Lands of the Curry Leaf: A Vegetarian Food Journey from Sri Lanka to Nepal, written by Peter Kuruvita, features over 100 vegetarian and vegan recipes from across Southern Asia along with personal stories, history, and an incredible variety of flavor. A few highlights include Yagut Palau (Pomegranate Rice), Shashi Paneer (Cashew, Onion and Paneer Curry), Phulkopir Singara (Cauliflower Samosas), Goen Hogay (Sprouts and Cucumber with Onion and Cheese), and Kheer (Rice Pudding). I will also be sharing his recipe for Gwaramari (Newari Breakfast Dumplings) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Murdoch Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Peter Kuruvita was born in London to an Austrian mother and Sri Lankan father. He grew up in Sri Lanka, moved to Australia, and began his career as a chef which has led him to his current restaurant, Noosa Beach House on the Sunshine Coast. Peter is also the author of Serendip and My Feast with Peter Kuruvita and has been featured in the following TV Series: My Sri Lanka, Island Feast, Mexican Fiesta, and Peter Kuruvita’s Coastal Kitchen.
Lands of the Curry Leaf
Chapters are divided according to the following: Street Food; Pulses & Legumes; Salads; Dairy; Curries, Stir-Fries & Stews; Rice; Breads; Soups; Chutneys; Relishes, Pickles & Ferments; Sauces; Sweets & Desserts; and Drinks.
Peter developed Lands of the Curry Leaf as “the culmination of my upbringing and my travels through the subcontinent. I’ve brought together recipes that reflect the diversity of the regions, their landscape, their history, and my life.” He begins with a few personal stories and his time spent in the following countries featured in the book: Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. For each section, he highlights notable flavors and vegetables that provide the foundation for the cuisines.
Throughout the book, you will find tips and facts for working with ingredients such as a quick guide to pulses, legumes and sprouting; how to prepare salads; how to cook rice (plus the different types of rice and grains); the differences between cinnamon and cassia; and so much more. The guide to The Subcontinental Pantry with short descriptions, uses, and even photographs of whole and dried spices is particularly appreciated along with a wonderful collection of spice blends to help get started.
The gorgeous photography is provided by Alan Benson with styling by Vanessa Austin. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full-page photo of the finished dish. The titles are written in the original language with the English translation underneath. Measurements are listed in Metric and US Customary. As a note, Lands of the Curry Leaf uses Australian tablespoon measurements (4 teaspoons per tablespoon). If using an American/European tablespoon when cooking from this book, 1 teaspoon needs to be added to every tablespoon. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, origin, serving size, prep and cooking time, and level of difficulty.
Gwaramari (Newari Breakfast Dumplings)
Translating to round bread in Newari, Gwaramari (Breakfast Dumplings) come from the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. These fried rounds of spiced dough are perfect for pairing with milk tea and Peter also recommends serving them alongside his Chutney for Momos (photo below alongside the Fried Leek Pastries).
The Gwaramari only take a little bit of work, but this recipe does require an overnight resting time in the refrigerator. Flour and baking powder are lightly spiced with cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper, then mixed with enough water to form a paste-like batter before refrigerating overnight. The next morning, ball-shaped spoonfuls of the dough are simply dropped into the hot oil until puffed and golden for a quick and delicious breakfast. They are best served warm.
I also made the Fried Leek Pastries, Thukpa (Tibetan Vegetable Noodle Soup), Kulfi (Cardamom Iceblock), and Sura Butter Tea.
I love boiled Aushak (Afghan Leek and Scallion Dumplings), so I was immediately drawn to the Fried Leek Pastries from Afghanistan. A buttery pastry dough is cut into circles, filled with a sautéed leek and garlic mixture, and fried until golden. Peter recommends serving them with his recipes for Mint Chutney, Chutney for Momos (what we made), or Tomato Chilli Jam.
Thukpa (Tibetan Vegetable Noodle Soup), a staple in Bhutan and Nepal, comes together fairly easily with a vegetable stock flavored with garlic, green chillies, onion, tomato, cabbage, cilantro, and spices. It is served with Tibetan noodles (I used some homemade egg noodles) and a few omelette strips.
My daughter picked out the Kulfi (Cardamom Iceblock) from Pakistan. Perfect for cooling off on a hot day, the Kulfi are flavored with cardamom, milk (in addition to condensed milk and cream), almonds, pistachios, and rosewater. Before serving, I topped them with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios.
According to Peter, “Traditionally, butter tea is made by boiling tea leaves in water until the tea is dark brown in colour. The tea is then strained and poured into a special butter churn, along with a larger lump of yak butter and some salt, then churned until the butter and salt are well mixed.” He has adapted this Sura Butter Tea from Bhutan for the home kitchen by steeping loose-leaf tea, then seasoning with salt. The strained tea is blended with half and half and butter for a rich, hot drink.
Overall, Lands of the Curry Leaf is a great pick for those interested in South Asian and vegetarian recipes. Along with everything being vegetarian, many are vegan as well. Having a market with South Asian ingredients will be helpful in locating items such as curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, Kashmiri chilli powder, chickpea flour, chana dhal, tamarind pulp, asafoetida, green and black cardamom pods, amchur, black mustard seeds, and more.
Gwaramari (Newari Breakfast Dumplings) Recipe
Excerpt from Lands of the Curry Leaf
Gwaramari (Breakfast Dumplings)
- 250 grams (9 ounces, 1 2/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or to taste
- 250 milliliters (9 fl oz, 1 cup) lukewarm water
- 1 liter (35 fl oz, 4 cups) vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Combine the flour, baking powder, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Carefully add the water, stirring continuously, until the mixture becomes a thick paste.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next morning, heat the oil in a deep heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat to 190˚C (375˚F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 10 seconds.
- When the oil is ready, stir the dough with a large metal spoon to deflate it. Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dough (about 30 g/1 ounce), shape it into a small ball and gently place it in the hot oil, being careful as the oil will spit. Cook a maximum of six dumplings at a time (so the oil doesn't cool down) for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the outside.
- Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel while cooking the remaining dumplings.
- Serve warm.