Lands of the Curry Leaf: A vegetarian food journey from Sri Lanka to Nepal
By Peter Kuruvita
(Murdoch Books, 2019)
Despite the name, curry leaves taste nothing like those distinct-smelling, yellow-orange blends of turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, cardamom, chili peppers, and other spices we keep in our cupboards. The glossy green, resinous curry leaf has a flavor of its own, one that might be described as a mashup of citrus, anise, and lemongrass, which when cooked mellows to more of a nutty taste.
Curry leaves are a common ingredient in the Indian and Southwest Asian cuisines explored by chef and television personality Peter Kuruvita in his vegetarian and vegan cookbook, Lands of the Curry Leaf. Kuruvita spent some of his youth in Sri Lanka, traveling with his father through Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bhutan. His Sri Lankan-born father loved food and introduced Peter to many simple, hearty dishes of the various regions. Part of the charm of the book comes from the author’s stories about his family, including a trip from London to Sri Lanka in a minibus.
The 295-page well-photographed cookbook is filled with many of the author’s favorite dishes, from street foods to pickles and chutneys, stews and curries (lots of lentils and chickpeas), dumplings, breads, drinks, and desserts. These are simple, hearty combinations, like a pumpkin curry made with coconut rice powder and mustard paste; black-eyed peas and bamboo shoots in curried spices; green lentil and tempeh soup spiced with chilies, garam masala, fennel seeds and other additions; spinach rice with lentils, chilies and spices; cucumbers pickled with green tea and jasmine; Afghan rosewater milk fudge, and pages of other delicious plant-based recipes. Most dishes can be easy to prepare, and ingredients are readily available at local markets. For instance, you can find curry leaves at Monterey Market in baggies clipped to the side of the fresh herb rack (along with kaffir leaves).
Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with our readers.