#BrunchBookChallenge: Sonal Ved is plating diversity through her cookbook
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Sonal Ved’s beautifully-illustrated recipe book Tiffin features 500 recipes with the real tastes of IndiaUpdated: Mar 02, 2019 19:55 IST
A member of a family of self-certified food nerds, Sonal Ved’s reading list unapologetically traverses from ‘What does eating pineapple do to your tongue?’ to ‘How to make your own kombucha at home’. And on any given day, her family spends more time “discussing meal preparations than the national budget.”
“Even my travel is always planned around food,” says Sonal. “Trekking in Kashmir in search of the guchchi mushrooms, road tripping in Tamil Nadu to explore breakfast options, frequent visits around the Konkan coast or the wine region of Nashik in search of flavourful curries, eating in Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh – that’s what my holidays look like.”
On a platter
All this food-related travel led to Ved’s recently released book, Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine, an illustrated tome that celebrates the simplicity, authenticity and diversity of Indian kitchens. A New York Times bestseller, the book features recipes not just from veteran chefs like Floyd Cardoz, Manu Chandra, Thomas Zacharias and Anuj Wadhwan, but also home cooks, wedding caterers, Sonal’s aunts, her friends’ aunts, and grandmothers who have been hoarding secret recipes for eons.
“There are no cookbooks with hyper-regional Indian recipes, like food from Bhatinda, or curries from Saraswat Goan community”
“If you scroll through many Indian cookbooks, you will notice how the dialogue usually tilts towards representation of popular Indian cuisines as North or South, and only a few regions within these compartments, such as Punjab, Lucknow within UP, a little bit of Kerala, something of Tamil Nadu and that’s it,” says Sonal. “But there’s nothing about the hyper-regional recipes, like food from Bhatinda, or curries from the Saraswat Goan community. What about cuisine from the deserts of Kutch? Or that cooked by the Memon community in Mumbai or Gujarat? So I set about collecting hyper-regional recipes to put together one of India’s most comprehensive recipe cookbooks.”
Roots around the world
This means that Sonal’s book is truly a global treasure. “Recently, Daniel Humm from 11 Madison Park put a dosa on his menu. This was after his trip in India. Indian dishes, except maybe chicken tikka, naan and curry are very sparingly represented on Indian menus abroad. Now with modern Indian restaurants, pop ups and food trucks, things have changed - people are doing food trucks serving kathi rolls, pani puri, chaats and so on,” says Sonal. “So in that sense these recipes are globally relevant. Indian foods just need the right kind of representation.”
This is why she feels that the restaurants around the world which are going back to their cuisine roots represent something more than nostalgia — they’re modern. “Everything that has turmeric in it is oh-so-modern. The Ladakhi pastas are quite peculiar, the cold soups like the thanda tamatar ka shorba is a gazpacho equivalent, we have several Indian breads like the Rajasthani Khoba roti and string hoppers, that would be on par with their international counterparts,” says Sonal. “With everyone from Noma to 11 Madison Park to other restaurants in the world going back to their roots, you see how important Indian cuisines can be.”
With a glossary divided into lentils, spices, indigenous fruits and vegetables, and an index that takes you around the country, Tiffin was almost two years in the making. “It was my dream project,” says Sonal. The book is a dream all right!
- The North East has lots of vegetarian food. In fact, veggies there are so underrated and beautiful, like the fiddlehead fern and bamboo shoots.
- In certain parts of India, garlic is used sparingly. Benarasi food uses no onion and garlic. Only ginger is used to flavour food.
- Cumin is used across the country for tempering, whereas mustard is used extensively predominantly in South India.
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From HT Brunch, March 3, 2019
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First Published: Mar 02, 2019 19:55 IST