Explore Marwadi Food Like Never Before With Bapu’s Curries

With the visual media and mobile devices making such a huge mark in the world, you might now be of the opinion that learning to cook or exploring new recipes to cook simply doesn’t warrant going to a store and buying a cookbook. And yet, every time a unique cookbook comes out, those home cooks who love to not just engage with a cuisine one video at a time but also to read a book back-to-front to capture the entire culinary journey of an author or fellow cook, will inevitably want to get their hands on cookbooks for their collections. 

If you are a home cook who identifies with that sentiment, Bapu’s Curries: Culinary Journey of a Father by Shreeparna Khaitan and Surbhi Anand is tailor-made for you. The recipes and stories presented in this cookbook are by Shreeparna Khaitain’s father, Umesh Khaitan. A lawyer by profession and a man who has travelled the world, Khaitan started cooking as a teenager after getting inspired by his father.  

Packed with curated as well as tried-and-tested Marwadi-origin recipes, this cookbook should be on your bookshelf and guide you through your kitchen adventures for a number of reasons. 

Knowing The Cook Behind Bapu’s Curries 

“My father’s passion of creating some new foods with a flair of a magician made a deep impact on how I relate with food,” he explains in the introduction, Growing up in a Marwadi family. “He used to write his special recipes in a diary, which is a prized possession of mine even today. We call it “Gandhi diary”.” Khaitan also mentions how his mother, who was from Kanpur, also helped develop his palate and so did travelling with the family all over the world. 

“On my travels abroad I used to try out different foods and due to my interest in cooking, I would start thinking of ways to replicate those flavours into local Indian dishes,” he explains. Of course, as it stands true for most families, the way he was brought up also shaped Khaitan’s ideas about food. “In a joint Marwadi family there is always someone who takes care of the cooks and halwais during our big fat weddings. In the weddings in my home, somehow, I was the one supervising the cooks and halwais, which gave me a lot of insight into Indian cooking.” 

So, when it came to curating and writing up this cookbook which his daughter and her friend collaborated on, Khaitan’s cooking style came into the limelight perfectly. “While I cook some of our traditional curries in the traditional ways, I have created a few other curries which bring out unconventional flavours into food, most of the time it is by using a single star ingredient into a curry and making it shine with the help of some spices and herbs,” he explains. 

Trying Out The Cookbook: An Essential Step 

“You might find some of the curries, salads and dal recipes in this book a bit unconventional, but for me these recipes have been creations/playing around with flavours and textures,” Khaitan explains. “While my salads have given me a chance to work with ingredients from all over the world, my dals and curries have given me the opportunity to cook with my favorite technique of dum cooking in a terracotta handi or a heavy brass or copper handi.” 

True to his words, the cookbook offers a wide range of recipes—some of which are authentic Marwadi dishes like Mathe Ki Dal and Chupri Roti, while others reflect the essence of Khaitan’s travel experiences through the sections on Kashmiri food and heirloom recipes. Two outstanding sections that deserve attention are Fruits In My Curries loaded with gems like Anar ke Ras Wale Alu, and Tarah Tarah Ke Masale with all sorts of Chhaunk recipes you can try with your dishes. 

For this author, the most outstanding recipe in the cookbook was the Bharwa Hari Mirch. While you might think of this one as a simple Rajasthani-origin dish featuring large chillies stuffed with potatoes, Khaitan’s take on it is unique and perfect for winters. His inspiration for this one came from a vendor around Jaipur selling chillies and green peas together, which made him come up with a way to combine both the winter specials in one dish. 

The ingredients for the recipe are pretty descriptive, while the comprehensive description of the cooking method can guide even novices through and through. Of course, if you are a seasoned cook, you might make a few adjustments here and there based on your own palate and intuition. Through his book, Khaitan actually promotes this habit that home cooks have.  

“Start taking an interest in selecting and buying your ingredients yourself, choose a cooking process to eventually build an active interest,” he explains. “Cooking is an art, a way to express oneself, and a great stress buster... Start coking fearlessly; you’ll realise it’s a tremendous grounding exercise, too.” There is surely no better way to sum up the essence and impact of this cookbook.