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I grew up in India and cooked Indian food for years. Recently started up again and Raghavan Iyer's book is phenomenal. My husband--who had never cooked Indian food before--and I have made at least 35 dishes from this book, and only found two of them to be not to our liking (and I suspect I messed up on one of the recipes, not his fault). Everything else has been exquisite.
Why I would suggest you buy this book rather than all the others out there:
1. He starts with fresh ingredients, including spices that are freshly ground and the difference in taste as a result of the extra 5 minutes to grind them is well worth it when you taste the food.
2. He covers a variety of cuisines. Unlike a lot of other books that tend to focus on one region of India vs the other, Ragahavan covers a wide swath of India and gives you everything from Cochin to Kashmir, from Bengal to Bombay. Wonderful way to sample a diverse range of cuisines.
3. The recipes are quite different from each other. I can't tell you how many cookbooks--and how many dishes I have made--all start with frying onions, garlic and ginger, adding tomato, blah blah blah. That's a fairly standard base for many Indian dishes and I could do it with my eyes closed. His recipes are different.
4. The taste! oh the taste! Authentic Indian food, freshly made, and richly flavored. #1 reason to get this book and start practicing.
5. The range of curries is amazing. 660 indeed, and there's a lot of choice in what you make. Perhaps too much for the uninitiated, but if you are familiar with Indian food or looking to expand your horizons a bit, well, worth it.
6. His sidebar comments are short but to the point and often contain tips that are quite helpful. No long-drawn story telling, but enough to intrigue and educate.
Reasons you might not get as much out of this book as I do:
1. If you prefer convenience cooking, and enjoy using canned goods, this book is not for you. I do use canned beans and he recommends them with no reservations, he sometimes recommends frozen veg, but that's it. Everything else is "from scratch" and fresh.
2. It takes time to cook the food. But then again, welcome to cooking Indian food. Our "fast food" takes a while to prepare so real food is..time consuming. For an experienced chef, this could mean 1.5 hours to cook dahl or meat curry, veggies, rice and/or bread which would be standard fare at home for a meal.
3. If you're looking for one-pot meals, slow cooker meals, etc. this is not the book for them. Pressure cookers are recommended for beans and such, but the rest of it is stove-top, some oven or grill, and it's not unusual to cook things for a while on the stove.
4. If you've never cooked or eaten much Indian food before, I recommend starting with his Betty Crocker guide to Indian cooking (I know, that messes with my mind as well, but those recipes are simpler yet authentic.)
5. This is not a 5-ingredient cookbook. The list of ingredients is befitting the dish, but due to the complex combinations of spices that he walks you through, the list can get long. It's WELL WORTH IT though, so do not scrimp.
6. It doesn't cover deserts really at all. Not authentic ones anyway (Mango cheesecake may be yummy but it's not traditional Indian food). Also not covered are a variety of chutneys and raitas or other raw salads which are typically easy and healthy. I am ready for his next book to cover those (I hope he reads these reviews and sees this! :))
I have 10 more Indian cookbooks but ever since this arrived, I haven't used any of them. I love this book so much I'm seriously considering buying 2 more just in case I lose mine and it goes out of print or something catastrophic :)
In short, great recipes, authentic flavors, great variety, requires a bit of time, shows you how to do things well but not for novice chefs. Enjoy!