Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna

September 10, 2007 in cookbook, cooking, Food Porn, review

(Spicy eggplant, micro purple dragon carrots, young yellow beets, microgreens, served over basmati rice.)
(Naan and pappadum lay in the background)
(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios)

If you read here often you will remember my recent post “Cant stop raving about Tiger Tiger Indian Sauces” where I gushed on about Tiger Tiger’s delightful sauces that transform mundane meats like boneless chicken breasts into a delicious meal that explodes with Indian flavors. Please note that I have done some extensive linking through out this post to help you understand the various mentioned Indian dishes. Be sure to click through to those pages (mostly the wiki) and learn about those traditional Indian foods which are new to you.

Quite unexpectedly this last Friday, I received the cookbook Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna for review. These two Indian chefs have become known here in the US and abroad for their individualistic takes on Indian cuisine. These two fellows are not only chefs who have made the big time in New York, they are philanthropists who started “Cooking For Life” after 9/11 (their restaurants were near Ground Zero). You can learn more about “Cooking For Life” and it’s important mission by going to the Cooking For Life site.

The premise of this cookbook, Modern Indian Cooking, is not to provide traditional Indian recipes but rather to guide the non-Indian into a bright and delicious world of Indian spices and dishes that hearken back to traditional ideas without copying them wholesale. If you are looking for The Authoritative Guide to Indian mother cuisine and technique, this is not the place to find it.

What this book gives the reader is a multi-layered high quality experience. The photography is an effortless thing of beauty. You will be drawn into each page with such force that you may simply sit with the book for a hour or two simply reveling in the photography.

The forward by Daniel Boulud serves to frame the reader’s mindset, guiding the reader toward the intent of this Modern Indian approach. Specifically, this is to view Indian food as approachable and open to interpretation and experimentation.

Whereas we Americans have been introduced to the first generation of commercial Indian food (northern and southern), it is time for the next derivation, the offspring of the joining of the Indian mother cuisine with the modern sensibility of fresh and mutable ingredients.

I love sambar, masala dosa, idli, and paratha as much as the next person but I do not always get a chance to eat South Indian food (I seem to live in a South Indian Food-free region, wholly devoid of all dosa).

I have generally felt intimidated by the large and complex universe of Indian spices and their modes of use. Nonetheless, I adore the entire experience whether it involves a palak paneer, a dosa, a sambar, or a simple pakora.

(I see a road trip to Boston in my near future, Central Square here I come).

Instead of these classics, you will find delightful variations in this book, such as:

  • Wasabi Chili Lamb Kebab
  • Crispy Wonton Chaat
  • Crispy Pan Fried Shrimp with Tamarind Glaze
  • Oven Roasted Spiced Eggplant
  • Kadhai Fried Paneer with Rainbow Vegetables
  • Zucchini with Yellow Mung Lentils and Roasted Garlic
  • Street Style Spicy Black Chickpea Masala
  • Masala Petit Pois with Baby Carrots and Coconut
  • Spicy Eggplant Rice with Mint
  • Lemon Sage Chicken Tikka
  • Duck Vindaloo
  • Chipotle Pork Tikka
  • Goan Meat Tarts
  • Grilled Sea Bass with Fenugreek Chipotle Ketchup
  • Coriander Crusted Salmon with Cilantro Cucumber Chutney
  • Chai Crème Brûlée
  • Pink Peppercorn Chocolate Truffles
  • Valrhona Chocolate Burfi with Toasted Coconut

I suggest trying a recipe at a time and not for a dinner party but for you and close loved ones to try and critique. I suggest buying only a small amount of a few key spices and not the whole kit and caboodle all at once.

I went to my local big box grocery store (would have gone to Whole Foods if it were not 70 miles away) looking to see what paltry selection of spices they had. I found a SMALL bottle of McCormick’s cardamom seeds for $12.00. I laughed and laughed and then walked away morosely. The only tamarind I could find was tamarind nectar in the Goya section. I need the paste!

I came home with nothing and then put together the dish you see in this post. What I did do was peruse Modern Indian Cooking, drank in it’s free spirit, and gave a go at doing what I could with what I had on hand. What follows is what we got. It was delicious! I will be going to Central Square to buy a small selection of spices so that my next time with this cookbook will be more adventuresome.

Nika’s ad hock and none too spicy Spicy Eggplant with root vegetables


  • 1/2 large purple eggplant, cubed
  • 1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 super tiny purple Dragon Carrots from my garden, thinly sliced (they have remained tiny for reasons that are not clear to me)
  • 3 small yellow beets from my garden, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • sprinkle of sea salt
  • Organic Coconut Oil, enough to sautee the vegetables
  • Real Basmati, prepared as per package
  • microgreens for garnish


Prepare basmati rice and hold warm.

In a dry pan, dry toast the peppercorns and sesame seeds, set aside.

Add a tablespoon or so of organic coconut oil to a medium heat heavy cast iron pan (you may need to add more later because eggplant is like a sponge). Add thinly sliced onion, turmeric, cumin, coriander, sea salt, carrots, beets, peppercorns, and black sesame seeds. Sauté until onion is translucent but not brown or charred!

Add cubed eggplant and cook until the eggplant is as soft as you like it and it is well coated with all the spices and coconut oil.

Serve over the basmati rice and then sprinkle with a few more peppercorns and sesame seeds and a few well placed microgreens.

(Spicy eggplant, micro purple dragon carrots, young yellow beets, microgreens, served over basmati.)
(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios)

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Where to Buy: Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak (Author), Vikas Khanna (Author), Daniel Boulud (Foreword)

  • Cost: $19.77
  • Hardcover: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Silverback Books (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596372397
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.6 x 0.8 inches