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Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent

by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

What is left to say about the astonishing husband-and-wife team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid? Having produced four award-winning cookbooks to date, the two have become something of a culinary phenomenon, perhaps the world’s most widely travelled cookbook authors. From Brazilian street markets to Mekong River villages to Gotland Island sheep farms, the authors have documented cuisines from virtually every corner of the planet.

Journeys for their newest book, Mangoes and Curry Leaves, were no less ambitious than for previous titles. This wonderful coffee-table book is the result of multiple trips over three decades to the Indian subcontinent. The cuisines of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan are all represented here. Narratives throughout the book have us meeting locals, like Sam, a Sri Lankan tax accountant who “likes food almost as much as he likes numbers,” and Dolma, a Sherpa woman living high in the Himalayas with her newborn baby. Visiting such people, Alford and Duguid have gathered a breathtaking range of recipes, presented here in chapters on chutneys and sauces, salads, rice, breads, vegetables, dals (split legumes), various meats, street foods, sweets, and pantry items.

From a rain-drenched market in Bangladesh we are offered starfruit chutney flavoured with mustard oil. Six varieties of rice are explained, with recipes for all, including the intriguingly named “bash ful rice” from Bangladesh. There are recipes for 14 breads, ranging from the Darjeeling market’s “empanada-like” shaphale to Sri Lankan bowl-shaped hoppers. Vegetables include a potato curry from the desert of western Gikarat and spiced tomato sauce for paneer (fresh pressed cheese) from Kashmir. Slipper-shaped lamb kebabs, called chapli, are from Peshawar, while prawn white curry comes from Sri Lanka. For dessert, there’s silky Goan pudding or rosewater dumplings from Bangladesh.

The book’s gorgeous design is filled out with the authors’ own luminous travel photos, and by superb studio shots by Richard Jung. There are also travel tips on such subjects as handling money, avoiding uncooked foods, and protecting photographic film. The book closes with an informative 16-page glossary.

Mangoes and Curry Leaves is so fascinating it renders one virtually speechless