Books / Reviews

‘Travels Through South Indian Kitchens’ goes on an intimate journey with home cooking

by Claire Williamson

Staff writer

Food is an integral and memorable part of travel, but it is rare to experience meals from a home kitchen while on the road. In “Travels Through South Indian Kitchens,” Tokyo-based architect Nao Saito takes the typical culinary travelogue and turns it into something intimate and alluring.

Travels Through South Indian Kitchens, by Nao Saito
194 pages
TARA BOOKS

Throughout her three-month residency at a publishing house in Chennai, South India, Saito visits 21 kitchens of friends and acquaintances, illustrating each visit with charming doodles and architectural sketches measured to the millimeter, transforming the kitchens into dynamic landscapes that change based on the season and the flow of people moving in and out of the space.

There’s the “A Family Kitchen,” a multigenerational home in tsunami-hit Velankanni, where Saito is handed fragrant shrimp curry on banana leaves, which are used to serve guests; “The Rainbow Kitchen,” which prepares three hearty meals a day for migrant children; and “Bachelors’ Kitchen,” where two childhood friends share cooking duties in spartan surroundings.

For those who want to cook along, each section comes with a recipe. But, according to Saito, “the recipes have been written in keeping with the way in which Indian cooks describe ingredients and processes in approximation,” so some experimentation is required. Although none of her hosts are named — each is identified only by an initial — the compilation paints a picture of an extended community connected by a shared love of good food and hospitality.

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