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.

The Review for the Book Titled "Rasachandrika-Saraswat Cookery Book"

It is really surprising to inform each one of you that an association was formed by the women in the year 1917 in Mumbai. It was decided that the group will publish the first Saraswat cookbook titled “Rasachandrika”(or the book of tastes).It was finally published on October 30, 1943 wherein exactly one thousand copies were printed and sold out within a month. The title of the book was “Rasachandrika-Saraswat Cookery Book”. The authors of the book were Smt.Mira G.Hattiangadi & Smt.Neela C.Balsekar for the English version. It was published in a place located in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The publisher was Shri Harsha Bhatkal and the book was printed at “Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai”. The price of the book was Rs.300. The ISBN is 978-81-7154-290-1. The total number of pages are 236 in total.

It is really worthwhile to read the book for few special features perceived in it. Firstly, it is a team work of the women who wanted to share their recipes with the future generations and maintain their culture. Secondly, the credit is given to the first Saraswat women association. The book is not published under the name of the single authorship. The book has the photograph of the original author of the book and her name was “Late Smt.Ambabai Samsi”. The history of the book has been clearly mentioned in the “Preface”. It has been translated into three languages namely Marathi, Hindi and English. The vision of the original author has been noted down under section “Author’s Note to Marathi Edition’. According to her, there are differences between Saraswat and Non-Saraswat cooking styles and dishes. Thirdly, the author has given both drawings and photographs in which there is a neat depiction of the manner in which food has to be displayed and presented to their family members or friends or guests. In other words, she has shown how the food items are to be arranged on the plate before serving to others. This is really interesting to note as other books are devoid of this feature. Fourthly, the book presents the photographs of the way in which the food items need to be displayed on the important religious functions and festivals. This is something which is being given to the next generation of the individuals to learn and know their own culture.

I have read many cookbooks, however, this one happens to attract my attention more and more in the manner in which recipes are shared with us and are especially suited to the state and the country. Let us see the contents of the book. It kicks off with the recipes of the spicy “masalas” or condiments used in day to day life. I especially liked the “amti masala” and “kholamba masala”. Within this section, there is a shorter method of “grinding masalas containing coconut gratings” which is quiet popular in the southern regions of India.

Have you ever heard about the “Dishes served with rice gruel”? The author mentions around “80 side dishes”. Among these, 30 varieties of potato dishes are described in a very clear manner. The author also mentions about different kinds of bananas viz. “Raw Rajali Bananas”, “Ripened Rajali Bananas”, “Unripened Rajali Bananas” and “Non-Rajali Bananas”. The author describes the manner in which one must clean, cut and chop the bamboo shoots. She gives three dishes prepared from them. Can one stay away from the world of chutneys? The author does not move away from sharing various ways in which one can prepare them. According to her, there are three ways in which one can prepare them:

a) Semi-liquid Chutneys b) Pounded Dry Chutneys and c) Liquid Chutneys.

Did anyone taste the “dried brinjal chutney” till date? To be very honest, I never tasted one in my life. I flipped the pages in the book. However, I was surprised to discover that there is no step in the preparation of the dish in which the brinjals are dried and chutney is prepared. In fact, I am on my way to prepare one in which there is the use of “dried brinjals”. I will be sharing it in my next presentation. This is a typographical error and the correct name of the dish is “fried brinjal chutney”.

One might try to cook “golyan sambare”. It is good one and very hygienic dish too. One can relish them similar to momos or rice dumplings used in other states of India. Another set of new dishes narrated in the book are:

1) Kadis used in cold seasons and 2) Tambalis cooked in “hot” seasons.

Cold & Hot seasons in southern parts of India! This zapped me and allowed me to proceed further with the description and explanation given to these recipes. This is a must for reading and I am fascinated by the manner in which these dishes are cooked and served to others. Warm kadis are cooked in eight variations in which garlic, pepper corns, cumin seeds, mango seed called as “stone of a pickled mango”, tender shoots or leaves of pomegranate, etc. are used and dishes are prepared. On the other hand, cold Tambalis are prepared by using some vegetables, or liquids like buttermilk, or spices like fried cumin seed or fresh coconut gratings.

Anyone prepared 38 varieties of rasam or saaru? Out of these, 7 varieties are mentioned in the book and they are:

1. Tamil Saar

2. Garlic Rasam without any lentils

3. Rasam prepared from red gram lentils

4. Vegetable Rasam

5. Coriander Rasam

6. Kokum Saar

7. Kokum and Cloves Rasam

Let’s move to the “section of the recipes in which sugar and jaggery are used”. How about learning more about 14 varieties of idli-sweet and non-sweet ones? Following is the list:

1. Idlis prepared from black gram lentils

2. Idlis prepared in jackfruit leaves

3. Idlis prepared with jaggery

4. Hot & Spicy idlis

5. Idlis prepared with green chilies

6. Jaggery Idlis prepared with coarsely ground wheat

7. Rice and Jaggery Idlis

8. Pumpkin Idlis

9. Rice Vermicelli with Jaggery & Coconut

10. Rice Vermicelli with Jaggery

11. Rice idlis prepared in Turmeric or Banana Leaves

12. Rice and Jackfruit Idlis

13. Rice and Coconut Juice Idlis

14. Rice, Jackfruit and Jaggery Idlis

Rest of the recipes shared in the book is common Marathi dishes. The author has made her contribution in the form of “Food Recipes from folk tales” which are used in our daily life:

1. Infant Feeding

2. Homemade baby food

3. Preparation of the ragi malt feed

4. Vomiting

5. Diarrhea

6. Fever

7. Cold & Cough

8. Headache

9. Mumps

10. Toothache

11. Stomatitis

12. Chronic Dry Cough

13. Incessant Cough

Overall the book gives us the recipes for the dishes consumed in our daily lives. There are a few critical points to be noted against the author:

1. Only few dishes are shared in the book.

2. There are other typical Saraswat dishes which are worth mentioning in the book.

3. Genuine dishes are not mentioned in the book.

4. The festive-food is partially discussed in the book.

5. There are special food dishes given to the pregnant and lactating mothers.

These are missing in the book.