Masala Lab : The Science of Indian Cooking

My thoughts and review of the book by Krish Ashok

Karthik Muthuswamy
2 min readMar 3, 2024

I never imagined that I’d read a book on cooking. But Masala Lab is a lot more than about cooking and food. The author, Krish Ashok explains the “how and why” of Indian food culture and food science and shares his wisdom with humour. He gives you “the code” to become a better cook and finally enjoy the food that you make.

Speaking of code, here is the master code from Krish Ashok’s grandmother:

Patience. That’s the ingredient you are missing. If you can give anything enough time, it will turn out delicious. You can approximate all the other ingredients.

As an Indian migrant in Europe, I learnt cooking the hard way — by myself from the internet and other uninitiated migrant friends. Restaurants are expensive, and even when you stop converting to Indian currency, food in Indian restaurants does not always feel like Indian Indian food. So, the easiest — or the hardest — way to eat Indian food is by cooking it yourself. The cooking tips from friends, family and the internet are usually authoritative recipes without reasoning. Not to mention all the myths and rigorous procedures.

As an engineer, I wanted the meta recipes. I have wanted to understand the best cuisine in the world(according to verified and fack-checked anonymous sources) and know the difference between the numerous Indian cuisines. When what I cooked turned out well, I wished I understood why — and was able to explain it to others.

Krish Ashok gives you all of these. He gives you the code. One can finally understand why Indian food is cooked the way it is and how one can master it. There is a ton of qualitative and quantitative research behind this. With the right amount of nerdiness and humour throughout the book, it is such a fun read. I identified myself with him.

With this newfound knowledge, you can be a decent, modern, efficient cook and eat your food with confidence.

You also learn more and enjoy his humour on YouTube.


  1. The illustrations in the book are great — and much better than Instagram food pictures.
  2. The master code from Krish Ashok’s grandmother on patience made me think of Oracle.