Najmieh Batmanglij is known as “the grande dame of Iranian cooking.” This collection of recipes from along the ancient trading route, from Xi’an in China in the east to Italy in the west, features dishes based on rice, flatbreads, noodles, dumplings, and vegetables of all types. “I’ve tried to create the most inviting dishes from once-exotic foods that are now widely available,” writes the author, and the book more than lives up to that promise.
This book is at once an exploration, a celebration, and a little-known tale of unity. It presents 150 delicious vegetarian dishes that together trace a fascinating story of culinary linkage. As renowned cookbook writer and teacher Najmieh Batmanglij explains, all have their origins along the ancient network of trade routes known as the Silk Road, stretching from China in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. On this highway moved not just trade goods but also ideas, customs, tastes and such basics of life as cooking ingredients. The result was the connecting and enrichment of dozens of cuisines. In Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, Najmieh Batmanglij recounts that process and brings it into the modern kitchen in the form of recipes that are venturesome and yet within reach of any cook. They are intended for vegetarian, partial-vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike — anyone who is looking for balanced, unusual and exceptionally tasty dishes. The book offers a wealth of information derived from the author’s extensive research and her travels along the Silk Road during the past 25 years. She complements the recipes with stories, pictures, histories of ingredients, and words of wisdom from her favorite poets and writers of the region.
The scope of her culinary journey of discovery is vast — from Xian in China, to Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan, to Isfahan in Iran, to Istanbul in Turkey, and to the westernmost terminus of the ancient trade routes in Italy. Her recipes — all of them personal favorites — include such exotic yet simple fare as Sichuan Crispy Cucumber Pickles; Afghan Boulani, a savory pastry stuffed with garlic chives; Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Salad; Kermani Pistachio and Saffron Polow with Rose Petals; Chinese Hot and Sour Tofu Noodle Soup; Turkish Almond and Rice Flour Pudding; Uzbek Candied Quince with Walnuts; and Sicilian Sour Cherry Crostata. Fortunately, all the ingredients for these recipes can be obtained at local supermarkets and farmers markets. In recent years America has become a kind of modern Silk Road, where wonderful ingredients from all over the world are available to everyone.