Masala Lab—The Science of Indian Cooking

Books & Nooks

The kitchen is a great place to teach children about science and chemistry and ‘Masala Lab: the Science of Indian Cooking’ can help do just that. It’s also a great book for those who want to understand the processes and reasoning behind cooking techniques. The book is not a cookbook, but it does have some recipes. It tells you why ingredients are added at specific times during the cooking process. For example, it tells you what happens to dough you are kneading if you add salt before you let the dough rest. It also breaks down the five basic Indian gravies into a tabular format, explaining their differences and similarities.

The book tells you about the 15 elements we detect in our mouth when we taste something—no, it’s not as simple as the six tastes we know of. It also has tricks on how to use basic ingredients like salt to enhance flavours or to correct problems. For example, did you know that a tiny bit of salt enhances sweetness but can also mute bitterness and sourness? This is why Indian cooks massage bitter gourd with salt and let it sit for 30 minutes before using it. The book is a treasure trove of knowledge and is great for older children and adults.

Written by Krish Ashok
Reviewed by Cherry Divecha-Shethia 
Published by Penguin Books
Available on