Wednesday, September 5, 2012


When a good looking dude says 'Food was my saviour' and  'I am happiest in the kitchen', then one's attention unconsciously flits towards him :D. Aditya Bal, the host of Chakh Le India, a food based show in NDTV Good Times, shares a very breezy relationship with the camera. And why not ?- he is a former model and his effortless flirting with the camera blends in with the simple and fuss free cooking in the kitchen. The show sees him travelling across the country; recreating his favourite dishes from various regions.

The Chakh Le India Cookbook is a culmination of recipes from his culinary travels through the food show. Hence the recipes are essentially Indian and showcases the flavours of the country.

The book is divided in to the following sections apart from Acknowledgements & Introduction:-
  • The Indian Pantry
  • Essential Kitchen Gear
  • Cooking Techniques
  • Basic Recipes
  • Meat Recipes
  • Chicken Recipes
  • Fish & Seafood Recipes
  • Vegetarian Recipes
  • Snack Recipes
  • Sweet Recipes
The bulleted contents are packed in 157 pages and it  contains 75 odd recipes. 

The Introduction section is endearingly penned by Aditya and is a straight from the heart account about himself and his journey towards food as a career. His life in a boarding school apparently helped him shape up as a person and made him value and respect food. 

The Indian Pantry lists the basic ingredients that grace an Indian Kitchen. They are broadly grouped into aromatics, chillis, dairy, dry ingredients, herbs, oils, souring agents and spices.The spice list especially is well put and it reflects the heart and soul of an Indian kitchen. Besides some common ingredients like fresh coconut; jaggery and tomatoes are also listed.

Essential Kitchen Gear shows that to cook great food one need not have fancy gadgets in the hearth. Rather, a few basic pieces of equipment and a couple of essential kitchen tools are more than enough. Chopping Boards, Knives, Machinery like Oven, Gas Range, Peelers & Graters, Pots & Pans, Small Wares like weighing scale, mortar & pestle, ladles and measuring spoons are mentioned.

Cooking Techniques  Various techniques like boiling, braising, deep frying, dry roasting, grilling, poaching, reduction, sauteing and tempering are briefly explained. Techniques like Baghar, Bhunao & Yakhni that specialise in imparting immense flavour to the dish are also suitably described.

Basic Recipes Certain basic requirements in the kitchen like ginger-garlic paste, kokum extract, whipped curd, tomato puree, coconut milk extraction are explained in a lucid manner.

Meat / Chicken / Fish & Seafood recipes The meat lovers will have a field day with this book as there are a number of recipes catering to the wide palate of non vegetarians. A Non-Veg Foodie's delight indeed.

Vegetarian Recipes  Though the choice is very limited compared to the non vegetarian fare, there are quite a few recipes like Coorgi Baby Jack-fruit Curry and Moru Sambhar that catch our attention.

Snack & Sweet Recipes The array of snacks and sweets promise a delectable feast celebrating what is wonderfully Indian.

I tried two recipes from his book. Amritsari Paneer Bhurji & Carrot Gojju. 

Let's talk about the Bhurji first - What attracted me to the dish was the addition of cassia bark and dried mango powder. However, the final dish was an insipid affair as the measurement of ingredients mentioned were not enough for the 400 grams of paneer. I almost doubled the ingredients and did some other tweaking to make the dish a little more exciting. However what troubled me the most was the part where the paneer is required to be simmered for 10 minutes with a lid closed before taking them off heat. Is it essential ? In my experience, while cooking paneer it is more than sufficient to tip it in and give a good mix. Keeping them on flame for more than a minute or two makes the dish rubbery and dry. Though cooking it with closed lid may help the dish retain its moisture, the paneer need not actually remain on flame for such a long time.

Carrot Gojju - I actually loved the bags of flavours in the dish. Again, I tweaked the recipe as regards the measurement of ingredients but the taste was spot-on. 

What I liked about the book 
  • The best part of the book was the "check for balance of flavours" note in many of the recipes. It says what to expect when we take a bite of the final dish. This gives an innate sense of knowing whether we have nailed the recipe.
  • The recipes give a fair sense of the culinary trail across India. Some of the  celebrated dishes across various regions get a well deserved spotlight.
  • A good description about the dish makes up for the pathetic pictures and actually makes you wanna cook them immediately. 

What could have been better :-
  • No indexing of the recipes. As a result there was a frenetic rustling of the entire section before landing on the required page.
  • We eat through eyes first and the pretty average pictures were an eye sore. The macro shots does injustice to the bags of flavours the recipe promises.
  • The measurement of ingredients are not precise. It goes without saying that the level of spices vary as per a person's palate, but the two recipes I tried were tweaked to a great extent to make it more appealing. It gave an impression that the recipes were not proof read by him before giving the final nod.
  • Lack of an exciting choice of vegetarian recipes and snacks keeping in mind the increasing trend in vegetarian and vegan choices being made by people across the globe.
  • The time taken for preparation and cooking are not mentioned.
  • Aditya gloats on his love for baking and how he grew up watching his grandmother bake many goodies. But the book lacked bakes of any sort. There could have been recipe for Nankhatai (Indian cookies) as well as suggestions for baking the snacks thereby giving a healthy alternative.
Final Word :-

The book, a Westland publication, is priced at INR 395 /-. If you are well versed with the nuances of Indian Cooking then the book can add to your repertoire of dishes. However for an amateur cook or someone who is new to Indian cooking the book despite its potential, falls short of making it to the must have.

This review is part of the Book Reviews by Bloggers at blogadda. I and a few other food bloggers were sent this book to try and review. Participate now to get free books. 


  1. Hey I love his prog. on NDTVcook ...
    Will but his book for sure :-)
    Glad to follow your blog
    plz do visit mine in your spare time :-)

    Today's Recipe
    Soya chunks pulao

  2. We love Aditya's show and the way he cooks anywhere is simply awe-inspiring.
    And since the travels all over, his recipes are the typical flavors of that particular village/city. Will check out his book too.

    1. Oops... there's an error... it's "And since he... " ":P

    2. i like his show too shilpa but the book was just okay stuff !

  3. Such a nice and honest review Priya..Went through all your points :) Loved reading the pros and cons dear!! Good job :)

    Today's Recipe ~ Apple Lemonade
    You Too Can Cook Indian Food Recipes

  4. Honest and wonderful review Priya, great job.

  5. Actually what I feel is often contents of cookbook is entirely not an individual's choice or efforts..He can be a good cook but behind him, he has a dedicated team ..without this team any cookbook can not work...anyhow what can be assumed at this point, that he can be "Jamie Oliver of India" no doubt about it :-))..very honest review ..hugs

  6. I liked the review. I watch his TV program religiously because of the passion it oozes.

  7. Hi Priya,
    Nice review on the book. Why dont you try writing a book, moreover you tried his recipe in an interesting way right?

    The preparation looks good. I am not yet ready for Paneer...shall keep this recipe in my list. :)