Regional Indian Cooking: Simple and Healthy Ayurvedic Recipes, written by Ajoy Joshi and Alison Roberts, highlights the five main regions of India in 120 easy-to-follow dishes. I am sharing a recipe for Tali Murghi (Fried Chicken) and other specialties found in the book include Phanthar Jhole (Bengali-Style Lamb with Coconut) from East India, Murgh Khubani (Chicken with Apricots) from North India, Nandu Kari Kozhambu (Crab Curry) from South India, Kanda Vada (Onion Pakoras) from West India, and Shahi Tukra (Bread and Butter Pudding) from Central India.
Ajoy Joshi currently lives in Sydney, Australia as the chef and co-owner of Nilgiri’s Restaurant and Nilgiri’s @ Home with his wife, Meera Joshi. He began his career in Madras (Chennai), India at the Taj Group of Hotels. He is also the author of Indian Home Cooking. Alison Roberts is a food editor, writer, and recipe developer based in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two children. She is a regular contributor to many food magazines including Super Food Ideas.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Tuttle Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Chapters are divided according to region (North India, South India, East India, West India, and Central India), then arranged based on course (Starters, Main Dishes, Accompaniments, and Desserts). The recipes are also individually listed in the table of contents for easy reference.
Joshi provides a brief overview of the differences that can be found in the five regions, plus an introduction to Ayurveda- a holistic form of healing and its role in the balance of food. A chart is included with the best food choices based on certain body types and characteristics.
For those new to South Asian cuisine, descriptions are given for the basic ingredients and spices along with foundation recipes to make masala for each of the different regions (Vari Masala, Coondapour Masala, Panch Phoron, Balchao Masala, Salan Masala).
The photography is provided by Steve Brown. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full page photo of the finished dish. The name of each dish is listed in English and its original language. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. Most of the recipes are followed by guides for menu planning with possible accompaniments to serve 4-8 people.
This book is a great pick for those interested in a primer on the regional differences in Indian cuisine. Most of the recipes are explained simply with minimal to moderate ingredient lists. Average cooking time ranges from 30 minutes to a couple of hours of simmering. There is an assortment of starters, meats, poultry, seafood, vegetarian meals, and sweets, but no beverages. Having a market with South Asian ingredients nearby will be helpful to locate items such as brown and green cardamom pods, saffron threads, tamarind concentrate, asafetida, rose water, semolina, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, jaggery, curry leaves, and chickpea flour.
Tali Murghi, Fried Chicken, is a popular street food in New Delhi, particularly near Jama Masjid (one of the largest mosques in India). Joshi states that it is generally made with chicken on the bone, but this version uses the easier-to-eat chicken tenderloins.
The chicken pieces are coated in yogurt before tossing in a spiced breadcrumb mix and frying in oil until crisp and golden. They are served while still hot with lemon wedges and a tomato, onion, and cucumber relish.
Chili powder in Indian cooking refers to ground red chilies, not the American chili powder spice mix. American chili powder has additional seasonings, while Indian chili powder has only pure ground chilies. If you do not have Indian chili powder available, substitute with hot paprika or ground cayenne. Adjust the amount of chili powder to taste.
I also made Kheema Pullao (Lamb Pulao), Gajjar Chi Koshumbiri (Carrot and Roast Peanut Relish), Malai Korma (Rich Tomatoes with Cashew Nuts), and Pyaaz-Ka-Raita (Onion Raita).
Kheema Pullao, Lamb Pulao, comes from West India and this particular recipe is a Maharashtrian version. Ground lamb is cooked with the basmati rice and an aromatic combination of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, chili, and coconut. The yogurt adds a bit of creaminess and the meal is topped off with hard-boiled eggs, garam masala, mint, and cilantro. Joshi recommends serving the Pullao with home-style bread, mango chutney or carrot and roast peanut relish.
I made the Gajjar Chi Koshumbiri (Carrot and Roast Peanut Relish, not photographed) as an accompaniment for the Kheema Pullao. It comes together easily with grated carrots mixed with yogurt, roasted peanuts, chili, and sugar. Oil tempered with asafetida and cumin is mixed in right before serving.
Malai Korma, Rich Tomatoes with Cashew Nuts, comes from Central India. This dish is perfect for summer with 3 pounds of ripe tomatoes simmered with spices and green chilies. It is finished with a generous pour of heavy cream, fresh cilantro, and roasted cashews. Joshi recommends serving it with steamed basmati rice/coconut rice or bread and chutney.
Pyaaz-Ka-Raita (Onion Raita) also comes from Central India. Thinly sliced onions are mixed with yogurt, chili, cumin, lemon, and cilantro until combined. This creamy accompaniment paired well with the Malai Korma.
Tali Murghi (Fried Chicken)
Excerpt from Regional Indian Cooking
Serves 4 as starter
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces/180 grams) dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces/75 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon (Nilgiri’s) Garam Masala
Vegetable oil for shallow frying
1/2 cup (4 ounces/125 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/2 pounds (750 grams) chicken tenderloins, cut in half lengthwise if large
Lemon wedges for serving
In a large plastic bag, combine bread crumbs, flour, salt, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and garam masala. Toss well to combine.
Pour oil to a depth of about 4 inches (10 cm) in a deep, heavy saucepan and heat to 350 degrees F (180 C) on a deep-frying thermometer.
Meanwhile, put yogurt in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Dip a few pieces of chicken into yogurt, shaking off excess. Add to bread-crumb mixture and toss to coat. Place on a plate and repeat with remaining chicken, yogurt, and bread-crumb mixture.
Carefully add a few coated chicken pieces to hot oil. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Serve hot with lemon wedges and a tomato, onion, and cucumber relish.