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Authentic Indian cooking at home

Anyone make any Indian dishes at home? I love Indian food and am a regular at The Udupi Cafe which I love, even with all the current changes. I just ate lunch there on Friday and it was still as wonderful. I love the soft Indian cheese, Paneer, and the spinach dish with it, Paleek Paneer, not to mention any method of curry, biryani and fragrant rice dishes. I just found a great source for most of the spices I need and am really itching to cook.

Also if anyone has any good recommendations on cookbooks for authentic Indian food I would really appreciate them. The ones I have looked at seem to read in another language.

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  1. I'm into Indian cooking now too! Son gave me a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook "From Curries to Kebabs" last Christmas and I love it. I've heard others recommend her books also; she has many Indian cookbooks on the market.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Val

      I have looked at Jaffrey's books and found it way too overwhelming, but that was over a year ago so maybe I will look at it again. My library has it.

      1. re: Val

        this is not technically cooking, but Maya Kaimal has an amazing line of refrigerated Tika Masala, Coconut Curry and Vindaloo that are fantastic. www.mayakaimal.com

        1. re: Belly DuJour

          I can also recommend her book, "savoring the spice coast of india". She does a great job of explaining the various cultures of kerala and its diverse cuisine. The recipes are easy to follow and work. Best Indian cookbook i've had in a long time.

        2. re: Val

          I really love Jaffray's Indian Cooking. Last night we had a delicious meal of Shrimp in Dark Sauce, Aloo Gobi, rice, and naan (although I cheat and by the naan in the freezer section of Whole Foods).

        3. i like the Time Life book from about 25 years ago. you can still find it online on ebay. it has a yellow cover with spices on it.

          i also like yamuna devi's unabridged version of lord krishna's cuisine, but more to learn methodology rather than igredients. her lists are too long and don't really reflect simple home cooking.

          2 Replies
          1. re: arifa

            Yamuna Devi also doesn't use "tamasic" foods like garlic or onions. I agree that her book is a bit complicated, but I have found a couple of good recipes in it.

            I'd really recommend Julie Sahni or Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey's got so many books, of varying levels of simplicity, that you're bound to find one you like.

            I agree one of the major obstacles to making Indian food is the ingredient list. It takes a bit of shopping, but once you have the basic spices, you're in business. Then it's just a matter of cooking once or twice to get a hang of the method. And I also found that I do a lot more Indian food now that I have a food processor. Some sort of chopper or blender is very useful when cooking Indian food!

            1. re: Kagey

              I don't know which of Yamuna Devi's cookbooks you base this assertion on, but I have Lord Krishna's Cuisine. It's FULL of onions, though there's not garlic in many recipes. Yes, she is definitely influenced by Vedic traditions, and this is a vegetarian cookbook, with lots of dairy foods included. Many of her recipes have long ingredient lists and long preparation time. If you want to understand many of the traditional ways of preparing Indian food, though, she's a great place to start. (She does use shortcut methods for some recipes, too.) She's not the most approachable, but I wouldn't throw her out of the picture entirely.

          2. I recommend Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking highly. The book is laid out well and gives good, detailed instructions on the basics. I would rank Sahni up there with Paula Wolfert for making clear a cuisine that is very different from standard European cooking.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cheryl_h

              I agree with you, and dave below, this is a great cookbook. There are relatively few cookbooks I actually use often for recipes, Sahni's in one, also Wells "Bistro Cooking" and Jafury's "World of the East."

              1. Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni - a great cookbook.
                She also has a book on Vegetarian and Grain cooking.

                I've cooked a fair number of her dishes, and have yet
                to be disappointed. Just last weekend I followed her
                directions and made paneer cheese from scratch,then
                followed by using it for Matar Paneer. A lot
                of fun, and I learned a lot as well.


                3 Replies
                1. re: dave_nyc

                  Dave, How was the paneer?? That is one of the items I want to try and it doesn't look too difficult. The recipe I have calls for boiling whole milk with an acid until fully curdled, then rinsing, forming and pressing. I would love to know your method and results!

                  1. re: cooknKate

                    That's actually how I make ricotta at home. 1 cup buttermilk, 4 cups milk, heated. Except I don't press it. So I can confirm it works in making cheese, just don't know how like paneer it is, once pressed.

