Have you 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" (Penguin) 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, Ashok puts together the one book the Indian kitchen definitely needs, proving along the way that your grandmother was right all along.
A must-read for both amateurs and experts in the kitchen!
Ashok is not a chef but cooks daily. He is not a scientist, but he can explain science with easy-to-understand clarity. He trained to be an electronic engineer but is now a software engineer. He learnt to cook from the women in his family, who can make the perfectly fluffy idli without lecturing people on lactobacilli and pH levels.
He likes the scientific method not because it offers him the ability to bully people with knowledge, but because it confidently lets him say: "I don't know, let me test it for myself."
When he is not cooking, he's usually playing subversive music on the violin or cello. He lives in Chennai with a wife, who sagely prevents him from buying more gadgets for the kitchen, and a son, who has the flora and fauna in the neighbourhood terrorized.