There would rarely be a blogger who would not like to release a book someday. In this digital age, the thrill of seeing your name in print and holding the first copy of the book is like holding your baby. That feeling is unparalleled. Kankana Saxena has been blogging for years now at playful cooking, which was earlier called Sunshine and smile. When her book on Bengali recipes – Taste of Eastern India reached our doorstep, it was a happy feeling for both Madhushree and me.
You definitely need to pose with a new book and a personalised hand written note
I have been a follower of Kankana’s blog for years now. It’s her people photography (interestingly) in her food blog which attracted me to follow her blog. Just as it happens with any reader, I developed a relationship with her blog. In the last three years, she shifted cities and countries in between but just as a true blue dedicated blogger, she worked on her recipes and Bengali recipes in particular.
This is not a review of Taste of Eastern India
Expression of opinion cannot be considered as a review, as I am not professionally qualified to review a book. On the contrary, I can confess I am biased towards this book as this book like few others, encourages you to aspire for a book publication. This is a recipe book which should ideally entice you to cook. Easy recipes, back end stories of the author and an attempt to make Bengali cooking look easy and approachable as well as interesting, is what makes this book a smooth journey between the covers. The book is divided into 5 sections – Let’s start with the basics, For the love of rice (yes the Bangaliana starts) – one cannot miss the Bhoger Khichuri here. It may be very insignificant and may not be held at high esteem in terms of cooking technique or complexity of flavours but ask any Bengali, the emotional impact of this dish is too high. Deep fried goodness – the Chandannagore boy who grew up on tele bhaja skimmed through this section many times. She starts with easier ones like jhuri aloo bhaja, beguni and graduates to Chicken Kobiraji to Dimer Devil in this section.
Then it’s Feel Good Food, which is the comfort food and in Kankana’s words – she feels nostalgic whenever she cooks these dishes. While the puritans may always raise a question on why Alu Seddho Makha (although there is a surprise when she presents 3 varieties of the same) but my question will be, why not? A comfort food is always simple and yet it needs to be documented. There is Panta Bhat, Begun Poda, Piyaj Musur daal and some more.
The plant based main dishes could have had more dishes and that would have been like one more step on showcasing the mostly underplayed vegetarian spread of the Bengali’s but the top of the recall of main Bengali dishes find a place here sans the ghontos and chochhoris. In the same way, Kankana has shown restriction in fish, chicken and meat section and 11 recipes (covering most of the popular ones and surprise inclusion of Deem Papad er jhol and Omelette curry) may seem less but the reason for which the space has been sacrificed is worth it.
Bengali achaar and chutney is one of the most consistent yet underplayed part of the cuisine. The next two sections Smack your palate, Sweet Tooth covers up for that (including how to make Rosogolla). Smack and Sip can give you some insider tips on Jhalmuri, Kolkata egg roll and some more of the other popular dishes.
The Playful cooking (incidentally, that’s the name of her blog also) is the place where one perhaps gets an idea of Kankana the chef. It’s the place where she adds twists to the popular dishes e.g. the daler bora gets Middle Eastern falafel perspective, bhoger khichuri turns into Quinoa split yellow beans pilaf and some more.
Amongst all the genres of food blogging, recipe writing is considered as the simplest and easiest by many and mostly by people who have a ringside view. One misses out on the simplest fact that, cooking in person and documenting it for another person to cook, who may not have the same competency level is a huge challenge and a perfect recipe is supposed to be just perfect . Kankana, doesn’t deviate in the history, doesn’t test the waters of authenticty and keeps it simple. Remember, keeping it simple is tough – always. Kankana is based in California Bay Area and the book has been released across all book selling portals as well as in the US. It took her 6 whole months of rigourous working in the kitchen from 9 to 5 for the book to be ready to be published. I can safely say, she has perfected it. A book with some known, some uncommon recipes and some nostalgia – would you need anything more as a food lover?
P.S. – Ending with sweet dishes is a Bengali tradition, so here it goes. I have been a fan of Kankana’s pictures and started with her people photography but I don’t remember any Bengali recipe book which has the pictures like these. I am in the process of figuring out what makes a perspective of a photographer change and if location is one of the reason? The redefining style of a grey background with toned down red, green and yellow gives Bengali food a new look, which will definitely work well with an international audience.
Madhushree made Doi Begun and the recipe is followed from Kankana’s Book.
This is not a paid post nor an obligatory post. I am sharing the link from where the book can be purchased and it’s not an affiliate link so I earn “lobodonka” (a big nothing as they call it in Bengali). You can place your orders here for a free delivery to India – https://www.bookdepository.com/Taste-Eastern-India-Kankana-Saxena/9781624146039
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