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Masala Lab : The Science of Indian Cooking

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Ever wondered why your grandmother threw a teabag into the pressure cooker while boiling chickpeas, or why she measured using the knuckle of her index finger? Why does a counter-intuitive pinch of salt make your kheer more intensely flavourful? What is the Maillard reaction and what does it have to do with fenugreek? What does your high-school chemistry knowledge, or what Ever wondered why your grandmother threw a teabag into the pressure cooker while boiling chickpeas, or why she measured using the knuckle of her index finger? Why does a counter-intuitive pinch of salt make your kheer more intensely flavourful? What is the Maillard reaction and what does it have to do with fenugreek? What does your high-school chemistry knowledge, or what you remember of it, have to do with perfectly browning your onions? 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. Exhaustively tested and researched, and with a curious and engaging approach to food, Krish Ashok puts together the one book the Indian kitchen definitely needs, proving along the way that your grandmother was right all along.


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Ever wondered why your grandmother threw a teabag into the pressure cooker while boiling chickpeas, or why she measured using the knuckle of her index finger? Why does a counter-intuitive pinch of salt make your kheer more intensely flavourful? What is the Maillard reaction and what does it have to do with fenugreek? What does your high-school chemistry knowledge, or what Ever wondered why your grandmother threw a teabag into the pressure cooker while boiling chickpeas, or why she measured using the knuckle of her index finger? Why does a counter-intuitive pinch of salt make your kheer more intensely flavourful? What is the Maillard reaction and what does it have to do with fenugreek? What does your high-school chemistry knowledge, or what you remember of it, have to do with perfectly browning your onions? 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. Exhaustively tested and researched, and with a curious and engaging approach to food, Krish Ashok puts together the one book the Indian kitchen definitely needs, proving along the way that your grandmother was right all along.

30 review for Masala Lab : The Science of Indian Cooking

  1. 4 out of 5

    Avani

    I've always been scared when it comes to cooking, for one reason that it was sounding very boring to me and second reason it being very tough! But everyone's gotta learn atleast basic cooking right 🥺 we all get bored of restuarant food someday and want some comfort food 😋 Masala Lab by Krish Ashok is a non-fiction book about the science of Indian cooking. The book talks about some all old tricks and tips and explains us in a very simple way the link between healthy and right eating with scientifi I've always been scared when it comes to cooking, for one reason that it was sounding very boring to me and second reason it being very tough! But everyone's gotta learn atleast basic cooking right 🥺 we all get bored of restuarant food someday and want some comfort food 😋 Masala Lab by Krish Ashok is a non-fiction book about the science of Indian cooking. The book talks about some all old tricks and tips and explains us in a very simple way the link between healthy and right eating with scientific research and testing. Hats off to the author for researching and testing at such a great extent for us readers and bringing this book to us. I'm half way through the book and have already quoted and highlighted so many things 😄 I recommend you guys to pick this up even if you're a great cook or a non cook like me 😬 But the way the book is written won't even feel like it's cooking, but more of a story. I loved the creative writing style of the author and compilation of thie book. The illustrations and charts in the book are very cute and helpful at the same time. It helps us gain a better idea and understanding of the topic.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Avani

    I've always been scared when it comes to cooking, for one reason that it was sounding very boring to me and second reason it being very tough! But everyone's gotta learn atleast basic cooking right 🥺 we all get bored of restuarant food someday and want some comfort food 😋 Masala Lab by Krish Ashok is a non-fiction book about the science of Indian cooking. The book talks about some all old tricks and tips and explains us in a very simple way the link between healthy and right eating with scientifi I've always been scared when it comes to cooking, for one reason that it was sounding very boring to me and second reason it being very tough! But everyone's gotta learn atleast basic cooking right 🥺 we all get bored of restuarant food someday and want some comfort food 😋 Masala Lab by Krish Ashok is a non-fiction book about the science of Indian cooking. The book talks about some all old tricks and tips and explains us in a very simple way the link between healthy and right eating with scientific research and testing. Hats off to the author for researching and testing at such a great extent for us readers and bringing this book to us. I'm half way through the book and have already quoted and highlighted so many things 😄 I recommend you guys to pick this up even if you're a great cook or a non cook like me 😬 But the way the book is written won't even feel like it's cooking, but more of a story. I loved the creative writing style of the author and compilation of thie book. The illustrations and charts in the book are very cute and helpful at the same time. It helps us gain a better idea and understanding of the topic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dorrit

