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Let’s Test the Special Theory of Indian Cooking! ​

Ever wondered how to whip up the essence of India’s diverse flavors in your own kitchen? Krish Ashok‘s The Illustrated Masala Lab has the answer! Dive into an inquisitive world where cooking algorithms meet urban ingredients, and unlock a symphony of irresistible tastes. Ready to revolutionize your cooking game? You might to test the special theory of Indian Cooking!

Read this excerpt to spice up your life, one recipe at a time!

The Illustrated Masala Lab
The Illustrated Masala Lab || Krish Ashok


Special Theory of Indian Cooking(Conditions Apply)


Let us first get the conditions out of the way. This generalized set of algorithms will not cover every single culinary tradition in India. It will, for the most part, restrict itself to urban, middle class India, the kinds of ingredients that are likely to be available and cooking techniques that are practical in a smallish apartment. So, no tandoors, no wood fire and no nomadic horseman-style dum cooking by burying meat and rice into the ground with coal embers.


The second condition is that culinary traditions in India not only vary across state and linguistic boundaries, but also by caste and community, which is why the examples here will largely be restricted to the kinds of dishes available in run-of-the-mill restaurants. So forgive me if I have missed out Cudappah cuisine while including Hyderabadi. The intent here is to arm you with a way of thinking that will help you make a specific dish from, say, Odisha with confidence. The algorithms themselves may not cover every single sub-cuisine in the country. If this chapter ignores your community and state’s cuisine, it’s not deliberate. The examples are for representative purposes only. You can instantiate a version of this for your cuisine rather easily.


The third and final caveat is that we shall keep aside that universe within a universe of starters, snacks and tiffin items, because trying to cram that in will be the equivalent of boiling the Indian Ocean. Instead, we shall stick to gravies, rice dishes, breads, chutneys/raitas and salads. These algorithms will give you a wide-enough repertoire to start with. The rest of the journey, as always, is up to you. Treat this like high-school science education. University is on you.


So, the special theory of Indian cooking starts with the all-important question: What do you want to cook? Depending on your answer, you can opt for the following paths:

1. The Indian gravy algorithm: This will present a generalized algorithm and metamodel for preparing vegetables, legumes, meat or eggs in a sauce-like gravy that is flavoured in a specific regional style, like Malabar, Punjabi or Bengali.


2. The rice dish algorithm: A generalized method for preparing steamed rice, flavoured rice, khichdi, pulao and rice for biryani. There are numerous other ways of cooking rice in the subcontinent, but these five are the most utilitarian.


3. The Indian bread algorithm: Standardized and consistent methods for preparing doughs for unleavened breads (chapatti and paratha), leavened breads (naan and kulcha) and non-gluten-based breads (bajra or jowar roti). We will stop at the dough stage because rolling and baking/tawa operations are better learnt by watching an experienced hand. You can’t learn it from a book.


4. The chutney and raita generator: A metamodel for generating your own chutney and raita recipes from whatever ingredients you have available.


5. The salad generator: A metamodel for generating your own salad recipes by hitting the right balance of greens, crunch, protein, acid and flavouring.


The second question to ask is: How do you want to make this dish?
1. I’d like to see what’s in my fridge and pantry and make the best of it.

2. It’s my wife’s birthday and she is from Panjim, so I am looking to make a dish that evokes a specific regional cuisine, say pork vindaloo.


Once you have the answer to this, you need to execute Step 0, which is prepping the ingredients, after all consistency and productivity require you to approach home cooking the way restaurants do it. Also, prepping is not just cleaning and chopping, it includes a whole range of activities from brining to marinating to steaming and sautéing, all of which will make you a better home cook. In fact, a lot of prep work is actually cooking for the most part.



Intrigued to know more?

Get your copy of The Illustrated Masala Lab by Krish Ashok wherever books are sold.

What’s new this December: books you can gift (or keep!)

‘Tis the season to be jolly – and what better way to be jolly than with some new books! Here’s what’s new at Penguin Random House this month. Choose to gift a fellow bookworm, or treat yourself!