                  2. re: dave_nyc

                    We have made our own too and I love the fresh dairy smell the kitchen gets. It is not difficult at all. The recipe we have used doesn't actually call for boiling the milk, but heating it very slowly just to the boiling point and adding lemon juice and removing from the heat. Then allow the curds to form before strainng out the whey. Don't discard the whey there is good nutrition there. If you are a baker use it to make bread. We drain the curds a few hours in cheese cloth before forming and pressing and cutting.

                  3. My favorite (I'm on my second copy) is "A Surti Touch" by Malvi Doshi. Excellent for Gujurati favorites as well as standards...Doshi is Gujurati. (She used to own the Ganges restaurant in SF, years ago, but hasn't been there for a long time...). It may be out of print, but amazon.com currently has 10 used copies. It is the book my husband gave me so that I could learn to cook like his mom used to.....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: janetofreno

                      Thanks for this I just ordered a used copy. You might want to know that she wrote another called "Cooking Along the Ganges." It's about twice as big as her first book.


                    2. I got the new Alford-Duguid book out of our library in early spring, Mangoes to Curry Leaves, Recipes from the Subcontinent. Absolutely everything I made from it was a keeper. My library allows 3 weeks check out. I had the book ordered through Amazon and delivered before the book was due. Not only are the recipes great but the book also reads as a great travelogue.....but???????? I'd rather go out for Indian/Pakistani.Sri Lankan etc. It is so labor intensive to me compared to Chinese or Vietnamese especially when I want multiple dishes. I guess if I was putting a dinner together with my dining group, which I will consider, where the labor is evenly divided and many hands are doing the work I will use it to learn but at home cooking for the two of us dinner will be rather singular in scope. My DH can turn out some great Naan so at least there will be that and some chutneys and relishes.

                      My only other critisism of the book is like their other books, it is really unweildy. It is a big coffee table book. I don't know why publishers insist on making some of these cook books so kitchen/user unfriendly. Are we really just supposed to sit with them on our laps and ooh and aaaaaahhh over the pretty photos and not really use them? Keller's Bouchon book is another case in point. I buy cookbooks to use, get the pages spattered and really cook from. Oh btw, if some of you were put off by the Bouchon cookbook there are some great recipes in there too. Just too bad the publishers make them so unfriendly.

                      1. My suggestion is not a cookbook, but it is my favorite method of cooking Indian food at home. I like the Shan line of prepared spices, which are sold in little yellow boxes for about $0.79 in my local Indian/Pakistani store. Our favorites are Bombay Biryani and Chicken Tikka, but there are lots and lots of them. Very spicy and authenic. Quite easy. We had the tikka yesterday, I consider it a quick meal. My tip for using these boxes would be that you should feel free to adapt the recipe on the box-- and never use more than a tenth of the ghee called for, it's simply unnecessary for American tastes. I'm not talking complex adaptations, just that you don't need to worry about following the recipe exactly (in case you are like me and are a compulsive tinkerer.)

                        I've also used Madhur Jaffrey, and liked it, especially the samosa recipe.

                        1. I love Suvi Suran's cookbook, forget the name at the moment, excellent pictures and very easy recipes and they are delicous. Check some past posts referring to Indian cooking I think others have commented as well.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: 4chowpups

                            I have that book, Indian Home Cooking and it is okay but I have been disappointed in the finished product vs. labor and believe me, I am not a lazy cook!

                          2. Indian restaurant food, for the most part, is not the same thing as authentic Indian cooking. Although some cookbooks will come closer than others, you generally won't find a cookbook that mirrors what you get in a restaurant. There are exceptions, but for the most part,

                            Cookbook authors are

                            Usually not Punjabi

                            Restauranters are

                            Usually poor to lower middle class
                            Often rural/suburban
                            Short order background (lots of fat, sugar, msg)
                            Usually Punjabi or of Punjab descent

                            Successful restauranters don't write cookbooks/don't share their secrets. This is the same for Chinese food as well.

                            Sahni, Jaffrey and Suran all write great cookbooks but if Indian restaurant food is your love, the recipes will fall short. I know.

