review for the Book Titled "Zaika-Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine"

I was searching for some good books on Kashmir cuisine. At this time, I came across the book on Kashmiri Hindu Cuisine titled “Zaika-Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine”. I wanted to purchase the book online. However, it was a futile attempt for me. The name of the author for this book is Sonya Atal Sapru. Somehow I got her contact information and placed a call to her. I told her about my interests in Kashmiri Cuisine and my attempts to get a hold of her book. In a very polite manner, she added on to me that she has one copy of the book and she may like to gift it to me. Nothing could prevent me now other than reaching to her place, meeting her and get the copy of the book. Finally she gifted me the book with her blessings. It took me nearly five years to write the review of her book (I was lazy enough). I read it six times till date.

The book is not very thick one. The total number of pages is 70. It was published in the year of 1999. it was published by harper Collins, India. The ISBN is 81-7223-341-8. The cost of the book is Rs.195. The cover page is a photograph with two frames combined together-one with the photograph of Kashmiri Puloa and fennel seeds and second one is the photograph of a typical Kashmiri Pandit lady wearing a saree with full blouse, typical Kashmiri Jewellery with the characteristic long chained jhumkas and handmade fan in her hands. The back side of the book is the awesome photograph of the author with her child in her lap. The author claims the authenticity of the genuineness of the recipes shared in the book. She thanked her mother-in-law -Smt.Gita Sapru- for her help and guidance.

The book has been divided into six sections and they are the following:

a. How to plan a Kashmiri Meal (original contribution)? There are in total four ways in which the menu can be set for the day.

b. Kashmiri Garam masala (separately discussed in the entire book)

c. 16 Non-vegetarian recipes

d. 12 Vegetarian recipes

e. 5 Dals and 4 Rice dishes

f. 2 Chutneys,2 Raitas and 4 Desserts

The excellent points in the book are:

1. There is good number of rare and unique family photographs exhibited in the book. These are old and black-white in color showing the period during which they were clicked and shared with not only the future family members; however, with each and every reader of the book. They are rich in showcasing the culture of the Kashmiri Pandit families. The author states “portrait of an ancestor and found in an old chest of photographs”.

2. The author has taken time to mention total number of servings, preparation time and cooking time for each and every recipe in the book.

3. She has explained every recipe in simple English language.

4. The manner in which she acknowledges to her family members for their contribution towards the publishing of the book.

5. The best recipes are: mutton cooked in milk with green almonds, liver cooked in sour curd (khatti kaleji), meat cooked in plums (stuffed passande dum), mutton cooked in coriander powder (dhania ka shufta), jackfruit kababs (kathal kababs), fried pieces of lotus stem (nadru ki kurkuri), colacassia cooked in curds (khatti arvi), sour lentils (khatti arhar dal), mixed vegetable biryani (sarvari), baria, kishmish raita, and meethe chawal.

The weak points of the book are:

1. Very few recipes have been shared and presented in the book.

2. Festive recipes are missing in the book.

On the whole, the book is small and with few pages. It exhibits the recipes and their contributors. The book is a mixture of recipes and culture of Kashmiri Pandits shown via the rich and detailed photographs from the author’s family.

Critical Review of the Book Titled "Sal-A Feast of Kashmiri Cuisine"

I wanted to prepare a typical Kashmiri Sherbat at the time of Ramzaan. I was searching for Kashmiri recipes. I was not very fortunate enough to know about it. Luckily I discovered the details of the recipe in the book titled “Sal-A Feast of Kashmiri Cuisine”. It was written by Smt. Neerja Mattoo-a Professor in English literature and teaching in the Kashmir University. It was a colorful book with lots of recipes from the valley. It was published in the year of 2008. The name of the publisher was Gulshan Books, Srinagar-Kashmir. The ISBN is 81-8339-063-3. The cost of the book is Rs.495.

The book is dedicated to her mother. The contents of the book are:

1. 11 Wazwaan recipes

2. 7 Non-Vegetarian recipes

3. 21 Vegetarian Recipes

4. 8 Mutton and Vegetable

5. 9 recipes prepared from fish and 1 recipe prepared from duck

6. 2 Dried Vegetables

7. 4 Recipes using rice

8. 4 Desserts

9. 4 Beverages

10. 7 Snacks and Tea-Time Savouries

11. 4 Chutneys

12. 1 Pickle

13. 2 Spice Cakes (garlic and asafoetida based)

The excellent points present in the book are:

a. Different varieties of recipes have been shared by the author.

b. The author gives a vivid introduction about the Kashmiri cuisine-right from seasonal dishes to festive cuisine.

c. The authentic recipes shared from her side are Sadre Kaenz, Sheer Chai, bakery products, harisa, girda, etc.

d. She discusses about the use and prevention of certain spices and vegetables during festivals and seasons as described in traditional books.

e. Very clear colored photographs for various dishes are showcased in the book (this even includes the traditional copper utensils used for different purposes).

f. Her major contribution lies in the sharing of recipes using dried vegetables.

g. This is the only book sharing the recipe for a beverage called Babribyol Sherbet (beverage prepared from chia seeds) and sadr-e-kaenz-a fermented rice water).

The weak points of the book are:

a. The sections on non-vegetarian and mutton and vegetable could have been taken into one category only.

b. The author was not fair in her contribution towards the discussion and listing of the Wazwaan dishes.

c. Though the author mentions about various bakery products in the Introduction of her book, however, there is nowhere mentioned or discussed about the manner in which these products are prepared by the Kandarvaan or the baker’s shop.

d. The author is not shown much attention towards the preparations of various dishes from the dried vegetables.

e. There are other varieties of pickles prepared in Kashmir. The author misses her points in it too.

To summarize in the end, the book is truly an introduction to the world of Kashmiri cuisine. The author describes the steps in a very lucid manner and one can follow them nicely. I enjoyed cooking some of the recipes from the book.