Sunday, December 11, 2016

Raghavan Iyer's Tribute to a Potato

Phyllis Louise Harris
December 2016 

“I never met a potato I didn’t like,” is a favorite expression of Mumbai native, Minnesota resident and cookbook author Raghavan Iyer. So it is not surprising that he has wanted to create a potato cookbook for years. “Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked…and Fried, Too!” is the result. A collection of seventy-five recipes to enhance the lowly spud was published by Workman Publishing this fall and is now available in bookstores.

This simple vegetable has sustained entire countries, fed cattle, been dumped in the ocean as garbage, was the reason for several wars and its absence caused millions to die of starvation. First cultivated in the mountains of Peru, potatoes made their way to Europe with the Spanish conquerors then on to Asia with Spanish and Portuguese traders looking for exotic spices. Today potatoes are the fourth largest crop in the world after wheat, rice and corn.

The United Nations declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato creating a flood of potato cookbooks including one sponsored by the Chinese government, “How Chinese Eat Potatoes.” Iyer takes the potato on a world tour and includes influences from some of the 100 countries now enjoying his favorite food.

One of my favorites is a dish I learned in one of Florence Lin’s Chinese cooking classes. Iyer calls them Bird’s Nests but they are not to be confused with actual bird’s nests the Chinese use to make a very expensive soup. In class we called them Potato Baskets and filled them with green beans in mustard sauce. Iyer offers a shrimp stir-fry for his nests. Basically they are strips of potatoes deep-fried in two wire strainers until they are crisp and hold the shape of a basket. They can be made ahead and reheated before serving. They are not only pretty, but very, very tasty!

The book is filled with colorful photos and interesting recipes to make any cook’s job just a little easier and tastier.


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at: