Thursday, January 05, 2012

Review of " Gujarati Kitchen: Family Recipes for the Global Palate "

I received  this book, " Gujarati Kitchen: Family Recipes for the Global Palate " as part  of the Blogadda Book Reviews Program.

Bhanu Hajratwalla, is a descendant of those Gujaratis who migrated to Fiji, and herself has lived in Fiji, New Zealand and the US. The book is written with an immense knowledge of these countries, their cultures, and  their  agriculture.  The initial preamble deals with Bhanu's life in Fiji, her marriage, cooking customs, and her subsequent travels across the world , wherever her husband's job took them.

We in India, are lucky to have a huge variety of agriculture, weather, and native customs, and even within Gujarat, it is clear , that many dishes and methods of preparation are based on the staple foods grown there, occupation of the local people and even the seasons.  The various rotis/rotlas/breads based on the many types of grains available, traditional rustic recipes like Undhiyo cooked using local produce, in fields, in inverted Matkas, under coal fire, and Chuundo, taking advantage of the strong dry  summer  days in parts of Gujarat, and sweets made out of milk, dals and so on, are some of the dishes I have associated with Gujarat. Some of the dishes like Khandvi are made also in Maharashtra  with minor local variations.

The book has some very useful tables , before starting out with the recipes.  One of the most useful that I found was a comparative display of metric and non metric measures of size and weight. Not to mention cooking temperatures.  The correspondence between ounces, grams and cups,tablespoons and so on as been very thoughtfully included.

Bhanu also defines a few basic masalas, that are often used in Gujarati cooking, and indicates their application in the various recipes in the various sections.

But what was a huge revelation to me, was the fact that there actually existed Gujaratis who traditionally cooked non-vegetarian meals.  To me , Gujaratis have always been vegetarian, and the Jains even more so, with their several seasonal diet rules. I have many friends who are Gujaratis, but all vegetarian. So this was a learning experience, to read about some traditional seafood and mutton recipes, that have been followed by Gujarati Kshatriyas , all the way in Fiji and around the world.

I am a vegetarian, and so these pages went by very fast. But I am sure that they would interest young folks today, who are more adventurous in their cuisine at home.

I suspect Bhanu is my age. I identify with living on campus in the US, in the last few decades of the last century, not having any Indian stores nearby, and having to make do with , say, Schilling spices available in the supermarket, and limited veggie variety.

And I completely identify with Bhanu's sense of outrage, when some fancy caterer at some place selected , due to some rules, for her son's wedding reception, declared that yes , he would make Shrikhand, and garnish it with coriander......Yikes !

A childhood spent in a traditional Gujarati family in a New World,  stir in some amazing knowledge from mothers,  sautee these mixtures in different countries with available ingredients,  spice it up with  various family and social events, and garnish it with a lifetime of cooking knowledge.

The book is a very interesting read, and because of her personal observations, wonderfully succeeds in being more kitchen than chemistry......

A book you should have on your shelves....

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


  1. I have this book...Aparna of Womensweb was kind enough to send it to me since I was the only 'Gujarati' she knew :)

    I think the book is great especially how she describes her early life..some recipes I guess are too elaborate for a fast-fast- finish-the-cooking person like me...and again being brought up in Gujarat, I was aware of most dishes..
    even for me, the non-veg dishes were a new read because all my life in Baroda I have been surrounded by veggies :)

    R's Mom

  2. All along I thought gujrati food and non veg were mutually exclusive.
    I love reading recipes , watching them on culinary shows ,reading 'Ruchira' for getting some fresh ideas on what to cook when the menu gets repetetive . I get soem kind of vicarious pleasure in reading recipes ( my sons think my enthu to read and translate them into action has a wide chasm in between)
    the book seems interesting by your description.

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  6. Interesting...I think I would love this book.

  7. Non vegeterian Gujrati recipes ! Even i thought that all Gujratis are vegeterian.I am a veg who always cooks for non veg folks.Sounds like a book that I would love.

  8. sorry about pressing 'publish yr comment' button so many times.there was a prob with my net connection and i thought it hung half way through , plz delete the superflous comments .

  9. sorry about pressing 'publish yr comment' button so many times.there was a prob with my net connection and i thought it hung half way through , plz delete the superflous comments .