                            This being said, if you know nothing about Indian cooking, these cookbooks will give you a good rough sketch. Along with these, I'd recommend Monica Bhide, the Everything Indian Cookbook, and Sameen Rushdie (Salman's sister), Indian Cookery. Indian Cookery is out of print and hard to track down, but worth the effort. Sameen's book has a strong Muslim influence. Muslim components play are large part in Indian restaurant food. Indian food on a whole has been influenced by many cultures. Depending on which regional cuisine you're looking at, the influences change.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: scott123

                              Thanks Scott, all true information, yes. My quest for authentic Indian food does not come due to a love of the restaurant meals I have eaten, however, although that helps. It comes because of the love for the spices, variety, textures, flavors and methods used. I don't seek out restaurant style recipes to duplicate at home, that's what restaurants are for! I have found some on the web to have for home use, but what I want is to learn to cook Indian food, period. That means getting an authentic reference and using it. Notice the use of the word authentic in my original post.

                              1. re: cooknKate

                                You spoke loftily about the palak paneer you ate at the restaurant and then later in this thread expressed a desire to make paneer at home. Maybe I connected the wrong dots here, but that read to me that you might have had a desire to make the palak paneer you 'loved' at the restaurant at home. It's not uncommon for someone to eat something delicious at a restaurant and then have a yearning to prepare that dish at home. It happens every day.

                                1. re: scott123

                                  Point taken and deferred. But my request originally was to find something to use at home so I could learn authentic ways of cooking Indian food. Should those recipes come with it, it would simply be a bonus.

                            2. I have a 20 year old cookbook by Ismail Merchant that got me started cooking Indian food at home. The recipes are fairly idiosyncratic but always delicious and not nearly as labor-intensive as those in the many Indian cookbooks I have cooked from since then. This is by far my most splattered, falling apart cookbook. I don't see any copies (or even mention) of my old cookbook on Amazon but there is one he wrote called Passionate Eating that you might want to look at.

                              1. I'm also a fan of Julie Sahni, but the Indian cookbook I use most is Cyrus Todiwala's Cafe Spice Namaste--I've cooked at least half the recipes in it. Possibly the best modern interpretations of Indian classics out there--stylish, but with plenty of integrity. Cafe Spice Namaste is a pretty well-known London restaurant.

                                1. I am also a fan of Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Alford and Duguid. Everything from it has been yummy and not overwhelmingly complicated. The family is very fond of the dal and rice--the one described as Nepali mountain dal. I even get requests!

                                  I have to say, the size doesn't bother me so much--its such a beautiful book and since it is a merger of travel book photos and food, I'm not sure how it could be made any smaller. I have their Rice book which is a smaller size and it lacks the beautiful color photos of places and food.

                                  When cooking, I just prop the thing on an open kitchen drawer [we have a serious shortage of counter space] or the dining room table. All I had to do was get over my fear of getting food smeared on the beautiful photos . . . .

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: jenn

                                    I agree. These books are a pleasure to read, and a pleasure to cook from. The authors manage to adapt recipes without sacrificing authenticity too much. I recently made their Pork Vindaloo...yikes was it spicy and incredibly delicious. I served it with a recipe that included shredded winter squash cooked with coconut and curry leaves, YUM! I have all their books and use them often. I cook in one of the world's smallest kitchens and the size of the books really doesn't bother me. However, if you have a scanner, you could scan the pages you need and print them out.

                                    1. re: pizzapazza

                                      I have a cookbook holder and the space and the holder does help to keep the pages clean. I also have their Secuction's of Rice and Hot Sour Salty Sweet. I do love their books and great clear instructions. Despite the unweildiness I cannot imagine not having them. You know, maybe if the publisher had published as a two volume set, sort of like the old Time Life books with tales and travelogue in one volume the recipes in another. I'd love having them in a cased set like that. Though not being available will never stop me from buying more of thier books. The recipes are just too good.

                                      I've got a scanner but I'd have to break the spine to to do that and I value them too much to do that.

                                      A friend who does a lot of Indian at home, she got to it earlier than I did, highly recommends Shani's Mircowave Moghul. I may get that out of the library this weekend and see if that could speed up the preparation and not have a meal be so one dimensional of 1 dish and rice.