    I'll be completely honest with you: I don't care for cooking. I'm happy eating a sunny side-up egg, pb&j toast and, begrudgingly, my mother's food. My mother, unlike all other mothers, is not the best cook. Nor is she a reader, or a recipe follower. Unfortunately she also refuses to stop cooking. So, I read this for her. "That’s all from me, folks! Go forth and experiment in your kitchens, but please don’t use your newfound scientific knowledge to harass people who are naturally good cooks." I've I'll be completely honest with you: I don't care for cooking. I'm happy eating a sunny side-up egg, pb&j toast and, begrudgingly, my mother's food. My mother, unlike all other mothers, is not the best cook. Nor is she a reader, or a recipe follower. Unfortunately she also refuses to stop cooking. So, I read this for her. "That’s all from me, folks! Go forth and experiment in your kitchens, but please don’t use your newfound scientific knowledge to harass people who are naturally good cooks." I've been sending her actionable snippets from this book (which to its credit, are many). But I don't think she's reading them either... I suppose this book does what it says it does. I don't have a comparison to measure it against to say anything definitively. But what it needs badly, is a better editor. Some of the analogies and phrases made my eyes bleed. (I edit for a quality conscious longform publ, so I have atrocious standards.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jaane

    I was only going to read 50 books this year, but my 51st arrived in mail this morning. My brother claimed it was an early christmas gift, but we both know he just wants better meals when me meet in a post-pandemic world, and boy is he going to have his mind-blown with this book in my arsenal. While most books don't leave my shelves and to-read lists, this book will never leave my kitchen. It is filled with the most amazing illustrations, spells, and arcane knowledge. If you spot a woman with a w I was only going to read 50 books this year, but my 51st arrived in mail this morning. My brother claimed it was an early christmas gift, but we both know he just wants better meals when me meet in a post-pandemic world, and boy is he going to have his mind-blown with this book in my arsenal. While most books don't leave my shelves and to-read lists, this book will never leave my kitchen. It is filled with the most amazing illustrations, spells, and arcane knowledge. If you spot a woman with a witch's hat , hunched over a bubbling, sputtering pot of an overnight-simmer stew, with this book under her arm.; come say Hi to her and bring the biggest plate you can find. P.S: All my love and virtual hugs to Krish, for giving me my best read this year

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pooja Desai

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I learnt about this book from Amit Varma's the seen and unseen podcast. I have always followed recipes passed down by family pretty blindly, Sometimes I wondered why do it this way, but never found easy answers. This is a good book for all curious home cooks, it talks about food science of Indian cooking, on a meta level. Things I learnt from this book : - How to use of baking soda - Use of alcohol in cooking - Why a certain flavor combination is used frequently - I specifically found rice, pulao, gr I learnt about this book from Amit Varma's the seen and unseen podcast. I have always followed recipes passed down by family pretty blindly, Sometimes I wondered why do it this way, but never found easy answers. This is a good book for all curious home cooks, it talks about food science of Indian cooking, on a meta level. Things I learnt from this book : - How to use of baking soda - Use of alcohol in cooking - Why a certain flavor combination is used frequently - I specifically found rice, pulao, gravy generators helpful - Value of maintaining food log. - Science of rice A bit repetitive at times, but definitely worth the read. 

  6. 4 out of 5

    Harsha Varma

    What is the one thing we eat which did not originate in a living organism? (other than water cause we’re mostly water anyway) Other than such fun trivia, this book is a playful way of looking at cooking. It’s mostly focused on how to make cooking easier in our daily lives. The algos/ recipes for making various dishes are similar to what an amateur cook learns in an Indian household, thanks to our mothers. It’s handy to have them in a written format. It also explains why certain things are done in What is the one thing we eat which did not originate in a living organism? (other than water cause we’re mostly water anyway) Other than such fun trivia, this book is a playful way of looking at cooking. It’s mostly focused on how to make cooking easier in our daily lives. The algos/ recipes for making various dishes are similar to what an amateur cook learns in an Indian household, thanks to our mothers. It’s handy to have them in a written format. It also explains why certain things are done in a specific way, like why onions go before garlic while cooking a curry or why brining meat is more important than marinating. And it encourages the user to experiment. This whole clamour for authenticity is fraught with tribalism. We're lucky to have such diverse cuisines which evolved from various constraints. There are no set rules. So, instead of defining oneself on what one doesn't eat, experiment. Quotes: 1. The rice, and not the meat, is the star of the biryani. 2. Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so. - Douglas Adams 3. Indian cooking, in particular, is supposed to be an art wrapped in oriental mystique, soaked in exotic history and deep-fried in tradition and culture. 4. Cooking is essentially chemical engineering in a home laboratory, known as a kitchen, with an optional lab coat, known as an apron. 5. When recipes call for tomato puree, noobs add tomato puree, experts add tomato paste and legends add tomato ketchup. 6. I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking. 7. When you put human beings, carbohydrates and some microbes together, alcoholic drinks will emerge. 8. Don’t let anyone treat you like you are upma. You are biryani. 9. Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad and philosophy is wondering if ketchup is a smoothie. P.S: Salt

