“Can I rant for just one quick sec?” writes Priya Krishna in the recipe headnote for Cardamom Chai. “There are few things that annoy me more than when people say ‘chai tea.’ Let me set the record straight: Chai means ‘tea’ in Hindi. So when you say ‘chai tea,’ you are saying ‘tea tea.’ JUST SAY CHAI.”
I’m laughing as the author goes on to describe how her mom drinks this aromatic tea multiple times a day, often alongside a Parle-G biscuit while helping her daughter test recipes for a cookbook, but “wants to take a second” between the end of a workday and the start of a cooking session.
“Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family” melds the highly entertaining prose of a sharp-witted young food writer with the cooking wisdom of her immigrant mom, Ritu, a well-traveled executive in the software industry known for her culinary prowess, especially within their close-knit extended family in Dallas, Texas. The recipes — “60% traditional Indian, 40% Indian-plus-something else, mostly vegetarian” — are as inventive as they are practical.
Lima Bean and Basil Dip came about when “an old, icy packet of neglected, frozen lima beans was unearthed from the freezer,” and may appear alongside Mustard Seed and Curry Leaf Raita. Cubes of feta pinch-hit for Indian farmer cheese in the spinach gravy for saag paneer. To reduce the oiliness of aloo gobhi, the cauliflower and potatoes are roasted, then finished with sauteed onion, warm spices, lime juice and lots of cilantro.
Stunning food photography, helpful spice and lentil charts, candid shots of the Krishnas in the kitchen, and comic book-style illustrations by Desi pop-artist Maria Qamar compel me to explore further.
Priya Krishna expresses strong views on everything from cumin seeds to chai, but one in particular comes through on every page: “A lot of people say their moms are the best. But my mom, Ritu Krishna, is actually the best.”
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.