What's cooking in a Bohra kitchen?

Published: Jan 12, 2010, 06:55 IST | Antoine Lewis

Urdu daily Inquilab is out with a unique set of four cookbooks that share recipes stirred up in Memon, Bohra, Kashmiri and Konkani kitchens

Urdu daily Inquilab is out with a unique set of four cookbooks that share recipes stirred up in Memon, Bohra, Kashmiri and Konkani kitchens

Of the hundreds of cookbooks released every year in India, few are devoted to community-based recipes. Within this category, Muslim cookbooks are almost non-existent. While it's possible to find titles on the courtly cuisines of Awadhi and Hyderabadi, which arguably are Muslim in their style, these hardly represent the food of ordinary people.

Mughlai, another style whose recipes are easily found, is essentially a restaurant cuisine that has no bearing on the domestic kitchen. Some degree of representation can be found in regional cookbooks, but given the number of communities that need to be incorporated, it's unreasonable to expect or even find adequate coverage.

Though it's quite possible that there are some published in Urdu, the only community-specific cookbooks available in English are Fatima Hooda's slim Khoja Khana and Ummi Abdulla's Malabar Muslim Cookery. That is what makes Inquilab's newly released collection, Muslim Recipes, comprising a set of four booklets, each devoted to a different cuisine, a welcome initiative.

While two are focussed on a specific community -- the Bohras and the Memons -- the remaining two are on Konkanis and Kashmiris; both, more regional in their approach. Of these the Bohra, Memon and Konkani are particularly interesting as none of these have ever appeared in print in India before.

What unifies the collection is that all four books are centred on home-style recipes (although the Kashmiri booklet does have a few preparations like Rishta and Goshtaba that are typical of the Wazwan feast) that are unfortunately never found on restaurant menus. The collection is meant primarily for an Urdu readership since the books, though bilingual, have the introductions and index only in Urdu.

These are not an exhaustive collection of the community's recipes, but the most popular, as the subtitle quite clearly points out. What is popular is not necessarily traditional especially for the urbanised Bohra and Memon communities.
Both include a touch of modern Chinese and Western-influenced recipes, two cuisines that have quite successfully been incorporated into our regular meals. In the Bohra cookbook, recipes for Fanta Orange Ice Cream, a very Chinese-influenced Chicken Ball and Suki Yaki soup can be found side-by-side a more traditional Dal Chawal Palido, Malida and Paya Keema Khichdi.

Muslim Recipes; Inquilab Community Initiative. For Rs 100.  Available at Crossword and Mid-Day kiosks. For free home delivery call 67015757

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