Book Review: Rick Stein's India: In Search of the Perfect Curry

05 July 2013 by
Book Review: Rick Stein's India: In Search of the Perfect Curry

Rick Stein's India: In Search of the Perfect Curry By Rick Stein
Ebury, £25

Published to coincide with his latest culinary travelogue, Rick Stein's India charts the celebrated seafood chef's search for the perfect curry.

But before he even begins, Stein questions the premise of the search, revealing that the catch-all term ‘curry' used in the UK is not even recognised in India. He points out that the word has come to "describe the British Raj's rather second-rate interpretation of Indian cuisine".

To us in the West, curry has come to represent all the cooking of the subcontinent, but in India the term simply means a dish that includes gravy, or sauce, made up of a combination of spices and vegetables.

We learn that Stein has spent three months in India on his search, though it isn't only gravy-based curry he finds but the full gamut of Indian cooking, from spicy dry-roast meats and fish to deep dals. Stein says that a true curry to him would be akin to the Whole Eggs in Coconut Masala from Calcutta, in which boiled eggs are fried with turmeric and added to a spiced coconut milk-based broth, or a traditional Lamb Rogan Josh.

As you might expect from Stein, he is drawn to the fish dishes, and there are plenty in here to try in the kitchen. Prawn Molee, an attractive and delicate looking dish of prawns, tomatoes and spices in a light coconut sauce, would particularly suit a restaurant setting, while Chicken and Apricot Curry with Potato Straws would also sit well on modern menus.

Since the book is titled In Search of the Perfect Curry, it would disappoint if Stein didn't highlight one dish. And there are no prizes for guessing that it was a fish dish that most satisfied his curry cravings. Madras Fish Curry of Snapper, Tomato and Tamarind takes the accolade, being fragrant with coriander and cloves and sour with tomato and tamarind.

As with the rest of the dishes in this thoroughly researched book, Stein's enthusiasm shines through in his explanation of each dish. Not only will the recipes provide plenty of inspiration, but their presentation with alternative suggestions for hard to find ingredients or substitute fish mean it's a reference that will stand the test of time.

By James Stagg

If you like this, you might also like these:

Atul's Curries of the World 
Atul Kochhar
Vivek Singh
Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation 
Madhur Jaffrey

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