Monday, October 03, 2011

Book Review: Food Trail of Punjab

Rushina, had been very enthusiastic some time last year about the release of  "The Food Trail of Punjab". She had met Mr Yashbir Sharma and was quite impressed with his love for food that drove him to self-publish. This is his second book after "The Dhabhas of Amritsar" She even helped him launch the book in Bombay. Unfortunately I was in Delhi at that time and missed the Bombay launch, but that did not stop me from buying a copy of my own.

I'd flipped through "The Food Trail of Punjab" when I was in Delhi, but it wasn't a very serious effort. Punjabi food was easily available within 15 minutes of dialling a number, so I didn't bother cooking anything Punjabi while I was in Delhi.

Now that I'm in Guwahati and my favourite Punjabi restaurant here: Khalsa Parivaar has been closed for 3 months with no signs of reopening in the immediate future, I needed to take a closer look at my Punjabi cookbooks. Why Punjabi? No I'm not craving the ghee :) Punjabi food while rich with milk products is also very simple to put together. Ingredients needed are minimal and easy to find in any kitchen pantry or even Guwahati's food stores.

Given my paucity of food ingredients here, I've been thinking that Punjabi food will be much easier for me to cook here, than pasta or stir fries.

So I sat down to flip through "The Food Trail of Punjab" again. And this time I was hooked. The wealth of information is amazing. If a foodie were to try and visit all the eateries mentioned in the book, they wouldn't be able to cover more than one page in a day.

Food Trail starts with a brief travelogue of Amritsar and Wagah, before proceeding to Jalandhar, Ludhiana & Patiala. Then Mr Sharma gets down to buisness, he starts listing out all the eateries he has eaten at and what their specialities are with a bit of background to the history of some of the eateries and some recipes that he managed to get these long term khansamas to share (which is a heroic feat in itself).

As I had expected, the recipes are simple and when I cook them at home, I can lower the ghee and malai (cream) content in most of the savoury dishes. (Never compromise on ghee, cream and butter in sweet recipes, the results will be disastrous)

The pictures aren't what you would see in a glossy Hermes House or Good Housekeeping cookbook, but the recipes are very authentic. If you buy cookbooks for the pretty pictures, then this one isn't for you. But if you buy the Penguin "The Essential" cookbook series because there are some great recipes in there, then you will be happy just to have pictures in this book.

A beginner cook or someone who isn't familiar with the names of these dishes, may have some trouble with some recipes in this book, because steps aren't as clear as could be. But anyone who is comfortable improvising while cooking, will be able to figure out the instructions very easily.

For eg to make motichoor laddoos:
Step 1 Mix besan and meetha soda together and sieve.
Step 2 Mix desi ghee, milk and a little water to make a thick batter.
If you understood that the ingredients of step 2 have to be added to those in step 1 to get the batter, you will be able to cook from this book.

The only other problem with this book is the editing. This could just be my editing experience speaking, but I really wish I could have got my hands on the manuscript before it was published. The content is vast and information tremendous. It would just have been so much pleasanter to read if the grammatical errors and misused turn of phrases had been caught before publishing. Mr Sharma if you plan to publish another food book or need to reprint this one, I volunteer my services for the editing.

Contentwise the book as I mentioned before, is marvellous. You can plan a 2-3 week holiday in Amritsar just for sampling the fare from the eateries montioned in this book. The recipes are simple, ingredients required are very basic. Other than paneer, brains, curry patta and baby corn I should be able to procure them quite easily here. And ingredients like garam masala, chaat masala and black salt, you will be able to source quite easily from Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi stores elsewhere in the world.

Some ingredients like yellow chilli powder, I have not yet come across and some like magaz had me rushing to google. But there is a glossary on the last page for a handy translation for most ingredients.

Some recipes like the chicken chaat are so simple, a child could assemble it whereas the motichoor laddus will take more experience if you plan to make the boondi/motis too at home. I've already bookmarked some recipes to try in the near future. Will let you know how it goes.

The book is not yet available on Amazon, but it is available on flipkart


sangeeta said...

Hi Kim...long time it has been:)

I would like to lay my hands on this book, is it available online?

Waiting for your cooking with these recipes till then.

Kim said...

Hi Sangeeta,

Its not available on amazon, but it is available on flikart at a 15% discount.

I've included the link to the flipkart item in the main post, after you asked


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