Stories and recipes from the Mowgli Street Food restaurants.
by Nisha Katona.
I’m on a bit of a ‘restaurant cookbook’ roll at the moment. I recently reviewed the exquisite Dishoom, which meant I was well stocked with spices so I borrowed the Mowgli Street Food cookbook to give it a go. I haven’t been to any of the Mowgli restaurants (and with COVID restricting travel for the foreseeable I’m not likely to be any time soon) so I can’t say if my made-at-home versions are even a pale imitation.
The introduction to the book tells Nisha’s story – and how she made the from a career in law into the business of food. The ambition of her restaurants is to create an Indian dining experience that is more authentic than the established British curry house dishes, lumps of meat floating in a rich gravy, that would, Nisha says, be unrecognisable to most Indians.
Look and feel
It’s an attractive book, with strong production values and a modern feel, interspersed with attractive photographs by Yuki Sugiura. Two chapters are dedicated to the street food of the title ‘Street Chat’ and ‘Street Meats’. Then there is ‘The Hindu Kitchen’ and ‘The House Kitchen’. Carbs Salads and Pickles are just that, with some of the pickles featuring as line items in the other recipes. Desserts, drinks and cocktails round out the contents.
What sort of food is it?
By its nature ‘proper’ Indian food is very vegetarian and vegan friendly and Mowgli definitely scores big points in this space.
The concept of street food is fairly clear but I wasn’t sure how to position it in a ‘three meals a day’ setting. Gunpower chicken (page 46) looks fantastic – but is it a snack or a main? Would Momos (Nepalese steamed dumplings page 35 ) work as a starter or could you eat enough of them to constitute the main? If they are a main what would you serve as a side? The best option I could think of would be to approach these chapters a bit like Spanish tapas or a Mezze, with a selection of diverse flavours and textures. I checked in with the person who kindly lent me the book and it was confirmed that this is the way the restaurant suggests you approach these dishes. I haven’t tried doing this yet, but I think it will need careful planning. I’m fairly sure I won’t knock out most of these recipes in 10 minutes so some that would happily sit in the fridge would be good and that way I can spread out the work.
There are also loads of curries dahl and the like. I made the Goan Fish Curry and it was absolutely fantastic, the gentle layering of flavours delivered high up on the yummy scale. Himself, who is a bit of a Goan Fish Curry aficionado, said it was better than our local (very good) Indian restaurant offers, and similar to the ones he had in actual Goa – result!
Obscure equipment needed?
No. Some adaptation ideas are offered for things that wouldn’t commonly be found outside an Indian kitchen, but your general pots pans and bowls, along with a mortar and pestle of course.
Ingredients easily available?
Well, this recipe collection self declares as being designed to ‘take you out of your curry comfort zone’ so shopping at the ‘international’ shelf in your local Tesco probably isn’t going to hack it for many of the recipes. Usual provisos about needing to make friends with the nice man in your local Asian shop apply if you want to make authentic Indian food (which this clearly is).
Who is it for?
Definitely not at the ‘thinking of taking up cooking’ end of things. Having said that – not every dish is photographed so you could get away with a fair bit as long as it tastes and looks nice (I have a jar of Green Chilli Pickle, page 146, lurking in the fridge. It looks suspiciously greeny/mustardy but hopefully will taste okay and not blow anyone’s head off).
To get the best out of this book you probably need to a bit of a seasoned cook.
There’s loads more I want to try out in this book – apart from the suspicious looking pickle and the Goan curry I have also made the black cardamom rice. The Yogurt Chat Bombs (page 30) are next, and I’m definitely exploring the cocktail section soon! In fact, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the actual owner of the book will be getting it back anytime soon.
Published by: Nourish
ISBN: 978 1 84899 3266