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Author demystifies Indian cuisine

The Land of Five Waters by Deborah Sanwal

by Bruce Rutledge,

A new cookbook and memoir by Seattle native Deborah Sanwal reminds us that travel can not only broaden our minds, it can change our lives. In her book The Land of Five Waters, Sanwal recounts a year spent in Punjab leading up to her wedding. That year changed the course of her life and, most especially, her diet. She spent long hours in the kitchen with her mother-in-law-to-be, Jhai-ji, learning all the tricks and rules of a Punjabi kitchen.

Deborah Sanwal with her mother in law Jhaiji

Sanwal, of Chinese and Japanese ethnicity, says she laments the fact that no one wrote down the recipes of her Chinese grandmother. That was one of the motivations for her to get Jhai-ji’s recipes down on paper. Friends in India have told her that the recipes remind them of their own family favorites.

All the recipes are vegetarian, and many are vegan. But the special point of the cookbook portion of the book, Sanwal says, is to demystify Indian cuisine and let people know that they can make these dishes in their own kitchen.

The work of Amrinder Singh, an accomplished photographer, is featured throughout the memoir section of the book. His photos bring out the picturesque aspects of Indian culture while Sanwal’s family photos give the story an intimate feel.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my company, Chin Music Press, published Sanwal’s book, and she is the sister of Elaine Ko, a Hokubei Hochi Foundation board member.