  7. 4 out of 5

    Balachander

    As a reader of Krish Ashok's blog, his music, memes, articles, cooking videos and of course, his twitter account; it was but obvious that I would buy this book. So of course, I pre-ordered on the day it came out. I read through this faster than I do most thrillers. (not the ideal way for sure - but I'm certainly going to make notes when I try to implement some of the recommendations and suggestions in this.) As Ashok mentions in his book, the first half is around cooking tips and tricks that man As a reader of Krish Ashok's blog, his music, memes, articles, cooking videos and of course, his twitter account; it was but obvious that I would buy this book. So of course, I pre-ordered on the day it came out. I read through this faster than I do most thrillers. (not the ideal way for sure - but I'm certainly going to make notes when I try to implement some of the recommendations and suggestions in this.) As Ashok mentions in his book, the first half is around cooking tips and tricks that many experienced cooks may be aware of, even if they don't really understand the science of why it is the way it is. Very fascinating. The second half deals with a lot of misconceptions and plain falseties that people educated by whatsapp forwards believe in. (stuff like Msg or baking powder being bad for you). Through all this there are some great tips on everything from the basics (how to cook rice well, how to mix dough for roties well, how to brine, how to make a good salad) to (and this is more important) how to use this understanding of food science to ignore/forget all the nonsensical recipes that you may have tried to memorize/follow in vain and instead, like an engineer, build a series of easy to remember, follow algorithms to make cooking an easier, more successful craft. So inspired was I that I immediately set about making some home made curd and later tried to use the measurements from the cook to make better roties. A must read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lakshmi Ramachandran

    The science of Indian cooking is an alluring topic and I jumped and bought the Krish Ashok's book the moment I saw it. It was a disappointment. The book is full of scientific facts. Who cares? I don't want so much science. But I do want to know the science behind the common mistakes that happen in cooking, I do want to know the best way of doing things and the science behind them, and I would love cooking tips and the science behind them. I would like to know why we our grandmothers recommended The science of Indian cooking is an alluring topic and I jumped and bought the Krish Ashok's book the moment I saw it. It was a disappointment. The book is full of scientific facts. Who cares? I don't want so much science. But I do want to know the science behind the common mistakes that happen in cooking, I do want to know the best way of doing things and the science behind them, and I would love cooking tips and the science behind them. I would like to know why we our grandmothers recommended we do things in a certain way, and not in other ways. But what the book offers is a lot of hard science. I am guessing that most ordinary cooks like me will find the book disappointing. I hardly gained anything from it, and I am so interested in kitchen science.

  9. 5 out of 5

    PRASANTH

    What I felt when I read and applied tips from this book: "Krish Ashok, WRITE MORE, WRITE OFTEN." and a little bit more of elaboration in explaining science adds more flavor, still being palatable. You can hit the sweet spot of making food for the brain and stomach in one book. P.S : the humour in "Once all the water has visibly been absorbed, take your vessel of the stove and let it sit for 10 more minutes with the lid closed. At this point, a process called retrogradation happens, where each grai What I felt when I read and applied tips from this book: "Krish Ashok, WRITE MORE, WRITE OFTEN." and a little bit more of elaboration in explaining science adds more flavor, still being palatable. You can hit the sweet spot of making food for the brain and stomach in one book. P.S : the humour in "Once all the water has visibly been absorbed, take your vessel of the stove and let it sit for 10 more minutes with the lid closed. At this point, a process called retrogradation happens, where each grain separates and creates its own identity, much like a teenager reading Ayn Rand," is simply superb.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karthik Shashidhar

    Lots of nice insights in this book. My only problem with this is that the “density of information content” is highly variable. Some pages are packed with information. Others can be glossed over. This makes reading it a bit of an inconsistent experience. Oh, I’m glad i bought the physical book. Keeping it for “reference”. Works well that way

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aravind Nagarajan

    Useful reference material.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fern C.

    I liked it but honestly got confused on some parts lol

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Nitin Paranjape

    Amazing Practical knowledge with key concepts Empowers you to understand, appreciate, experiment and enjoy cooking. Novices will be productive instantly. Experts will understand the underlying science and create more refined outcomes.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Unnati

    It's alright.. quite repetitive but interesting in parts. It's alright.. quite repetitive but interesting in parts.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Middela

    Enjoyed reading New perspective to cooking. Loved the book. Will try to implement what I have read. Hopefully will become an better cook

  16. 5 out of 5

    Suman Srivastava

    Loved the algorithms he provides in the second last chapter. Overall liked his approach to cooking. Not sure how much value good cooks will get from this. And whether casual cooks will use most of his tips. But still fun to read for a science nerd cum amateur cook like me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shenbaga Kumar

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lakshmi

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mukta D

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pradnya

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ajinkya

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aarti

  23. 4 out of 5

    Keerthi

  24. 4 out of 5

    Divyasree P K

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shamsheer

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hemi

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali Prasad

  28. 4 out of 5

    Raminder Singh

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shivali

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anjan

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