18 March 2023

On the Curry Trail by Raghavan Iyer (Weekend Cooking)

bright orange book cover with colorful drawings of vegetablesIf you've ever looked for a curry recipe, then you're sure to have come across the name Raghavan Iyer. He's definitely a member of curry royalty, and I'm grateful to Workman Publishers for sending me a copy of his latest book, On the Curry Trail.

In this cookbook, Iyer introduces us to the many dishes from all around the world that are at heart curries, influenced by the flavors that traveled with Indians through their diaspora and by British colonials and others as they traveled from and, in some cases, permanently left the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, as Iyer tells us, curries are found (or have been found) on every continent of the globe. Yes, even Antarctica. I learned this and so much more from the introduction of On the Curry Trail.

The recipe chapters divide the curry world into geographical areas: Asia, Africa and the Mideast, Europe and Oceania, and the Americas. The dishes range from the very familiar (butter chicken) to the more exotic (sour teff crepes) and from vegan (tofu with red curry paste) to omnivore (lamb stew in bread bowls).

One thing to love about On the Curry Trail is that the vast majority of recipes call for ingredients found in a well-stocked supermarket. Better yet, the dishes are fairly easy to make and the results (at least in my experience) are fantastic. Iyer is well aware that some ingredients and techniques may be new to his readers, so the cookbook is full of tips, variations, definitions, serving ideas, and a bit of background. I especially liked learning how to make my own spice blends and sauces.

Photo of a pan on the stove containing fried rice, vegetables, and chickenOne of the recipes in On the Curry Trail made me laugh. It comes from Germany and is, in fact, a dish I ordered when I was there a few years back. That dish is currywurst. When I ordered it at a small pub, I was sure it was going to be some dazzling dish of German bratwust in a warming, yellow curry sauce. I did indeed get bratwurst, but they were served with a curry-spiced ketchup! Delicious, yes, but my friends and I had a good laugh when we realized I had basically ordered hot dogs and ketchup while on vacation in Europe! The recipe Iyer gives looks much tastier than the one I was served.

So far, I've made three dishes from On the Curry Trail. The Pork Meatballs in a Cream Curry Sauce (Boller i karri from Denmark) were delicious and comforting on a late winter evening. The Wok-Seared Curried Fried Rice was probably the best fried rice I've ever made (see photo). I substituted bok choy for the called-for cabbage because I had some to use up. Also, the original recipe is vegan, but I added some leftover grilled chicken breast. I didn't worry about my changes because, as Iyer says, "in a food culture like China's nothing is wasted." My changes were in the right spirit.

Overhead photo of a bowl of chickpeas and vegetables topped with a green relishThe third dish was slow-cooked chickpeas with saffron (Hommos zafaran from the Mideast). This too was delicious and had just the right heat level. I'm so glad I made the suggested scallion-mint relish; as Mr. BFR said, it really made the dish special (see the photo). I have many more recipes marked to try, like the Coronation Curried Chicken Salad with Apricots, Red Lentils with Ginger, and Curry Noodles with Shrimp.

Recommendation: If you like curry in all its many forms, Raghavan Iyer's On the Curry Trail is for you. Note that no matter what your diet--gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, or meat eater--you'll find plenty of recipes to try.

I wasn't sure which recipe to share because each one is accompanied by additional helpful information, like history, tips, and/or variations. Instead, I'm sharing a spread from the book (click to enlarge) that includes a recipe for Berbere, a spice mix from several countries in Africa. The spread also shows you one of the bright, cheery drawings you'll find throughout the cookbook.

Two book pages showing a recipe and a simplified drawing of bowls of spices against a pink background

Note: The scan is used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. The photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Jackie McGuinness 3/18/23, 9:48 AM  

I had currywurst in Berlin! We can get it at a place I go to often, Wurst, but haven't been brave enough to try it again.
We have eaten curry in many strange places like Mexico.

Growing up in Montreal, we would often order curry from a Chinese restaurant and I loved it.
John and I love Indian curries but we would often talk out Chinese curry, I have since found a recipe that duplicates it in our minds.
My favourite curry is in the UK!

BTW do you know the blog The Curry Guy? I have been lusting after one of his books but the price puts me off.

Tina 3/18/23, 10:46 AM  

I sure love a good curry and wish my husband liked it. Every once in a while I'll make a small batch for my lunch. Love your review and the third dish with the chickpeas appeals to me greatly!

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 3/18/23, 4:57 PM  

Honestly, I want to buy every book you feature!

Marg 3/19/23, 4:17 AM  

That cover would catch my attention at the best of times. I do love the sound of the curried fried rice! (I originally typed curried friend rice - not sure who that would be!)

gluten Free A_Z Blog 4/1/23, 9:52 AM  

I think the way Indian cooks use spices is incredible - spices are both healthy and tasty. I would love to learn more about utilizing and incorporating more spices into my cooking. Curry may be a good way to start. Thanks for the review and the story about the hotdogs and ketchup- very funny.

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