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Last evening, Madhur Jaffrey delighted a full-house crowd for the Mittal Institute’s prestigious Harish C. Mahindra lecture. Jaffrey regaled the audience with stories from her upbringing in British India, her foray into acting, and how she became an icon of South Asian cooking globally. After an opening talk, Jaffrey was in conversation with Prof. Abhijit Banerjee, of MIT, who probed her for what should be the national dish of India. “We’re too diverse a nation to have any one dish,” she quipped.

“We’re too diverse a nation to have any one dish”

Jaffrey said her cookbooks were so good because she herself didn’t know how to cook when she moved abroad. When she would visit cooks around India, she noticed recipes only told half the story – leaving out key subtleties, such as how high the heat should be or whether to stir fast or slow and at what points. Her recipes detail these essentials of South Asian cooking. In the end, Banerjee asked the renowned author if she thinks about her audience as she’s writing her books. “I only think about finishing them,” she responded.   


Madhur Jaffrey is a legendary food expert, writer and actress who is widely celebrated for having first introduced Indian cuisine to the West, with over 15 cookbooks, including classics such as Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible and Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. Jaffrey is the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Abhijit Banerjee is the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT, who is also a food author of Cooking to Save Your Life.