Jnawali and Da Mata’s cheerful debut cookbook highlights the health benefits of Nepal’s plants, spices and herbs in accessible vegetarian recipes.
The book was developed during a one-on-one, five-month culinary workshop that the Nepalese Jnawali taught to Da Mata, a Brazilian ayurvedic practitioner looking to incorporate Nepal’s food-based medicinal properties into her work. The central ingredients range from the ubiquitous—plain rice, corn, lentils—to the lesser known, such as cheura, a parboiled rice hand-beaten with bran; and karela, a bitter gourd that’s rich in calcium and potassium. The recommended preparations promote ease over precision and favor herbs, spices and plants indigenous to Nepal. Despite the recipes’ simplicity, Jnawali has grander goals: to promote the joy of cooking and to raise awareness of the value and convenience of Nepal’s local and seasonal foods. The smaller second section offers a glossary of spices and herbs, including their medicinal value, which can serve as a guide for readers intrigued by how they’re used in treatments in much of South Asia. The cheerful, appetizing photos and simple instructions will be helpful for beginners. Some readers, however, may not be able to easily access many of the required ingredients (such as ghee, fenugreek and taro) at their local grocery stores. They can still find some benefit, though, in the appendices at the end of the book, which offer tips for skin and hair care and cures for all sorts of ailments; for example, garlic and onion juice can be used to soothe a toothache, and mashed bananas to lessen a burn. For a committed novice looking to delve into the basics of Nepali cooking and health practices, this book is an excellent place to begin.
A worthwhile choice for focused amateur chefs or holistic-minded readers.