                                    2. re: jenn

                                      Beautiful book: Mangoes & Curry Leaves. The other day I found some really fresh okra (at Berkeley Bowl) and made one of the recipes - stirfried with spices. It was very good, not at all slimy, but next time I'll put twice the okra (too much spice for me). Also, they said to get 1/2 lb which would equal 2 cups. Good thing I'd bought 1 lb because that made the 2 cups.

                                      1. re: jenn

                                        Another vote for Mangoes & Curry Leaves. As mentioned, I also am not a fan of the book's unweildiness. However, its recipes, techniques more than compensate for that small peeve of mine.

                                        Mr. Dumptruck was raised in Karachi, and he finds what I make from this cookbook to be authentic and delicious.

                                        Recipes I make regularly: Mountain Mushrooms, Dum Cauliflower, & Kachoombar. I also love the recipe for gulab jamman.

                                      2. Since people have already recommended some big-name pan-Indian recipe books, I'd like to recommend two authors who focus on regional cuisine.

                                        I'm a big fan of Bharti Kirchner's "Healthy Cuisine of India: Recipes from the Bengal Region". It's a simple book with mostly vegetarian dishes, with some good fish recipes and a small section of meat dishes. The seasonings are rich without being too hot for most Americans to enjoy, and the dishes are unusual and tasty to people who are unfamiliar with Bengali food. Kirchner's directions are clear, and the amount of oil/butter is in line with contemporary tastes.

                                        Another author I haven't seen mentioned here is Maya Kaimal and her two South Indian-focused cookbooks. Kaimal's seasonings are simple (simpler than most North Indian recipes if you can get curry leaves without a palaver), she has a lot of seafood recipes, and her recipes taste authentic while still being palatable to even my most Indian food-phobic friends. I have her second book, "Savouring the Spice Coast of India" and have yet to make a clunker. Lately in New York I've seen a line of readymade sauces with her name in the refrigerator section of the grocery and the tamarind-coconut curry sauce is very much like the recipes in her book - although the ingredients may seem exotic to some, the final product is both delicious and non-threatening. In addition, the level of heat seems too low at first and then after a few bites you realise it is actually perfect. These are good recipes, intelligently prepared, and easy to bang together on weeknights.

                                        Moving on to a book that has been highly recommended here, I like the Mangoes and Curry Leaves book very much. A friend and I made the chicken biryani recipe with two different sorts of fresh chutney and a kachumber salad (a six hour affair that used every pot in the kitchen... twice) and it was absolutely delicious. Best biryani ever - the bottom was all crispy, almost like a Persian tah chin dish. The only thing I don't care for about this book is its size/weight - very unwieldy in a city kitchen - it is larger than my available counterspace, its weight makes it dangerous to try to prop up on a shelf, and it is nice enough to be damaged by a tumble to the floor. Maybe this book on the coffee table and a cheap paperback edition to dogear in the kitchen?

                                        I have and use Yamuna Devi's enormous book regularly, usually matching up a vegetable I have a lot of with recipes from the index. And it usually turns out very well.

                                        1. My post comes a bit late, but, as a fellow Indian food enthusiast, I'd be remiss if I didn't add that there are a host of *terrific* Indian food blogs out there. The blogs are a great way to learn about the huge variety of Indian food, too, with each blogger specializing in the food of his/her particular region. It doesn't get more authentic than this! Most include pictures, so you can see what each recipe's end product should look like. One caveat, though: as far as I can tell, the majority of the bloggers tend to be *South* Indian (from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, etc.)- -thus, less available are recipes for the Northern Indian food common to most American restaurants (biriyani, etc.).

                                          Some of my favorites:


                                          MY DHABA

                                          SAILU'S FOOD

                                          ONE HOT STOVE

                                          SALT AND PEPPER

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: Quizrah

                                              I've spend quite a while trying to learn all I can about Regional Indian Cuisine and have yet to find a difinative authority on regions outside Punjab and Kerala...I'm terrifically interested in learning about other food regions within India. I picked up "Regional Indian Cooking " by Joshi and Roberts, but found their recipes lacking...what I'm looking for is India's #1 authority on regional cuisine via book or internet. Anyone?

