In a casual conversation I heard that ‘The Suriani Kitchen’ by Lathika George has won the Indian nomination for the Best Asian Cuisine Book section in the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards. I had this confirmed on the Internet. The winners for the different sectors will be announced at the Paris Cookbook Fair next March.
My wife had the book and I took a look at it yesterday. It covers the cuisine of Kerala’s Syrian Christians. Well, Madhur Jaffrey is right in saying that it contains “The best of Kerala’s fine foods…”
Suriani is the Malayalam word for Syriac. The descendants of the high caste families which, it is believed were converted by the Apostle St. Thomas at the beginning of the Christian era and a group of about 400 who came from Syria in the 4c are known as Syrian Christians. The reason is that they followed the Syriac liturgy. They are also known as Nazranis.
Those converted later by the Portuguese and others, are known as Latin Christians because they followed the Latin liturgy. The Latin Christians have some specialties in their cuisine.
Over the centuries the Surianis developed their cuisine. All along, Kerala had a booming international trade. Traders and ship crews from many nations visited the state. Some items of their menus and that of other communities were copied or adapted by the Nazranis. The result is a fine cuisine full of tasty food. What Lathika George has done is to present the recipes for the delectable culinary specialties of an ancient community. However, in different houses the names of some of the dishes may be different and there may also be variations in the recipes of dishes.
Several short articles about Syrian Christians and life in Kerala add to the charm of the book. The photographs and drawings are excellent too. But I wish that to complete the total Suriani scenario, the author had included the recipe for INRI Appam, the Suriani special that is made only on Maundy Thursday. (See Memories: Passion Week, half a century back) It is mentioned in the Glossary but I could not locate the recipe.
‘The Suriani Kitchen’ was first published in 2009 by Hippocrene Books Inc, New York. The Indian publication is by westland ltd. Priced at Rs.450, it is available in bookstalls and with Amazon.
Well, let us wish that ‘The Suriani Kitchen’ wins the award at the world’s culinary centre, Paris.
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