Is a cookbook devoted exclusively to curry really needed? Yes; and this one convinces in many different respects. Taking a historical look at the genre, for example, DeWitt ( The Whole Chile Pepper Book ) and New York Newsday writer Pais note that St. Thomas made what was to be a brief stop on the Malabar Coast of Kerala, but the local curries (shrimp) detained him. The book will also detain. Its range is adventurous, seeking out diverse specialties of the subcontinent (``India is like Europe multiplied several times'') and also researching what became of curries that wandered and transmuted in Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, Hawaii, Australia, Jamaica and elsewhere. The authors clarify rumor and myth concerning curry, explain basic foodstuffs and their uses (e.g., ghee), and then launch into the recipes, which include dishes meant to accompany curries (breads, chutneys, salads) as well as the main event. The result is a curried geography, with many standouts, including shrimp with cardamon and almonds from Fiji, sosaties (kebab) and bobotie (casserole) from South Africa, and Burmese pumpkin curry. Not all will inflame, and not all are meant to. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
DeWitt, editor of Chile Pepper magazine, is the author of numerous books on hot and spicy food, including The Whole Chile Pepper Book ( LJ 11/15/91); Pais, who grew up in India, is a writer and contributor to Chile Pepper. Together, they have pooled their knowledge to write an authoritative and mouth-watering guide to curries of all sorts from around the world. They begin, of course, with India and the history of curries there. Then, traveling from Southeast Asia and the Spice Islands to Africa to the Caribbean, they present more curries and curry lore, along with an assortment of accompaniments and other spiced dishes. With a readable, informative text and dozens of recipes for sophisticated dishes as well as everyday fare, this is highly recommended.