Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


381 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-679-31280-3
DDC 641.5954




Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


Question: How can you find the best Bhutanese restaurant in town?
Answer: Find out where all the Bhutanese truck drivers eat.

That paraphrase of a very old joke sums up the culinary ethos of the
highly acclaimed writing team of Alford and Duguid. While some
travel/food writers write only about the top-end cuisine and latest
trends of whatever country they are profiling, Alford and Duguid are
mostly interested in what the ordinary person eats, be it home cooking
or street food. This is a niche that has served them well. Their
previous books Flatbreads and Flavours, Seductions of Rice, Homebaking,
and Hot Sour Salty Sweet have received awards from the James Beard
Foundation and Julia Child and all their books are considered must-haves
in any serious cook’s library.

Initially, the huge size of this coffee-table-straining book is
intimidating, but the reader is quickly drawn in by the authors’ love
of their subject. Many of the recipes require only a few ingredients.
From street vendor Sri Lankan hoppers to village-style Gujarati potato
curry, the authors show how delicious food can be produced from the most
basic resources. Interspersed throughout the book are anecdotes giving
first-hand advice about where to stay if you are travelling on a budget,
how to deal with huge fistfuls of rupee notes, how to find a decent
Indian restaurant in India, or some ironic advice. Because the authors
are also accomplished photographers, hundreds of beautiful
black-and-white and full-colour photographs illustrate the text. An
extensive glossary explains not only cooking terms but also important
aspects of the subcontinent’s complex culture and history. Menu
suggestions are also included.

This is the kind of book you will read slowly, not just because this
book is encyclopedic in its scope but because you will want to savour
each page to the last word.


Alford, Jeffrey, and Naomi Duguid., “Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024,