                                            2. you will not get your food to taste like it does in the restaurant, they generally use basic gravey for all dishes and add ingrediants to make the differant dishes .
                                              madhar jaffrey is very complicated indian home cooking is simple and easy.
                                              try camellia panjabi 50 great curries of india this is the best selling curry book ever find it on amazon

                                              1. All good tips here. My tips are:

                                                1. Don't stint on the salt. It's a key ingredient.

                                                2. Have some Indian friends, help mom out in the kitchen and steal her tricks :)

                                                1. I already put this in the "favorite online recipe collections" thread, but maybe you won't see it there, so...

                                                  Indian restaurant recipes http://www.indian-recipe.org/joomla1/

                                                  Homestyle Indian cooking http://www.mamtaskitchen.com/index.php

                                                  1. I bought a little second hand paperback called "Curries Without Worries" by Sudha Koul. It is written in a very simple and explanatory style, which found very helpful. The author explains the ingredients well and the recipes that I have used were reminicent of Indian food I have had in Hong Kong. I think they gear it for the hotter climate there and it tends to be less rich. Anyway, I like this cookbook for some of it's simplistic explanations and basic instructions.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: WCchopper

                                                      I've been cooking principally Southern Indian food since 1996, so let me help.

                                                      1. The blogs, especially 'My Dhaba' are the best for home cooking. Cook from them. The recipes are simpler & delicious. That's where I cook from now.

                                                      2. Buy a cookbook Yamuni Devi or Julie Sahni (I have just about every one mentioned) that gives you the best discussion of ingredients and techniques. I hardly ever cook from them. The recipes are great but very long & complex. Great for guests & special occasions but never everyday...

                                                      3. Palak Paneer is a great dish, but it's Northern Cuisine, if you go to a restaurant named 'Udipi' it specializes in Southern! It's like ordering French food at a Gourmet Italian restaurant..
                                                      Order a Dosa or Uppatham, iddly, medhu vadai.
                                                      There are the great Southern specialities.

                                                      4. Remember India has regions; Punjabi food is not Gujarati, nor Andhra (really hot! love it...) Kashmir, nor Kerala (my fave) They all have their own special qualities and are different.

                                                      5. I love the amazing variety. And you will too, stick to Quizrah's list:
                                                      here is my own ling to a blog;

                                                      The dish is dead easy (jeera= cumin) & utterly delicious! Enjoy everyone. & here's a helpful glossary of Hindi = English food terms

                                                      1. re: Rory

                                                        I like New Indian Home Cooking by Madhu Gadia.
                                                        Sometimes, cookbooks written by dieticians can be lacking, but this one is good and easy to use.

                                                        1. re: ICantRemember

                                                          I make southern food as I prefer it, but it is veg & has little dairy. You can easily substitute tofu for Paneer, and unsweetened soy milk for coconut milk. I put it a bit of coconut to flavour it. Got that tip from the Tamil forum. If you want that creamy korma without tons of fat use Silk soy cream. works a treat.

                                                    2. My favorize Indian cookbook is "Chilis to Chutneys" by Neelam Batra--I'm pretty sure it's out of print, though. She has both Indian dishes and recipes for "Indianized" American food. It is very easy to read and understand, but like with most Indian food the recipes call for unusual ingredients and a lot of steps.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                                        For what it's worth: As I noted on another thread, the cookbook The Curry Secret has gotten some rave reviews on Amazon. I recently purchased it but have yet to try any of the recipes...YET. Unfortunately I never know what onions to use when cookbooks note "cooking onions", so I am trying to gather more intelligence before diving in, but this book won praise from folks who tried to re-create some restaurant Indian cooking they enjoyed.

                                                        Meanwhile, if any reader knows what onions (and potatoes) are predominately used in Indian cooking, please clue me in!

                                                        1. re: MysticYoYo

                                                          Indian cooking is very very forgiving. Since the book doesn't mention what onions, i would suggest red or yellow. That said, it doesn't really matter, especially in curries.

                                                          As for potatoes, anything should work. In India you don't really see the huge varieties of potatoes and onions you get in supermarkets here. Most people buy their produce from something that looks like a farmer's market and so they just buy whatever kind is available that week.

                                                          So feel free to substitute and use what you would like best in Indian cooking.