Archive for July, 2011

The Bollywood Cookbook

July 12, 2011

There are many cookbooks out there about Indian food and cultures, many fairly reductive, some very engaging (Madhur Jaffrey, Anjum Anand), and here’s one that explores the favorite foods of famous Indian film stars. Bulbul Mankani interviews everyone from Shahrukh Khan (who loves tandoori chicken and kebabs at Mumbai’s Taj hotel and Delhi’s Samarkand restaurant), to Abhishek Bachan (a vegetarian who loves aloo tikki) to Raveena Tandon (who apparently likes to make her own gulab jamun). The book is terrific for those who love Indian food and Indian movies. I love the bits about the great Indian actor Shabana Azmi, whose father was the great Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi, and Rishi Kapoor’s memories of Mughlai feasts in the Kapoor household during the heydays of Hindi cinema in the 1950s.

Shabana Azmi

Shabana Azmi describes her mother, the actor Shaukat Azmi, preparing wonderful, elaborate Hyderabadi feasts for all the guests who would flood into their home. One of the signature dishes was Hyderabadi biryani–the most heady, sensual, spicy dish of saffron-laced basmati rice and mutton, that’s pretty incredible. One good place to find it is in Zyka, here in Atlanta in Decatur.

hyderabadi biryani--the pictures don't really do it justice

Rishi Kapoor goes on about a dish his grandfather the theater and film actor Prithviraj Kapoor and his father, the film actor and director, Raj Kapoor, used to love–a spicy, earthy, tomato-based soup called Paya, made of goat or mutton (the dish is a favorite in my family as well, along with the Hyderabadi biryani). It’s a favorite during winter, where this frosty chill takes over the air in India. Paya was originally meant to be made from trotters–or the feet of goats–food for lean times, but most of the time it’s made from goat. It’s a very popular dish among Muslims all over the Indian subcontinent.

Rishi Kapoor, late 1970s




The Bollywood Cookbook has several user-friendly recipes and is a good starting place for learning how to make the basics of Indian food–aloo ghobi, aloo tikki, tandoori chicken, pullao, the usual. And it’s a great book to familiarize yourself with Indian movies and its stars.