Last night we had a farewell dinner for our good friend D’s foreign girlfriend. She had been visiting for several weeks from Germany and the time had come that she had to go back. P and I wanted to give her something special, and I knew she liked to cook, so I thought she might appreciate a Nepali memento—a Nepali cookbook—and perhaps when she was particularly nostalgic for D she could whip up one of the recipes for dinner. P and I went through the cookbook and bookmarked off some of our favorite (or most commonly cooked) recipes and a few of D’s favorites, so that she would have a place to start.
With that said, I thought I’d talk a little bit about this particular cookbook. I’ve mentioned it on the blog before (here and here), but it is worth mentioning again. I didn’t find this cookbook until 2008, by then I had already been cooking Nepali food for years. Most of my cooking style was gleamed from helping my friends in the kitchen while they made various dishes. My cooking style is probably a bit elementary—my two favorite spices are garlic and cumin powder (not to mention cilantro)—but several of my dishes have been refined enough to be considered pretty tasty… if I do say so myself ;) .
However at some point I realized that it would be handy to have a Nepali cookbook. Gathering recipes from friends (AS is a great resource!) was helpful, but sometimes it would be nice to have a resource to look up information, at least for reference. Plus, I have a stack of vegetarian cookbooks to get ideas for different types of food, so why not Nepali?
I’d never seen a Nepali cookbook though. Most bookstores probably have an Indian cookbook or two, and yeah, some North Indian food is similar to Nepali food, but I really wanted something specifically Nepali. So I turned to the handiest book website around… Amazon. If you search “Nepali cookbook” four different options pop up: Kathmandu Kuisine (1987) which is out of print, Nepali Delights Cookbook (1992) developed by the Association of Nepalis in the Americas, The Nepali Cookbook (1996) which is an updated version by the Association of Nepalis in the Americas, and finally Taste of Nepal (2007).
I bought the two most recent cookbooks The Nepali Cookbook and Taste of Nepal. The Nepali Cookbook is a nice resource, particularly for someone who is either a beginner, or someone who wants to learn a few Nepali dishes but doesn’t plan to eat Nepali food on a fairly regular basis. It was pulled together by a group of women from the Association who each submitted their favorite recipes. It is clear and simple, although unfortunately there are no pictures.
However, the cookbook I really wanted to talk about was Taste of Nepal. As the cookbook’s website notes, it is “one of the very few Nepali cookbooks on the market, Taste of Nepal is a thorough and comprehensive guide to this cuisine, featuring more than 350 authentic recipes.”
I should write a fan letter to Jyoti Pathak, because I’m really happy to have found this book. It is pretty heavy duty, not only because it is hardcover, but it is about 470 pages long. Again, unfortunately there are no photographs of the individual dishes or the process of how to make things (some people, myself included, find that pretty helpful… although I just found a food photo gallery on the cookbook’s website), but she does have the Nepali name and the English equivalent for all the dishes, adds cultural notes where appropriate, and begins each chapter section with a nice introduction. She offers substitutes for Nepali spices that might not be readily available, as well as notes on how to mix your own masalas… not to mention there is an entire chapter dedicated to momos!
Since I’m still pretty set in the way I like to make Nepali food, I prefer to use her cookbook as a reference, blending a little of my style and a little of her style to make the flavor a little more complex and mature. Plus she has many recipes for dishes that my friends have not made before, so I can try a lot of new things if inspiration hits.
I was joking in the car on the way back from dinner that I should make this a new custom, if other Nepali friends get involved in intercultural relationships, I should make the cookbook my standard, “welcome to the community!” gift.
So for any Nepali food enthusiasts out there, or for anyone who wants to learn Nepali cooking styles, keep in mind the two references above, particularly Taste of Nepal—it has C’s “stamp of approval!”