From Pony To Unicorn
Front cover of From Pony to Unicorn
From Pony to Unicorn || Sanjeev Aggarwal, T.N. Hari


From Pony to Unicorn lucidly describes the X-to-10X journey that every start-up aspiring to become a unicorn has to go through. The book effortlessly narrates the fundamental principles behind scaling. Peppered with anecdotes, insights and practical wisdom, the book is a treasure trove of lessons derived from the authors’ rich personal experiences in both building and guiding several start-ups that went on to attain the ‘unicorn’ status and became public-listed companies.


The Impeccable Integrity Of Ruby R.
Front Cover of The Impeccable Integrity of Ruby R.
The Impeccable Integrity Of Ruby R. || Moni Mohsin


Ruby Rauf is an idealistic, industrious scholarship student with a fixed plan. She is going to ace her exams and get a decent job so she never has to suffer the daily degradation of poverty again. Yet, when she meets the compelling actor-turned-politician Saif Haq, her world is upended. Dazzled by his charisma, inspired by his zeal, she quits her degree midway to join his campaign as his social media manager.

With quicksilver dialogue, shrewd political insight and a thoughtful take on the MeToo debate, this sparkling novel reveals Moni Mohsin on top satirical form.


Masala Lab
Front cover of Masala Lab
Masala Lab || Krish Ashok


Masala Lab by Krish Ashok is a science nerd’s exploration of Indian cooking with the ultimate aim of making the reader a better cook and turning the kitchen into a joyful, creative playground for culinary experimentation. Just like memorizing an equation might have helped you pass an exam but not become a chemist, following a recipe without knowing its rationale can be a sub-optimal way of learning how to cook.


Not Many, But One Volumes I & II
Front cover of Not Many, But One Volume 1
Not Many, But One Volume 1 || G.K. Sasidharan
Front Cover of Not Many, But One Volume 2
Not Many, But One Volume 2 || G.K. Sasidharan


Sree Narayana Guru (1855-1928) was a spiritual leader and social reformer who led powerful movements to promote social equality. Not Many, But One brings together his work in two rich volumes of translation and interpretation, pieced together for a modern readership.


Your Best Day Is Today!
Front Cover of Your Best Day is Today!
Your Best Day is Today! || Anupam Kher


Your Best Day Is Today! is a compendium of experiences, lessons, and positive takeaways that will help you deal with the dark times in your life. It is a guide to getting in touch with your inner self and finding solutions to the problems that arise with adapting to changes in life. It is also a reminder of how you are not alone and there is always a way to make the best of any situation life throws at you. This book will inspire you and fill your heart with immense love, faith, and joy.


Non Obvious Megatrends
Front Cover of Non Obvious Megatrends
Non Obvious Megatrends || Rohit Bhargava


For the past ten years, Rohit Bhargava’s signature annual Non-Obvious Trend Report has helped over a million readers discover more than 100 trends changing our culture. Now for the first time, Rohit and his team of Non-Obvious trend curators reveal ten revolutionary new Megatrends that are transforming how we work, play and live.


Deadly Cross
Front Cover of Deadly Cross
Deadly Cross || James Patterson


A scandalous double homicide opens the psychological case files on Alex Cross… When a glamorous socialite and high school principal are found murdered, lying half naked in a car, the shocking double homicide dominates tabloid headlines. In a world of trouble, corruption, and secrets, Cross is left facing a desperate choice between breaking a trust and losing his way…


Paris By Starlight
Front Cover of Paris by Starlight
Paris by Starlight || Robert Dinsdale



Every night on their long journey to Paris from their troubled homeland, Levon’s grandmother has read to them from a very special book. Called the nocturne, it is a book full of fairy stories and the heroic adventures of their people who generations before chose to live by Starlight. And with every story that Levon’s grandmother tells them in their new home, the desire to live as their ancestors did grows. And that is when the magic begins…


Ready Player Two
Front Cover of Ready Player Two
Ready Player Two || Ernest Cline


Days after winning OASIS founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vaults, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the OASIS a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible.

With it comes a new riddle, and a new quest—a last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize.


Front Cover of Dearly
Dearly: Poems || Margaret Atwood


Before she became one of the world’s most important and loved novelists, Margaret Atwood was a poet. Dearly is her first collection in over a decade. It brings together many of her most recognisable and celebrated themes, but distilled — from minutely perfect descriptions of the natural world to startlingly witty encounters with aliens, from pressing political issues to myth and legend. Dearly is a pure Atwood delight, and long-term readers and new fans alike will treasure its insight, empathy and humour.


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