Book Review: Desi Delicacies – Food Writing From Muslim South Asia by Claire Chambers

Thank you so much Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of Desi Delicacies to review. This was a Christmas present that made the week so much better! So what did I think about this book? Read on to find out more.

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Desi Delicacies by Claire Chambers. a painting from the Nimatnama, a collection of recipes partly compiled during the reign of the moustachioed Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din of the Delhi Sultanate, who features on the cover

About The Book

A delectable anthology of food writing exploring the histories and cultures of Muslim South Asia. Contributors include Nadeem Aslam, Rana Safvi, Tabish Khair, Annie Zaidi, Sarvat Hasin, Tarana Husain Khan, Sadaf Hussain, Rosie Dastgir, and others.

The kitchen is often the heart of South Asian homes. Muslim South Asian kitchens, in particular, are the engines of an entire culture. The alchemy that takes place within them affects nations and economies, politics and history, and of course human relationships. There is proof of it in Desi Delicacies, Claire Chambers’ anthology of essays, stories, and recipes supplied by some of the region’s most well-loved writers, historians, and chefs.

An unexpected revelation awaits Nadeem Aslam in a London restaurant as he yearns for a special delicacy from Pakistan. Rana Safvi recounts the history of Awadhi cooking and the origins of qorma, while Sadaf Hussain tells us how the samosa came to be paired with chai and of his own newly found love for the beverage. Tabish Khair examines our attitudes towards food that is ‘jootha’. Death comes with an aftertaste of taar roti for the protagonist of Tarana Husain Khan’s story set in Rampur. Gulla puts his heart into making the perfect nardoo yakhni but is taken aback by a hairy surprise in Asiya Zahoor’s ‘The Hairy Curry’.

A multitude of flavors blends with love, joy, grief, regret, and nostalgia in this book which is not only a beautiful collection of food writing but also a rich helping of the histories and cultures of Muslim South Asia and its diasporas.

With a Foreword by Bina Shah and an Afterword by Siobhan Lambert-Hurley

My Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Details

Author: Claire Chambers
Genre: Non-Fiction, Food Writing, Anthology
Publisher: Picador Books
Date Of Publication: 21st December 2020
No. Of Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

I like to say that after books, food is my second love. Put them both together and you get a great combination! And Desi Delicacies did just that. A collection of short stories and essays centered around food from Muslim South Asia, this book made me hungry. The first half of the book is made up of essays while the second half contains the stories. Each chapter is a short and very easy to read. I loved how the essays brought to life the history of food and spoke about the Muslim diaspora from around the world.

Desi Delicacies is a love letter to food. Each page is brilliantly curated and leaves you literally wanting more. I made the mistake of starting this book on an empty stomach and honestly, that wasn’t a very good idea. The way each dish is described will certainly leave you craving for them and I wished that the food would miraculously appear before me. And the best part of it all? This book contains recipes! So after you read about a certain food, you can go into your kitchen and cook it yourself! I’m definitely going to be trying out the Katchi Biryani and Warqi Samosa at home soon. The book does have a table explaining all the weights and measurements so you cannot go wrong.

Book Review: Desi Delicacies by Claire Chambers.

At only 272 pages, the book is a quick read. You can either binge it covers to cover in one sitting, or you can read a chapter at a time. You can also start anywhere in the book since each chapter is different and unique without any connection to the one before. This book is a great coffee-table book, one that you can browse through while you wait. I haven’t read any Food Writing books before and Desi Delicacies was a great entry into the genre. I look forward to reading more books of this kind in the future.

About The Author

Claire Chambers is Professor of Global Literature at the University of York, where she teaches literature from South Asia, the Arab world, and their diasporas. She is the author of British Muslim Fictions (2011), Britain Through Muslim Eyes (2015), and Making Sense of Contemporary British Muslim Novels (2019). She has also published a collection of her essays entitled Rivers of Ink (2017). Finally, she co-edited (with Caroline Herbert) Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora (2015) and (with Nafhesa Ali and Richard Phillips) A Match Made in Heaven: British Muslim Women Write About Love and Desire (2020). Claire is Editor-in-Chief (with Rachael Gilmour) of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Liked this book and what to get it for yourself? Find it available for purchase on Amazon (Kindle)* and Amazon (Paperback)*

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Desi Delicacies – Food Writing From Muslim South Asia by Claire Chambers”

  1. I love the sound of this book. There is nothing I love more than reading and learning about cultures that are not my own. And you have that and recipes in this book? I definitely need it. Great review!

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